How to Get Through a Transition to a New Environment

Tips from an experience transitioning to U of T from abroad


One of the most challenging things for a person to do is move to a new location on their own. For many at the University of Toronto (U of T), this is their reality. I think I have finally mastered the art of transitioning somewhere new and I hope to provide some tips for incoming students or to anyone who is about to transition somewhere new through my experience moving to Toronto. But, to properly understand my transition to Toronto, I have to provide some background on myself.

At the delightful age of 13, I was forced to pack up my life and move across the globe to the United Arab Emirates with my family. This was quite a scary endeavour, as I had lived exclusively in Canada for my whole life. At first, I found this transition extremely difficult because I felt as if I did not belong to my new environment. I failed to open up to the transition process. In my mind, this move was always meant to be temporary and I think that was my biggest barrier. The first two years living as an expat were extremely difficult and I leaned on the support of my family. I eventually managed to finally start to feel like myself again, and actually made the most out of my time abroad, but it took me awhile.

Five years later I found myself a senior in high school, about to move back to Canada, and insecure about the transition. It took me quite a while to finally feel like I belonged while living in the United Arab Emirates, and I had concerns that it would be the same story, but this time I would be without my family. I am happy to report that my transition to Toronto was far more successful, although still flawed. Here are my tips to get through the transition period to a new environment.

Do not be afraid to be yourself.

I know it sounds cheesy, but it is very true. You will not feel comfortable if you are not yourself. Like many, one of my biggest insecurities is not being liked by others. A concern I had entering my first year was that my peers would dislike me. I was told horror stories of international students who were disliked because they came across as privileged and big-headed. I became insecure of the experiences I had abroad and as a result I adopted a timid disposition. At the end of the day, I have learned to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like you and that that is okay. Once I got over that insecurity, I was able to be myself and managed to make a good group of friends. Do not be like me and get in your head about what people think about you, because at the end of the day it does not matter what others think of you, just what you think of you.

 Get involved.

Another reason why my transition to life in the Middle East was difficult was because I saw the move as temporary. The biggest change in my experience abroad happened when I decided to get involved in my community. At U of T I got involved in many of the events that St. Mike’s put on, which introduced me to more of my peers and made me feel like I belonged to the community. What I did not do in my first year, but recommend, is to join a club. Clubs are a good way to meet people with similar interests to you, while also allowing you to be a part of a community. The more you get involved, the more you will feel like you belong and the easier your transition will be to U of T.

Open up.

Moving on your own can feel lonely and that is okay. Do not be afraid to open up about any insecurities or issues you are having in your transition to a new environment. People do care about you and will be willing to help you through rough times. The moment that I started to open up about my insecurities was the moment where I realized that I had finished my transition to U of T.