I’ve realized that I have a new tendency of being cautious. I’m not sure why this is, but I noticed that over the past two months (the first two months of graduate school) I have been very cautious. I have been observing the ways that people interact, trying to determine what is or is not normal or common practice. It’s a strange thing to do I guess, but it comes from a history of being a ‘people-watcher’. I like to watch and observe my surroundings to best decide how I should interact with those surroundings. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, because I miss being a bit more reckless – throwing myself into any given situation putting 100% of my heart and soul into it.

I don’t do that anymore.

I will do it again though. I’m no longer half-committed to the graduate school experience, I don’t feel like I have to prove that I belong anymore. I do belong, or else I wouldn’t be here. Yes, I am young. Yes, this is new to me. But what better way to learn? Trying to fit in too much was making me extremely anxious to speak in seminars (or even to people outside of seminars) for fear of not saying the right thing, or having interpreted a reading or talk differently. I’m also not content with being a part of my surroundings or a part of the status quo (despite having done this for a bit) and I am going to stand out, I’m going to question things, and I’m not going to implicitly form myself to fit whatever frame or box is in place. I’m remembering who I am and what I like most about myself and getting back to that.

We will see what happens.

Back in Canada

I know this post may seem a bit late, but I wanted to take some time to reflect myself before I shared my thoughts and reflections with the worldwide web. From past experiences, coming back to Canada is always the hardest part about leaving because you struggle with who you are versus who you were, you struggle with your next steps, how to integrate what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed into your life, you struggle with falling back into how you used to be or how you want to be. It’s a major learning experience and it takes some time and reflection each time to decide how you want to decipher it.

This time, I felt as though there was more preparation and the university set up some debriefing sessions to help us determine how to answer those questions. In addition, we aren’t coming back into a former life, we’re coming back to the completion of our degrees and the beginning of something completely new – whether its work, more school, travel, or no plans – so there aren’t old patterns to fall back into.

Personally, there were some elements of placement that I really struggled with, however despite these struggles, I would never trade the experience for anything. I learned a lot about myself while in Hanoi, I developed a completely different sense of independence than I could have in Canada, I challenged myself, and I realized that there are no limitations to what I can do or accomplish.

My time in Hanoi gave me the self-confidence to stand out from the crowd, to be myself regardless of what is happening around me, to stick to my goals, and to shoot for the stars. Prior to living overseas, I never would have imagined that I would be good enough for grad school, that I could get a scholarship, or that I deserved to be noticed in that way. But it really pushed me to work outside of my comfort zone and to recognize my own strengths.

Placement also brought me a lot closer to some of my classmates; there are people that I spent time with in Hanoi that I will be close with for the rest of my life. I’ve made friends that understand me more than anyone I’ve known previously and who are unconditionally supportive. The heart and strength that I’ve seen in my classmates astounds me and I know that they will accomplish anything they set out to do. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience placement with such a wonderful and supportive group of people, and I feel even more fortunate to have such incredible people in my life.

Participating in an international experience is about more than school, it teaches you things that you can’t learn about in class or in books. There’s a value to travelling and living overseas that you can’t get from anything else. No other experience encourages you to test your boundaries, nothing else will ever ensure that you learn about yourself and the world in such a genuine manner, and there is nothing equal to it. Regardless of whether you are studying international development or anything else, go outside and learn about the world, go experience it. It will challenge you and it will expand your horizons more than anything else ever could.

International Development Student Blogger

International Development students tend to be overachievers, we like to learn, we have lots of questions, and we enjoy the details. When I was preparing for placement, I would read the blogs of the students who were currently on placement to try to learn more. Now that the program has been established longer this is also used as a way for potential students (high school students) to learn about the program and see how they feel.

If you are interested in studying international development, working in international development, travelling, or are just plain curious you can check out my blog for the Faculty of Environment here. I post frequently :)