WOOOWW! Ahooooy from Antigonish, Nova Scotia! It’s been a whirlwind couple of days! I’m glad I’m typing this now, having gone through the first day of orientation. You should have seen me last night – I was tired, grumpy, homesick, feeling lost and confused, and every other imaginable negative feeling. Larry, you were probably right – that feeling of being overwhelmed was largely due to the fact that I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Let me first preface this blog and all other blogs with a note that I have been and will probably continue comparing this internship to my student exchange year in Japan. It’s an interesting comparison:
- My dad flew to Japan with me to help me settle in, but this time I’m on my own from day 1.
- In Japan, I had a VOIP phone and could phone whenever I pleased, but this time home will be less accessible, especially when I get to Peru.
- In Japan, I was mostly a passive recipient of knowledge as a student, but this time I’m actively trying to make a positive contribution to a developing community.
- In Japan, many of the other students spent a lot of time having fun and soaking up the scene and culture, but this time the students are all top-notch and duber mature, narrowed down from over 200 applicants. (Today, the coordinator mentioned how hard it was for her to choose the final batch and how we all have such amazing resumes, err… except mine maybe).
- In Japan, I was taking classes on topics I wasn’t particularly interested in, but this time my work is directly related to my passion, interests, and future goals.
I’m sure there are other contrasts I’ll think of later. To me, what’s more important are the comparisons I make on my attitudes and reactions to events during this trip as I consider these a measure of how much I have changed or am changing/growing. Take the airport goodbye, for example. The day I left for Japan, I was tearing up the entire last day and was not at all ready to leave yet. This time though, I didn’t even feel slightly teary until I hugged my brother goodbye, then each of my family members in turn. It was still a bawling session – goodbyes will probably always be really emotional for me – but it was more of a “I’ll miss you guys so much,” than a “please don’t let me go because I can’t do this without you.”
As another contrast, I spent three full days crying and hiding in my room when I got to Japan, instead of getting to know others in the dorm. I was fully dependent on phone calls home and made little effort to explore. This time, I was homesick for sure, but I was aware of how I felt and was able to compartmentalize a bit more. I really got to know the other interns and left the door of my room open the whole afternoon, which leads to tons of random chats. I’ve never really lived a dorm life like this before (in Japan, all the international students were pretty exclusive), and I’m kind of liking it.
The trip over was lengthy to say the least. Hadn’t slept all day, 7:30pm flight, stop-over in Calgary, red-eye flight (just learned this term – hoorah!) to Halifax, but rerouted to Moncton (New Brunswick) because of low visibility (apparently, this is common) for almost two hours! 40-minute bus ride to Halifax proper where I met Liz Ito (2 hours late) for fish & chips on the boardwalk, then met Maria (the other intern going with me to Peru) at the bus station for a 3-hour bus ride to Antigonish. THEN, when I got to the dorm, my keys wouldn’t work! It was probably all for the better though, because I was feeling duber sleepy and a little anti-social so the key fiasco gave me an excuse to stay at the dorm rather than go with everyone to the pub.
I went for a short run through Antigonish before hitting the hay and the city is beeeauutiful. The campus seems really new with all these big matching brick buildings connected by little pathways and fields. There are trees and more trees everywhere I turn and everyone is as friendly as people told me they’d be, smiling and waving as I jogged by. Houses are quaint and often have porches with wicker chairs; doors are wide open and welcoming.
I tried to soak it all in and appreciate the beauty, but I have to admit that I’m probably appreciating it more now that I’m writing about it because I was just feeling too overwhelmed and homesick last night. Even though I was tired, I lay in bed at 7pm and didn’t fall asleep for hours. I felt guilty for being anti-social and skipping out on pub night and getting to know the crowd, but I’m trying to find that balance between being the private person that I am, but still occasionally participating in the group, which is what our time here in Antigonish is partly about.
The first day of orientation went by so fast. It was a really good mix of introductions, icebreakers, group bonding, discussions, and other miscellaneous but important tasks. I liked how during one part, we separated into small groups and had discussions on guidelines/agreements for how we wanted to be as a group in the dorm, at school, and when making group decisions. Our ideas ranged from the classic “being respectful of others’ opinions” to more specific such as “washing dishes immediately after using them” and “sitting in a new seat each day” (so we get to know everyone). It seems like the simplest idea, to make group agreements and I’ve already been exposed to these from volunteering on the Child Psychiatry Unit during group therapy sessions, but I didn’t realise how powerful these agreements could be. Clarifying our expectations of each other really helped solidify the group.
We also had a tour of the Marie Michael library, which apparently, has the best collection of materials on international development in Canada. I’m so excited to have fallen into this field and can feel myself slowly growing more excited about development issues, especially being surrounded by and absorbing knowledge from all these great minds who are passionate about global health, sustainability, ending poverty, and other monumental issues that I would have never concerned myself with before this internship. I know so little.
All the interns going to Peru (there are four of us) are coming to my room for a Spanish session in a few minutes (as in, they speak and I will probably just listen, haha!) so I should probably sign off. Ciao!