2018 · Academia · Blogging · Change · Grad School · St. John's

Girl Meets Grad School: Level Up

My new town

The last time I drank chamomile tea someone I loved had died. But this afternoon, I bought my first chamomile tea in five years and I set myself up in my new grad lounge to type out this blog post. I haven’t updated in ages, or maybe it just seems that way to me. A lot has changed… I’ve changed.

Let’s head into a brief recap: I wrote and submitted my MA thesis this past August. I submitted my thesis in the early hours of the morning, because I absolutely could not sleep until it was in and awaiting review. That same day my dad and I set out in a van, packed full of my belongings, and drove to the ferry that would take me to my new home – Newfoundland. I’ve moved from Halifax to St. John’s and I’m now pursuing my PhD in English at Memorial University.

I’ve been in St. John’s for almost three weeks. It’s different out here, but it’s definitely better for me. 

I didn’t update for so long during my MA for a myriad of reasons including but not limited to: schoolwork and stress. But there was also something else, something that I found difficult to articulate to my peers. The best way to explain it is that I didn’t feel like I belonged in Halifax. I didn’t fit in the city and for better or for worse, I didn’t fit in with Dalhousie. But, Sam, you might say, didn’t you have fun? Didn’t you make friends? Didn’t you work for the university? Yes. Yes. Yes. I have memories from Halifax that I will treasure. I made several solid friends and had the chance to nurture a friendship from high school. I had the opportunity to work for the school’s Faculty of Graduate Studies as a social media manager, and under the supervision of two amazing professors, I was a teaching assistant and an exam marker. I wrote a thesis that I’m proud of under the direction and guidance of an awesome scholar. All of those experiences though never added up to me feeling at home. I didn’t feel like I belonged.

Some of that distance probably existed in my own head. It was partly my own creation. I was afraid of putting down roots when I knew that my program was only one year long. I’m thankful for the friends (new and old) who pushed at my walls and pulled me into their lives despite knowing that I’d be leaving in August. At the moment, I think I might have been the only one in my cohort to leave Halifax, although one peer wasn’t entirely sure what their future held. I just never settled into my department. I had good professors and good classes, but it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t fit. I will cherish the good memories I made in Halifax and at Dal, but I will also remember in equal measure the tough times. I cried a lot more last year than I ever have over school. I hit a really low point. My mind was my own worst enemy at times. And, there was so much isolation. By the middle of the summer I was actually talking to the dogs I was walking about my life and my thesis. My parents picked up lots of phone calls during the summer because I just wanted to talk to someone.

I thank my lucky stars that the beginning of June brought me a blessing in the form of a sorority sister from Carleton. She helped anchor me and keep me sane over the next few months. August brought me one of my Littles, although not for circumstances either of us wanted. I was thankfully able to be present for her during that time, just as both of my Littles have been present for me over the years. Suffice it to say, my summer was a rollercoaster of writing, research, walking, thinking, and feeling.

So, I didn’t fit at Dal, but I don’t regret my year there. I learned a great deal from my supervisor. I learned about myself. I did, however, have hope that maybe Memorial, colloquially referred to as MUN, might be different. After all, one year struggling to fit in somewhere would be nothing compared to spending four years doing the same. I had hope though, back when I visited the MUN campus in April and met with my new supervisor I’d hesitantly kindled that hope. I spent my few days on the Rock walking around, getting the lay of the land, and picturing myself living here. It wasn’t difficult for me to do. I felt comfortable on the campus. Actually, it reminds me a bit of Carleton to be frank. We’re the Seahawks, not the Ravens, but our school colours are similar. MUN also has tunnels, known as munnels — leading my dad to make joke after joke about “Muggles in the Munnels!”

I feel settled at MUN and in St. John’s in a way that I never did in Halifax or at Dal, even after a whole year. Maybe I needed the adjustment year and maybe I didn’t, but I am grateful to be where I am at the moment. I’m looking forward to the next four years and the adventures to come!

I’m going to go enjoy my chamomile tea now. Expect more updates soon. Cheers!

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