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Vanessa King, a fourth-year journalism student, speaks about the challenges that many first-years face during their first few months at Carleton, including feeling homesick and how to respond to it. 


In September 2010, I came to Carleton as a bright-eyed and very nervous first-year student. I’m assuming that you’re probably feeling about the same right now – excited to move on to the next chapter of your life, but also tentative about the huge changes coming up ahead.

There are a few transitions that every first-year experiences. The shift from living at home to going to university is a very cruel reality that sinks in as soon as your parents wave goodbye on move-in day… with the family vehicle.

Like a majority of first years, I didn’t have a car. This left me – and other first-years – relying on public transit. A great thing about Carleton is that all students have access to the U-Pass from September to April, which means the cost of transit is built into the student fees in your tuition. This pass works on all OC-Transpo routes, so you can get around the city without having to worry about having exact bus fare. Once you figure out the routes of the three main buses that come to campus, along with the O-Train line, it becomes super easy and convenient to get around Ottawa.

Along with missing the conveniences of home, like having laundry magically done for you, you’re probably going to start feeling homesick at some point during your first semester. This is totally normal. One thing that helped me cope with being away from my parents is a planned time for a weekly phone call. This was one way for me stay in contact with my parents without interfering with my academic or social calendar, and without my parents worrying about me constantly.

Another way to address homesickness is by getting involved on campus and finding what many refer to as their Carleton family. There are literally hundreds of ways to get involved, and I guarantee you there’s something here that you’ll want to be a part of. Whether it’s acting, singing, dancing, activism, radio, politics, debate, volunteering, event planning, sports, or just having an all-around good time, there’s something on campus for you.

I know this sounds terribly overwhelming. Some good places to start are SEO programs for Community-Service Learning or student events, MyCareer postings for volunteer positions, and the CUSA website for the clubs and societies on campus. An easier way to get involved is showing up to your faculty or department club (most have them) and introducing yourself. These groups are always recruiting new members, and it’s the best way to meet other people in your program.

There are tons of perks of extra-curricular activities besides conquering homesickness. Getting involved in something that you’re interested in means that you’ll be surrounding yourself with people who have similar interests, which makes you feel like you’re part of a larger community. Involvement outside of the classroom also adds to your academic experience with meaningful activities that may shape your interests (or career path!) in the future. Carleton also allows you to add most extra-curricular activities to your Co-Curricular Record (CCR), which you can show to employers and graduate schools (I know, I’m getting ahead of myself) to prove that you took advantage of your time at Carleton to find out more about your community and yourself.

It’s okay to feel homesick during your first few months at Carleton. But it’s not okay to use it as an excuse to sit out on one of the most exciting years of your life. Explore Ottawa, stay in touch with those at home, or find something on campus that interests you.

Submitted by Vanessa King, a fourth-year journalism student.


For more information on the various programs and services that Carleton offers its students, use the Ravens Resources search bar on the Current Students website.

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