The highs & lows of leaving home

For a lot of us, coming to Dal means moving away from home—and "away” can often be very far. That can be a good thing, though.

Plane flying into the sunset Photo:

The prospect of a fresh start is something I think we all want to an extent—I know it motivated a lot of my friends to come to Dal in the first place. That’s not to say that moving away doesn’t come with its challenges, but the idea of Halifax being a blank campus for students is one of the things that makes this university special.

Before I came to Dal, I lived in Michigan. If you look at a map, it doesn’t seem too far from Halifax. But for me, going home is catching an early morning flight to Toronto, a layover, then another flight to Detroit. It's an ordeal that often means an exhausting day of travel.

Contrastingly, some of my friends back home picked a school an easy 45-minutes away. Sometimes they made coming out here seem foolish. Dal is an amazing university, but there are great schools in Michigan too. Good universities are everywhere. So why come here?

It’s definitely a question I used to struggle with answering. First year is hard, and home can seem safe and easy. I wanted to run home after I failed my first-ever university exam. I wanted to go when the dining hall didn’t have the food I wanted for dinner. Same for when I got COVID and had to isolate in my dorm room for a week. I wanted to be home so badly.

That wouldn’t have helped my growth though.

Going home for any inconvenience—even big ones—is easy and tempting. Knowing what I’m like, if I lived less than an hour away from home I’d be there way too often, turning to the comfort of the familiar for every minor problem I didn’t believe I could deal with by myself.

My first year at Dal ended up being a period of immense growth, and one that I don’t think I would have had if I lived close to home. At the very least, it would have looked very different. Learning to problem-solve, cope, and thrive away from family is a skill I’m glad I got so quickly in university. Admittedly, it’s also one that I’m still working on.

I also found that just because you’re far from your family doesn’t mean you'll be going through it alone. I live in a house off campus now with seven roommates, and we solve those big problems together. University is weird like that. Friends are your family.

Yes, homesickness is inevitable when you leave, but usually doesn’t last long—it didn’t for me, anyway. The chaos of living in a crowded house distracts you from missing home too much. Try reminiscing about the summer while your roommates are cursing out their physics homework in the room next door.

Being away also makes going home even more special. You can embrace wearing the rose-coloured glasses when you only visit home for a couple of weeks. Let it be a place of comfort, peace, and nostalgia—not a crutch.

Taking the leap and moving away from home at 18 can be scary. But for me, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I could have hoped for in university. And this was a great place to do it.