I lived in a random family’s home office – here’s what happened

Praevalli sitting cross-legged on her bed in the Homestay.

This one will be a doozy…

On March 26, 2023, I accepted an offer to my dream university. This meant that I was moving halfway across the country from where I had lived my entire 18 years of existence – from Toronto, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Little did younger, naive me know that, I wasn’t guaranteed housing with my application, contrary to how Ontarian universities work. And that’s where the panic starts – it was May 2023 and I was number 906 in the residence waiting list and all kinds of homeless as of September 2023.

I had only three months to not only figure out where I was going to live for my first months of my university experience, and life “abroad and alone”, but I also had to convince my Sri Lankan parents that this was still a good idea to commit to.

Unless you live under a rock, you would know about Canada’s atrocious housing situation as of right now. Therefore, finding a place to stay as a solo 18-year-old female that was decently priced, commutable, and safe was nearly impossible (especially those Sri Lankan parents).

Within the hour of the realization, I began grasping at all of my options:

  1. AirBnb? Frankly my favourite, but wildly expensive
  2. Studio apartment? Try again later.
  3. Share a house with eight other university students? I honestly don’t know why I got a no for this one
  4. And last but not least, a Homestay? A very large and lovely family, hours of commuting every day (7 days a week… that includes every weekend too by the way), and what seems to have been the home office to live in (don’t worry, it was obviously a fully furnished bedroom with great amenities and everything you could realistically ask for)

Well, I guess that one sat well with the parents…

I now live a very large, kind, and active Malaysian-Chinese family for the first four months of my university experience, and first real days (beyond travel) out of my childhood home.

Considering the options, we were content. However, I saw my dreams of being independent completely slipping from my hands… until further notice, I guess.

It is now September 2023. I’m moved into my new home office (bedroom) in a random family’s home and I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life.

This is a bit tricky… this change is a bit crazy…

  1. Young kids? I was always the youngest…
  2. Girls? Bro, I grew up as the only girl (hence the “bro”)
  3. Carpet? Don’t know her!
  4. A dog? I can’t pet my pet fish
  5. 6pm dinners? I didn’t know these actually existed (I’m brown, hence my confusion)
  6. Using powder for laundry? I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT WAS A THING?!?!
  7. Trampoline and hot tub in the backyard + boat and RV in the driveway? What is going on…

This is what you asked for – you wanted change, you wanted new experience, and you wanted a different kind of hard and struggle – stick it through.

It’s October and I’m realizing September was all about being in survival mode… so that’s why it really wasn’t that bad the first month away from everything I had ever known…

It’s October and I don’t know what’s real. I haven’t stayed in the house a single day in a month (I have a meal plan at the university so I climb the mountain via bus every single day to eat my 3 meals); I’m waking up and sleeping good, healthy hours, I’m healthy and all (until I got sick and still went to campus); I’m on top of my school work; and I’m attending all these workshops and events where people continue to tell me “wow, I couldn’t imagine being here as a first year, I’d be horrified with all these third years here.”.

I’m doing good, right? I’m doing good until I realize how living with my own family’s rules/routines was actually much easier than adjusting to this family’s rules/routines. I’m doing good until I wish I could talk to people in person or go out and explore the city with people and no one could really care less to do that because they’ve all lived here their entire lives. And I’m doing good until I sit across from the grandpa in the house at the weekly dinner I have with them… and I’m stuck wishing it was my recently deceased grandfather, not this imposter… I’m all good until I’m stuck in my cold and dark room, crying uncontrollably and unable to sleep from the physical and emotional pain that comes with reliving the worst grievance of your life.

It’s November – midterms have kicked my behind twice now. I’ve perhaps gone nearly two weeks without talking to my family. It’s cold and dark when I leave the house in the morning and when I come back at night. I shop alone, I transit alone, I study alone.

I was kind of evicted, you could say? I was asked to move from my home office room to the upstairs guest room as another student from the Caribbean was going to move in for a few months. I practically moved out and into my new room within the day. Frankly, my worst fear came true that day. I’m a person to tell myself “don’t get comfortable, something will happen, something will change and not go your way”, but this time I corrected myself, “go ahead, put your things in the drawers, layout your belongings, and own this room” – shouldn’t have been so bold… Now, how do I deal with that?

At least the bed is nicer…

But, I’ve found my friends. I’ve found the people that I actually enjoy spending time around and I can depend on them even a bit at times to have a good time, even if I don’t feel as deeply connected with them as I did with my friends back home (yet, hopefully). I’ve kept in contact with the worthy friends from home, and kept up with my grandma and the happenings of my robotics team. I’ve gotten closer with the family, kids, and other students (and dog) in the house and its kind of made things a little easier. Except for how the kids proved that I may actually be a decent mother in the future and have gotten attached to me, so leaving will be hard. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in the Spring and for a few years, I’ll come to visit.

I got my exam dates so I got to rebook my flight home for a week earlier – and my best friends and Grandma have no idea. They’re all in for a great surprise :,)

I’m weeks away from flying back home after months away. I’ve spent months with only one person in a 40-hour range being someone that I knew before 3 months ago, and I only saw them once. My best friends are dying to see me, same with my family of course, and back at them on my behalf. Finals are kind of kicking my butt, but we’re getting through it. I’m also doing my early warnings to my parents for the money they’re gonna spend replacing all the clothes I’ve grown out of since being here (I’m 18, this isn’t supposed to happen?!?!)

One thing hasn’t changed though: I still hate math.

I told you it’d be a doozy…

The next blog post will be a list of advice for those who may be looking for insight for their travels, moves, journeys for independence, etc., or perhaps for those who just wanna read about what I have learned through this whole debacle.

Stayed tuned 🙂

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