I wasn’t homesick during my first year of university.

Granted, my school in downtown Toronto was a half-hour train ride from my parents’ home. But that doesn’t mean I had an easy time adjusting.

For the first time, there was nobody to tell me to hit the books, remind me to eat dinner, or tell me where laundry detergent was sold.


I landed in a mix of young people from different backgrounds and cultures, and I sometimes felt lost.

Carleton University student Melissa Sharpe also knows what a huge transition university can be. Hailing from a small town near Windsor, the political science-English major felt homesick in her first year.

“Some people take the transition really, really hard. And you might feel like you’re the only one. But everyone is going the same thing,” she said.

Fortunately, Sharpe’s residence fellow, an older student who provides guidance to freshmen, suggested she get involved in university activities.

Now a second-year residence fellow, Sharpe is returning the favour.

Sharpe is one of 45 returning students who started training as residence fellows yesterday. These students live with the almost 2,600 students — 70 per cent of whom are first-year students from outside the city — in residence and help them adjust to university life.

“I like being a leader in the community and helping the students through their transition. It’s very rewarding,” said Sharpe.

Over the next two weeks, residence fellows are trained in dozens of areas, including counselling, alcohol and drug awareness, diversity, harassment, fire safety, and first aid, said residence programs and training co-ordinator, Natalie Sasseville.

While fellows don’t deal with the tough stuff, they can direct students to professionals who can.

Sharpe’s duties include making sure students follow residence rules, but there’s more to the job than that. “You’re a support system,” she said. “Everyone can come to you at any time.”

A lifelong Ottawa resident, residence fellow Alex Bourbonniere didn’t have homesickness to deal with.

But he can relate to other issues new students face. “You still have to live with another person,” he said.

Students adjust to university life after a while, but the job still doesn’t really end, said Sharpe.

“On April 29, people are still coming to you,” she said.

Look for Metro reporter Tracey Tong’s Cityscapes column every Wednesday