To Experiencing ‘Fall First Time’s’… and Looking Forward to Spring First’s
By Veronica Sudesh, MA Student
Stepping out of Vancouver International Airport on September 30, 2018 I was pumping with excitement to embark on this new journey of my life – I will be lying if I say this. It was going to be my first time travelling and studying abroad independently, with no connection in the city whatsoever and I was every bit anxious and scared. Your ‘first times’ always hold a special place in your heart and that is why this fall semester will forever remain etched into my heart with a diverse range of memories. Apart from it being my first time travelling to and studying in a foreign country independently, it was my first time living alone, my first time cooking proper meals (at least attempting to and unashamedly failing at it many times but then also coming up with recipes that didn’t require too much preparation, didn’t create a lot of mess and healthier options because I was in charge of what was going in my body), my first time sorting out the garbage into organic, recyclable, mixed paper and landfill (this was a new practice for me, going to ask my folks back home to start doing this as well because saving the earth from further damage is top priority), my first time living on campus in a university (definitely recommend it, has so many perks!), my first time exploring a new city all by myself and sometimes with new friends (in whatever little time we get off from our graduate work load), my first time making international friends and learning so much about diverse cultures, my first time enjoying bus and sky train rides so much (because from where I come, public transport is a nightmare for all genders except men), my first time grocery shopping (not as much fun as I thought it would be), my first time solely being responsible for the cleanliness of my room, kitchen and washroom (made me thank my mother from the bottom of my heart but also made me critically reflect over her unpaid, unappreciated rigorous physical and mental labor), my first time being very aware of my monetary spending, my first time basking in the sun (never thought I’d say this because my home town is horrendously scorching in the summers so I have always loved the winter months but Vancouver fall makes me miss the sun for sure!), my first time wanting to study out in the open so that I could keep staring at the beautiful fall leaves (I’m starstruck most of the times by the city’s natural beauty)… the list goes on.
Coming to Canada, funnily enough, is not a first-time experience for me. I was born in Montreal and lived there for some time before my parents decided to head back to India. I was a baby back then so of course I don’t remember anything about life in Canada. Thus, coming here as an international student 23 years after I was born, certainly feels like the first time. The most important first time for me has been to fulfill my strong desire and unsatiated hunger for studying gender and women’s studies. I wanted to do this straight after my bachelor’s degree in political science, but I ended up doing my first master’s degree in international Relations. I developed a feminist consciousness during my bachelor years all thanks to the very strong feminist, anti-exclusionist, anti-patriarchy outlook and environment of that college. My whole world view changed after I put on a critical feminist lens and I immediately knew that I wanted to undertake an in-depth understanding of gender studies. This passion is what landed me at the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at SFU. My education up till now – from my schooling to bachelor’s to first master’s – has been in prestigious institutes in New Delhi, India. This is where I have lived and grown up since I was one or two years old. From the past five years, my attention has been increasingly drawn towards the brutally and tragically gendered nature of Delhi’s socio-cultural, geographical and institutional spaces. I worked in various organizations along with completing my studies to do my bit in making Delhi a more gender equal and inclusive space. After living in Vancouver for over three months now, I notice the stark differences between here and Delhi in terms of gender safety, inclusivity and openness. As small as this may sound, I have the courage to take the public transport here without the constant fear of being attacked by some predator and that is a very liberating feeling. To have had no incident of molestation to add to my existing list of such experiences from Delhi, that itself is a first! My dream of doing gender studies has turned out to be much more than I expected. The courses, their content and the kind of discussions that I experienced in the class have expanded my knowledge and understanding far beyond I had even imagined. I believe joining a department like GSWS with the space it provides you to feel accepted, included, valued and loved, helped me to transition better and settle down faster in this extremely new environment when you are juggling with multiple emotions while adjusting. I wish everyone could experience the warmth of this department (one of my classmates from another department was surprised as to how are people so nice here and wished that if knew this earlier she would have changed her major!) Being among a group of open, inclusive, intersectional, strong, like minded rebel women feels so empowering but I also wish that more people and other genders would experience this.
Despite missing my family and friends back home tremendously (accompanied by a few teary eyed skype calls initially, another first!), this first semester experience for me has been truly enriching. The kind of people I met in my department, be it professors, classmates or the staff and even the kind of people I encountered in the university in general helped me come out of my comfort zone. Although I left behind my comfort zone when I boarded the flight to Canada, but to continue to take that plunge to face my fears and experience new things without becoming too comfortable in this new city and university is my real achievement. For the first time, I took part in different student body elections leaving behind my hesitations, I voiced my opinions much more, I became a part of my department’s student caucus, I went out to social gatherings and events conducted by various clubs to interact with different people, I took on a leadership role in my residence (a part of which requires me to organize off campus events for the residents, and despite being new to the city with little idea of what recreational activities can be done and where they exist, I have taken on this role like a pro, simultaneously learning so much from my fellow residents). I feel like I have grown and matured momentously in this short span of time. What makes it even more exciting is that it has only been the first semester, I have many more to learn and grow. I feel like being scheduled to write a blog for this time in the semester was perfect timing as I reminisced over all the moments as my first semester comes to an end now. It’s a bitter sweet feeling, but I look forward to experiencing many more ‘first times’ (like my very first snow fall in January!) in this beautiful university and city.