A day in the life of a Graduate student: Belén Febres-Cordero

August 31, 2015

Recent Anthropology Master's graduate Belén offers her advice on making the move to Vancouver as smooth as possible and the benefits of finding a great study buddy.

About Belén:

Random facts about me:

  • I love books. I love their smell and how their pages become yellow with time. I love how they allow me to live a thousand lives at once and they make me disconnect, even if just for a moment, from the one I am living now.  I guess I could say, then, that I love books because they make me forget and they make me remember at the same time.
  •  I only learned how to ride a bike when I was 26. However, here in Vancouver, biking and walking are my main means of transportation.
  • I am from Ecuador, a small and beautiful country crossed by the Equator. One of its main tourist attractions is the Middle of the World Monument, where you can stand with one foot on each hemisphere. When I moved to Canada, I felt that the globe where I was standing suddenly expanded as an inflating balloon would do, leaving me divided between two countries, two languages, and two groups of people to miss and cherish.
  • I completed my Master’s program in Anthropology at SFU. My thesis focused on the possible contributions of community media in Ecuador. I graduated in Spring 2015.

Insider SFU tips:

  •  I would recommend joining SFU’s Facebook groups, such as SFU New grad students and postdocs and Graduate Students and Postdocs . They offer great advice and extremely useful information.
  • The Students Learning Commons has amazing services and workshops. Don’t be afraid to use them, they can really help.
  • If you are having any difficulty or, at some point, you are considering quitting, talk to your supervisor. They are there to help and, most likely, they will. If, by any reason, you start thinking that you are struggling more than others and that university is not for you, stop, run, look for the nearest computer, and google “impostor syndrome”.  It’s actually a thing. Knowing that you are not alone in the feeling might help. It certainly was a relief for me and pushed me to keep going.  
One of Belén's favourite treats, a beaver tail!

Advice for anyone moving to Vancouver:

  • Don’t be as reluctant as I was. Just get the appropriate gear.
  • If you are anything like me and you still don’t know how to ride a bike, learn. If you still don’t have a bike, get one.  Here are some places where you can look at: Bike Doctor, Denman Bike Shop, Sports Junkies.   Vancouver is an awesome place to ride a bike. It has lots of bike lines and beautiful scenery close to the water where you can go and feel safe, even if you are not an expert.
  • Try some of Canada’s best treats: Poutine and Beaver Tails , and all the amazing international food that you can find. Oh, yes, and if you want to save on food, go to an all-you can eat sushi.  Unlike other countries, it’s actually affordable here!
  • Join or follow social media groups, such as VancityBuzzInternational Travelers in VancouverMoving to Vancouver to learn about the events that are happening in the city. There are always lots of things going on. A Naked Bike Ride Hell’s Gate Fraser Canyon , are just some of the examples I’ve heard of. 

A "typical" day at SFU

The bookstore at the Harbour Centre campus is one of Belén's favourite study spots.

I didn’t actually have a “typical” day. My days were somewhat unpredictable because, since I started writing my thesis, I managed my own time. This made me simultaneously feel excitement and panic. I was able to read and write for hours, where my watch was only a decoration.  It failed to remind me if it was time to eat, drink water, or exercise. Most of the time I was happy with this. However, sometimes it got a little lonely. I was very lucky to find a writing partner and a great friend with whom I could meet at coffee shops, community centres, or libraries, and work together on our own things. Some of our favorite places are The Heartwood Cafe and the tables at SFU Vancouver campus’ bookstore. 

The challenge with these “atypical” days is not falling in love with life in academia, not yearning to return as soon as you graduate.  If you succeed at this, please let me know how you did it.  You can contact me through my LinkedIn: Belén Febres-Cordero.

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