It’s almost the end of the first semester at UVic, and it’s been an amazing experience so far. Needless to say I am bombarded with work and other responsibilities, but it’s not really an issue if you have amazing friends and people around to be with.
Political Science is rather new to me as my background is in Human Geography, however there are some linkages and relationships that can be picked up on. Overall my courses have been going great; I really enjoy the interactive nature of class discussions here, where there is a process of mutual exchange which is in stark contrast to the top-down, ‘teacher instructs and student listens’ system I am used to. The general informality of the way things are here has also been a refreshing and welcome experience compared to being saddled down with bureaucratic requirements. No doubt universities, as dense institutions, are still going to have certain bureaucratic rigidities that are relatively set in stone and cannot be changed. However the way people conduct relationships with others in the department makes a huge difference. For example, when there is no clear distinction and perceptions of hierarchy between supervisors and graduate students, formal rules just do not have that huge of a dampener effect on your mood. Besides, common deer sightings put anyone in great spirits.
In terms of adjusting to life at UVic, being a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the first time has brought many surprises and learning opportunities. Initially, I was afraid of cultural differences in terms of classroom manners and curriculum expectations as well as habits. However my tutorials went a lot better than expected, and I am glad for the enthusiasm and receptivity of my students. What has left the deepest impression on me was not one particular event or thing, but rather a series of little, everyday interactions that continuously exposed me to more sides of Canadian norms in the classroom, expectations of teacher-student interaction and otherwise. This has been and always will be a constant process of negotiating social norms around ‘appropriateness’ and individual beliefs, habits and values, which is always a welcome exercise in self-reflection and personal growth. On the whole, I believe that learning to work outside one’s home society in a ‘new’ environment will make oneself a more accommodating and well-rounded person. This is especially important as an aspiring academic in the humanities, for the ability to compromise and make room for alternative perspectives is invaluable.
Most of all, it helps when grading papers as you’re exposed to a myriad of vibrant and interesting insights from students! Here’s a typical (fun) day at the office grading papers.
Occasional gatherings and get-togethers are always fun especially after a long day. I have been extremely fortunate in getting to know so many wonderful people in and outside my department. At times when the workload is overwhelming and stress levels are high, conversations with friends cannot be more helpful in releasing tension and simply getting a more lightened-up perspective on things. Instantly things seem less depressing, and it’s like getting a fuel boost!
Halloween house party, potluck style!
Drinks with fellow coursemates to celebrate the last class of term!
At CAPI, I have had a great experience presenting my PhD research ideas at the Graduate Research Forum. I am grateful for the many insightful comments and feedback which made me reflect on some of my own assumptions and plans. Establishing and maintaining circles of networks to give suggestions on one another’s research proved extremely insightful, because these interactions across disciplines and even within them revealed perspectives that otherwise would not have occurred to me. Furthermore, I had a wonderful time with fellow scholars and friends at the CAPI Gala dinner a few weeks back. It was a great time to catch up with one another and get to know new people who are doing great work at CAPI. The food was simply amazing too; my favourite was the cheesecake.
This pretty much sums up my first semester at UVic. It’s been a great learning journey so far, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead!