Moving from Dubai to Hamilton

December 9, 2021
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

C/O Marcus Spiske

Moving from abroad for university bittersweet for young adults

By: Sama Elhansi, Contributor

While moving across the world to a whole new country, completely alone as an 18-year-old,  “overwhelmed” would be an understatement to describe the thoughts and emotions coursing through my mind. 

From reading the title, you’ve already guessed where I moved from: Dubai. Given I started my first year at McMaster University in 2020, it was largely online. At first, I was devastated and shattered that I couldn’t physically be on campus. 

However, after a couple of months passed by, I began to see the bright side of online school. First of all, I was attending university from the comfort of my room. Secondly, staying home during that extra year made me much closer to my family, so it really was a blessing in a disguise.  

Before boarding the plane, I was overcome by a wave of sadness, but I also felt happy in a way. It was a bittersweet moment. Nothing really prepares you for leaving home — no matter how ready you think you are. 

Movies and TV shows always seem to romanticize moving out and living on your own. No one really tells you about the downside of moving out. I can definitely say that being independent isn’t as easy as the media makes it out to be. There are so many logistics to take into consideration. 

When I first stepped foot in Canada, I was in awe and memorized by the nature surrounding me. Everywhere I looked, I saw some form of green space. In Dubai, the only nature I saw was mountains of dull sand. Naturally, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the green environment around me. 

Like any international student first leaving their home country, I experienced major culture shock. Canada, specifically Hamilton, is the polar opposite of Dubai. Whether it was the drastic change of the weather or the people, I was absolutely overwhelmed — in a good way, though. 

When I left my little bubble of Dubai, it really opened my eyes to things I’ve never really thought about before. For example, buying my own groceries, cooking and just taking care of myself in general. Although I faced many obstacles the first month or two of moving here, it really made me stronger as an individual and made me learn new things about myself that I never knew of. 

Since I am living on a student friendly budget, I must cook my own meals. Back home, I used to dread cooking and avoided it at all costs. However, after cooking every meal for several months, it made me realize that I had a passion for cooking. 

Instead of fearing cooking, it became a hobby and a way to destress. 

I would say the only aspect that Hamilton and Dubai have in common is how diverse it is, which was a shock to me. Coming to Canada, I expected to feel like an outsider with my hijab. In reality, I felt completely accepted, no matter what I looked like. 

All the friends I’ve made so far in university are from different countries and cultures, which is something I grew accustomed to in Dubai as well. 

Although Dubai and Hamilton represent opposite extremes of the spectrum, I can see myself calling Hamilton my new home. All the culture shock I experienced helped shape the person I am today. The person I was when I left Dubai and the person I am today are two completely different people. 

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