By Kiki Cekota
Sometimes it’s really, really hard to be 2,500 kilometres away from where you were raised, went to the same school for 12 years and where your loved ones live.
I write this as I’m on a plane from Victoria, British Columbia to Toronto, heading into my second semester of my first year at Ryerson for journalism. I’m not just saying that to try and be more dramatic – since there’s no Wi-Fi, I thought right now would be a very appropriate time to write this piece.
I wasn’t a total stranger to Toronto prior to living there – I have a few close relatives that live in and around the GTA that I’d visited during some summer vacations, and that I’m able to see on occasion or reach out to in an emergency while at Ryerson.
However, so much of feeling at home in a new place is feeling comfortable and safe. In Victoria, I’d gone to a small private school from Grade 1 until I graduated, which allowed me to foster a number of close friendships. There were about 350 kids in Grades 9-12 at my high school campus, and I knew a majority of them. I had good relationships with my teachers, and an overall positive experience in high school. I knew heading to Ontario for university would be a very different experience, but you can only prepare yourself so much before the actual move.
I have a few of my friends from my grad class living in the same residence building as me on campus, which is amazing, but we’re all in different and demanding programs. I knew nobody in my program, and already felt intimidated seeing other first years posting bios in the Facebook group. Most of the other students were from Ontario, and I didn’t see anybody else who said they were from B.C. I know there are many international students at Ryerson who come from much farther away than the west coast of Canada, but I still felt pretty scared to start university in a new province – and only have my mum available over FaceTime or text. Usually I’m pretty good with meeting new people and making friends, but during the orientation day for journalism in the first weeks, I felt so alone.
Luckily, I’ve met amazing people both in my program and living in residence. As soon as I’d made some solid friendships, living in Toronto became so much easier. Sometimes, when the prospect of interviewing random people or giving a five-minute politics presentation in front of a tutorial freaks me out, I just remind myself that only three months of living in the biggest city in the country has forced me to grow as a person and move further towards adulthood. The general mentality in my program is that we’re all going through this together, which makes me feel so supported and not scared to acknowledge my failures and work towards improving myself and my writing.
Despite all the great things about Toronto, there are things I miss desperately about Vic: the natural beauty that exists there – whether it’s the proximity of the Pacific or the plentiful green space – having so much nature easily accessible was always something I took for granted until I moved to a concrete jungle. I miss the kind and laid back attitudes of the people living in Victoria. I miss the home I grew up in, my family and my bed. I miss the ease of knowing my way around without having to use Google Maps obsessively.
It’s easy to feel envious of students who live close enough to go home some weekends to see their families, get a hug from their parents and get a couple loads of laundry done before digging into a home-cooked meal.
But I have realized that I am fortunate enough to be able to even go to a school so far away. I fly home at Christmas and during the summer, I talk to my mum almost everyday, whether it’s by sending her photos of Drake, or FaceTiming her and my stepdad to see the new vacuum they just bought.
And that will have to be enough of home for now; it just makes facing the reality of growing up a little bit harder and more immediate. Toronto won’t be home to me for the moment and it might not be until a couple more years down the road.
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