Student Voices

Lorelei Lester: Experiences and Impressions of Education

July 09, 2014
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Guest post by Lorelei Lester, a new graduate student in History. She'll be writing these posts on a biweekly basis.

Before starting to write this blog I had to do a lot of reading to find out what a blog is.  I have read or skimmed various types and find that they can range from dry/technical to frivolous and funny. I’m not sure exactly what I want mine to look like right now but I do know that I want it to be interesting and informative. My target reader is the Indigenous student, and the transition from undergraduate to graduate post-secondary education is my starting point.

I am currently working with the Dean of Graduate Studies office in a part-time temporary position coming up with workable and useful things to help Indigenous students with their graduate school transition which is not necessarily easy (I speak from experience). I have also been informed that it takes a while to find one’s ‘blog voice.’ Am I going to start hearing voices? Or speaking in different voices? It’s a bit disconcerting. After reading a few blogs I get the idea that its open format and I can basically go to town if I want to. At this point I don’t want to. I just want to find a starting point and jump in.

First thing I am establishing with this blog is that I have no intention of featuring any pictures of me. I’m not the topic here, my experiences and impressions are. I will give you a brief background/biography of who I am and must emphasize that I do not represent all Native students nor all Native Peoples and communities. I am merely one of numerous voices, most unheard. While other Native students may find similarities or familiarities in my experiences and impressions of post-secondary education or life off the Res, in general I don’t expect that everyone will connect with it.

The image on top of this page is Tsz’il, the mountain that dominates my home valley. My family roots are the same as this mountain. I literally grew up in its shadow. For countless generations the eyes of my ancestors have gazed on this face and considered it home. I have heard the stories of how many of its features came to be. As a child I saw it in every season, every weather condition, day and night, every mode of light, and heard its voice echo from the shifting rocks. My People are inseparable from the land of our ancestors which holds that very memory and lifeblood of those that came before us.

My name is Kátika. My English or Canadian name is Lorelei. I am the third and youngest daughter of Wilematqua7 (my mother’s name) and Qayacus (my father’s name) of Lil’wat (Mt. Currie, BC). I don’t know the real names of my grandparents and I will not give their legal names in this communication medium. I am of the clan of my mother, the Wolf Clan. My education actually started at home with my parents and grandparents. Family connections and inheritance passed from mother to daughter but both sets of grandparents had great significance in social and emotional arenas. That story will be told but not now.

My undergraduate degree was attained at SFU. I have a major in History and extended minor in Psychology. This was completed in December 2007 with convocation in May 2008. I was the first in my immediate family to complete a post-secondary degree. I am the first in my immediate family to go on to graduate studies (one of my brothers-in-law has a Master's in Human Services).

It seems a lifetime ago that I decided to get a college education. History was not even in my range of possibilities. I was going into health sciences, Naturopathic medicine. My undergraduate career was convoluted, confusing, deeply frustrating, exhausting, and surprising. I learned a lot — not all of it academically based. It was a hard road: let’s say ‘trial by fire.’ By passing through it I was forged into something more resilient and enduring. At the end of my undergraduate degree it certainly didn’t feel that way. When I saw that I had enough credits for a degree I grabbed it and ran. I did not look back for years. I didn’t know if I wanted to return and continue. I needed rest and time to heal.

At the end of August 2012 out of boredom and frustration with yet another long stint of unemployment I enrolled in a History class at SFU. I figured if I couldn’t get a job to pay the tuition I would just withdraw. During the process of reactivating my student status on campus I was informed of a part-time job that I could apply for. I got the job and stayed in my class. I learned that I had really missed school and I still loved learning.

I started to toy with the idea of graduate school but would they take me? Did I qualify for admission to grad school? Who was I to think that I would even belong? Surely, I couldn’t do it and no one would let me. Despite these and other misgivings the idea stayed with me and wouldn’t go away. It would be almost a year before it crystalized to the point that I found the courage to seek a professor to supervise my work. Then the application process had to begin …

Photo: Gordon Hatton

If you'd like to contribute a Student Voices post, contact gradstudies@sfu.ca.

Tags: Student Voices; Aboriginal students

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