5 Ways to make your dorm feel like “home”

By: Vivian Nguyen

Published on August 14, 2022

It is no secret that Canada is known for its cultural diversity. However, knowing this fact is not enough to prepare incoming post-secondary students for the inevitable changes they will face. 

One of these changes include living away from home. In Canada, many first-year college and university students choose to live in on-campus dormitories or “dorms,” for short. Dorms are buildings where students live in and share common spaces like the kitchen and laundry room. 

Photo: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu (Unsplash) 

Living in a new environment can lead to culture shock among newcomer students. Symptoms of culture shock include feeling isolated or helpless, withdrawal, and homesickness. Here are five tips for making your dorm room feel like “home.”

1. Display your home country’s flag

A national flag represents a country. It can evoke feelings of community and pride. You can hang up your country’s physical flag or a print of it on your walls. You can also decorate your dorm with your home country’s national colours (or the colours on its flag) to represent your national identity.

Most dorms do not allow their residents to make any permanent changes to the rooms. This includes drilling holes into the wall. Avoid nails by using command hooks and strips that can be easily removed without damaging the walls. You can buy them at WalmartDollaramaStaples, or other home retail stores like Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

2. Photographed memories

Photo: Vladyslav Dukhin (Pexels)

There is a saying that goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Decorating your dorm room with photographs of loved ones or landscapes from your homeland can motivate you and bring you joy. Use scotch tape or sticky tack—a putty-like adhesive—from Walmart, your school’s giftshop, or other supply stores to hang your pictures.

You can also frame photographs to place on your desk or display them using a string and clothespins. Place these pictures where you can see them easily to remind you of fond memories from home.

3. Cultural foods

The smell of a homecooked meal can remind you of home and connect you to your heritage. You can cook cultural foods in the shared kitchen in your dorm or order takeout from a local authentic restaurant.

Alternatively, you can collect spices and other seasonings used in dishes in your culture. Use them to add a dash of “home” to your instant cup noodles, pasta, or any other meal.

4. Listen to music

Like food, music has the power to connect people to different cultures and countries around the world. Play your favourite songs from your home country to create an atmosphere that feels more like “home.” As dorms are shared spaces, respect others by using headphones. But don’t let that stop you from sharing music with new friends!

5. Religious symbols

In Canada, you have the right to safely practice your religion. This right is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You can create a space in your room for prayers using religious symbols such as a cross for Christianity or the Buddha for Buddhism. If you are not religious or are unable to set up this area, organize a spot in the room where you can unwind and focus on yourself. School can be stressful and overwhelming, so it is important to prioritize your mental health and well-being.

If you live with roommates, communicate your needs and intentions about how you want to arrange your living space. Talking through these things ensures that everyone feels comfortable and supported.

Living on-campus, or “living in residence,” immerses new students in the Canadian college and university experience. Take the opportunity and make yourself at home.

More from The Newcomer:

Feeling comfortable in a new environment

Coming to Canada as an international student

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