Hi everyone and welcome to the Graduate Student Blog at Memorial University! For those of you new to the page, my name is Meghann Livingston, I am a second year Master’s degree student with Memorial’s Department of Archaeology. I am so happy to be back as part of the My Master Plan team, and to be blogging about my graduate school experience for a second year!

To echo the sentiments of my fellow blogger Chris last week, one of the best things about this blog is that each and every one of us has a unique story to tell. We are all here attending graduate school at MUN but we are all making our way through our degrees differently. So, make sure to check back here regularly! We have a total of 9 contributors to the blog this year. We come from a whole range of different disciplines; psychology, geography, sociology, chemistry and everything in between! And with that, we, of course, each bring something different to the table. I, for one, am very excited to hear from our 4 new bloggers this year, and see what unique experiences and insights they choose to share with us.

As an archaeologist, a lot of my own graduate school experience revolves around fieldwork. We often spend the bulk of the year planning out the work we will do all summer. I, for example, just recently got back from 2 months in the field, where I was helping to carry out the first season of excavations for our historical archaeology project on the small French archipelago (just off the southern coast of Newfoundland) called Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. Most of my previous posts revolve around this research, so please, feel free to flip through the My Master Plan archives and read up on the development of our exciting new project!

The team and I had a very successful first field season over there in Saint-Pierre. We uncovered rich 18th century layers, we got to take in the natural beauty of the islands, and we really enjoyed many aspects of the unique French culture that’s developed there over the years as well. Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is truly unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced and I absolutely cannot wait to get back (whenever that may be)! Right now, I am back in Canada, in Newfoundland, and in St. John’s, and I must say the adjustment has been more difficult than expected. I have never been one to struggle to spend the entire day behind a desk but being back at the office and in our lab is taking me some time to get used to again.

Lately, a lot of people (mostly my new colleagues) have been asking me what was it that made me decide to come to MUN? First and foremost, I always say it was about the research opportunities and experiences I would gain by working for my supervisor. This line of thinking is actually something I’ve talked about in great length and reflected upon on several occasions throughout the course of this past year on the blog. I always find myself talking about our research project and how I ended up deciding to come here because the opportunity was unlike anything else I’d seen, so that in turn, really appealed to me. Something, however, I feel I don’t talk about nearly often enough was the importance of this setting.

While the academic stuff was rightly on the top of my list of reasons for coming here…the next biggest factor would have to have been the location. I knew wherever I ended up for grad school; it would require me to move. Having been at MUN for a while now, I think it’s pretty safe to say most of us grad students here are “Come-From-Aways,” some of us, of course, are coming from much farther away than others (I only moved here from Nova Scotia). And while the location of your graduate school program is not necessarily the biggest thing in the world, this place does become your home (even if it is just temporarily so), and that to me, makes it a factor that is, at least worth considering.

What attracted me to St. John’s and to Newfoundland more broadly, was that I knew it wouldn’t be too different from home. Just like Nova Scotia, Newfoundland is a place bursting with untouched natural beauty, fantastic food, and a unique yet equally fascinating cultural heritage and history. I’m originally from a very small town in central Nova Scotia, though I did live in Halifax for a brief stint of time. I think my upbringing made me a little hesitant to moving anywhere with a really big city, at least right away (perhaps I will work my way up to that one day…). St. John’s is great in that it has all the perks that come with being a city, yet it is able to maintain distinct characteristics of just a large town. In this way, I think it can appeal to both city slickers and small town alike.

As an archaeologist originally from Nova Scotia, who moved to Newfoundland for school, and who now conducts research on Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, it’s recently become pretty obvious, I am huge east coaster at heart. Something I’ve come to love about MUN and living in St John’s in general is our proximity to nature. For example, there are some incredibly beautiful hiking trails just a stone’s throw outside the city. And while I haven’t done nearly as much exploring in Newfoundland as I would like (I’ve been away in France all summer after all!), I do hope the fact that I just got my first car a couple of weeks ago will me change that. In my limited experience outside of St John’s (as I’ve only seen parts of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas), it’s amazing where a short car ride can take you. The picture above was taken by my mother when I was showing my family the absolute gem that is Ferryland while they were here visiting me just a couple of weeks ago.

And so, I guess my advice to you for this post is pretty simple: the Rock is beautiful and you should try and make the most of it while you’re here! Newfoundland likely won’t be many of our forever homes but it certainly does have a lot to offer. In between your graduate studies, try and make time to experience this incredible place…and if you have extra time, try and make it over to Saint-Pierre et Miquelon as well! These islands (both big and small) are amazing and although this is not necessarily something you should base your graduate studies decisions around, the location of your program certainly plays a big role in your overall experience. Coming to MUN, for the academic opportunities while also getting to live in this fantastic setting, turned out to be great decision for me. As the year progresses, I will continue to write about various advancements in my research but I am looking forward to sharing with you all some of my interesting Newfoundland experiences as well!

Thanks for reading, and until next time…