Born and raised in a small city of Bangladesh, Nadia Sarwar has always dreamt of conquering the world though a rich educational background. Nadia has completed her BA (hons.) and MA in English literature from one of the leading universities of Bangladesh. She has been working at a university level in Bangladesh for seven years and currently having her study leave. Nadia has commenced her academic journey as an international graduate student at MUN since she started pursuing an MA in the Department of Folklore in 2017. Nadia acknowledges the inspiration and motivation of her family members to attain a successful academic and professional career. She is keen on traveling, listening to music, reading books and watching movies. Her areas of interest are material culture studies, museum studies, gender studies, postcolonial literature and cultural studies.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
Canada has always been my most prioritized country for higher studies, as the land is a home for international students promising high academic standards and rigorous quality. Memorial University of Newfoundland is considered to be the center for excellence as well as recognized for gathering advanced knowledge in different disciplines. While searching for a good academic atmosphere, I have discovered that, Memorial’s folklore department is occupied with the outstanding educational system, relevant work experience, superior teaching, innovative research and excellent academic facilities. I was quite sure that the MA program in folklore would provide me an opportunity to learn new things; educational methods and programs along with aiding me to flourish academically and professionally.
What drew you to explore folklore originally?
The arena of folklore first incited my interest when I was enrolled in the undergraduate program of English at Jahangirnagar University (one of the leading public universities of Bangladesh) in 2005. From my academic experiences of studying folksong, ballad, folktale, legend and folk drama, I was definite that, this particular field of knowledge demands a great deal of concentration, motivation and effort when studied effectively. Since then, I have been concomitantly attracted to the folkloristic perspectives of looking inward through the ethnographic, literary and textual analysis. I had many previous experiences of working with the secondary sources due to my prior academic background in English literature but I was quite enthusiastic to be occupied with the firsthand fieldwork experiences because of which I decided to discover folklore to understand various traditional folk processes through ethnographic field research.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I am currently working on my MA thesis titled, “(Re)making Histories: Representing Place, Constructing Identity and Validating Nationhood at The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery of The Rooms” which particularly concentrates on gallery at The Rooms created to honor all Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans who served overseas and the home front during the First World War (1914-1918). Taking an ethnographic approach, this research attempts to examine the representational practices of the museum that contribute to (re)making the histories of the First World War with a view to shaping public discourses of identity, place and nationhood through circulating a master narrative of the war and social achievement. The objective of this research is to explore how a certain historical reality about the war and the cultural past of Newfoundland is constructed and framed in The Rooms, and how certain ideological and cultural messages are communicated by and between visitors and staff.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
My supervisor, Dr. Holly Everett, is one of the most wonderful people I have met since I started classes here. Her advice has been an influential force, especially when I was struggling hard to get adjusted in a foreign academic environment. Being a mother of a four-years old child, my academic journey was never going to be smooth. The good thing about her is that she is always ready to welcome you with a good smile and never get exhausted to appreciate her students. I can say that, even being an international student; my academic life at MUN has always been blessed because of my awesome supervisor.
How does studying in the humanities and social sciences affect your worldview?
Interestingly, my prior understanding of humanities changes a lot once I have introduced to the numerous dimensions of folklore. I have learned that the documentation, preservation, and presentation of traditional forms of culture along with understanding the importance of tradition in shaping social and cultural life of human beings. My academic journey of questing origins and traditions as well as celebrating culture and heritage not only enrich me as a student but also encourage me to flourish as a human being leaving a permanent impression for humanities in my mind.
As an international student, what are your thoughts on St. John’s specifically and on Newfoundland in particular?
The only bad thing I have to endure here is the chilly winter! Other than that, no place could be as good as St. John’s especially for the international students. Interestingly, Newfoundlanders are so friendly that nobody would feel foreign here.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I am a member of Bangladesh Student’s Association (BSA) of Memorial University of Newfoundland. As a member, my job is to provide a support structure for incoming and present Bangladeshi students, to participate in campus activities through cultural events and to establish and maintain contact with the Bangladeshi community at large. I have also been working as a volunteer at The Rooms since I have started doing fieldwork for my thesis. As a researcher of first world gallery at The Rooms, my job is to communicate with the visitors, have a conservation with them and let them know about the history and culture of Newfoundland.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The academic environment here is really outstanding. Moreover, I am overwhelmed with the personal/ academic/professional services of the university to the international students. Honestly, as an international student, I have never felt that I am outside of my home country.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I have been teaching at a university level in Bangladesh for approximately seven years. I am currently on study leave and I have a plan to get back to my job again. Apart from this, I will be developing some folklore projects back home, as I have observed that my country is badly in need of experts in the field of folklore to safeguard our rich cultural tradition and heritage. Moreover, currently I am developing my expertise in museum studies, which would provide me an opportunity to work for the development of national museums in Bangladesh.