By Cole Lalonde
UPEI student Mengyu Zang stands in her apartment, Sept. 18 (Photo credits: Cole Lalonde)
Mengyu Zang reaches for the same steel spoon every day when she cooks.
It reminds her of home and of her grandparents, who let her take it when she was moving away for middle school in China at 13.
“I can’t carry the whole family, the whole home with me, so I’ll just pick one thing from there,” she said.
But now that she’s at UPEI, even long visits home can’t get rid of homesickness.
A few years ago, after spending her first summer back in China, she needed to switch apartments, an event she found difficult.
“There was a lot of work, but I didn’t want to do anything.”
Zang says had a great time with her family that summer, but it was tough returning to P.E.I.
“I cried. I was sitting in my room and I cried.”
Eventually, she thought, “I can’t do this. I must do something.”
She went grocery shopping and suddenly felt better, she said.
Sometimes she thinks there’s nothing you can do about homesickness, she said.
“During the final exam, you have assignments, you just need to ignore it. You put it behind.”
She knows other international students like to get together and cook, especially during traditional festivals like the recent mid-autumn festival, she said.
UPEI student Dorah Li said the festival is a tradition in China focused on families getting together. Li recalled that the most enduring tradition associated with the mid-autumn festival is the cooking and eating of mooncakes, a Chinese treat.
The holiday is also celebrated in Vietnam and the Philippines, with some differences.
Zang said when she was in China she didn’t really care about the festival but after she came to Canada two years ago, things changed, she said.
“If I didn’t have the mooncakes, it was OK, it was totally fine,” Zang said.
“When it’s a Chinese traditional festival, I want that food. But mooncakes here are way more expensive than in China. You have to pay like $10 for one piece.”
In Vietnam, the same holiday is celebrated, but it loses relevance in adulthood, said Holland College student Cindy Nguyễn.
“Normally they celebrate it for the children, more than the adults. When I was a child it was so much fun.”
Nguyễn has been here for two years, she said.
“I feel a little homesick when my birthday comes. But I have a lot of friends here actually, and they threw me a big birthday party.”
She misses her parents when she thinks about them, but she’s made a new family of sorts here, she said.
“You love something and then you build it again, so you don’t really think of what you lost.”
Zang, who’s been in Canada for two years, has a long distance relationship back in China.
She’s getting to the same place as Nguyễn, but it’s a slower process, she said.
“It’s becoming home.”