Going Home for the Holidays

It’s finally the last week of the semester, which means that soon I will be heading home to Alberta for the holidays. Today I was reflecting on my experiences in the last three months and I decided that I would write about that instead of my regular food-related Wednesday posts.

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As I was waiting for the bus this morning, I was thinking about how good I feel heading into the end of the first semester of my PhD. I have one presentation left and about 2500 words to write on a final paper, but soon I will be free for a much needed break. I was thinking about how much I’ve grown in such a short time. I came into this experience with many doubts about my capacity to succeed in a PhD program and also about switching from social work to geography. My anxiety was through the roof in anticipation of being surrounded by career geographers. I wondered if they would realize that I didn’t fit in, that I was lacking in the basic knowledge of the discipline. I was extremely worried about being a Teaching Assistant and having to teach undergrads about geography when they would probably know more than me. I stressed about my fear of public speaking and how much that would be required moving forward in academics.

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The reality was much different. In the first few days of class, I found myself surrounded by amazing classmates, some of them from geography, but most from a variety of other academic backgrounds. I learned about being an “accidental geographer” and how that was quite common in this discipline. My classmates were engaged in learning and participated in rich conversations and debates from different perspectives. This was what was missing from my master’s program and I was so glad to finally experience it. I was really lucky to connect with a brilliant PhD supervisor who is supportive and kind. She has made me feel welcome and already has taught me so much.

I have learned a lot in these short three months. I have been challenged in ways I never thought possible. I see theories from an entirely new lens, and where I struggled in understanding concepts last year, I finally feel like I get them now. I have learned so much about food systems already and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I will be co-teaching a course next semester with an inspiring professor who believes that I am an asset and have valuable contributions for his class. I’ve become more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. I still have more work to do in this area, but I know I’ve improved. This has been a transformative semester and I know I have even more growing to do in the next few years.

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When I reflect on my experience at this time last year, I know I was in a very different place than I am right now. I was lonely and homesick and I was questioning my decision to get a master’s. I was disappointed with my program in a lot of ways and I was struggling with living in Toronto.  I never really felt at home there. I could not wait to go home for Christmas because I needed to escape the loneliness and lack of fulfilment I was experiencing.

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This year is much different. I have made a few solid friendships and I love living in Kitchener-Waterloo. I still can’t wait to go home, but it’s less of an escape than before. I am looking forward to spending days with my best friend, playing with her baby and watching bad tv while scarfing down popcorn. I’m excited to see my family and my good friends and their new tiny humans that I have yet to meet. I am looking forward to going home for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, but I know I will also be excited to come back. I know now that I made the right choice in coming here and can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Thanks for reading,

L.


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