Before to begin to talk to you I want to present myself: my name is Elena, I come from Italy and I am 32 years old. After my Master’s Degree I worked for few years as a teacher in a middle school, but I really wanted to continue my studies, so now I am starting a PhD in Biology.
It is difficult to decide where to begin my adventure here in St John’s. Before arriving here I spent a lot of time reading websites about the university and the city, in particular the instructions provided for new students by the International Student Advising Office (ISA). But when I arrived I felt both very excited, anxious, and not sure what to expect. I realized I couldn’t prepare for everything. I would suggest not waiting until three days before the beginning of the semester to arrive, as I did, because you will need more time than you think to visit all the offices and to obtain all the documents you need, for example medical insurance, and your social insurance number, also getting a bank account and phone requires a lot of time! In any case, I arrived with my boyfriend and he helped me a lot in the first weeks before he returned home. There were three people waiting for me at the airport: my supervisor and two girls from the ISA office, so I felt welcome and not alone. Even if someone arrives alone, it is difficult to feel lonely because so many people are there to help you.
At the beginning it is normal to feel confused. I remember that the first afternoon when I went to the ISA office, all the new students looked as lost as I did. One thing that helped me a lot during the first days (and after), and that I would suggest for others, is to join to the mentor program. In this program a current student is matched to you to help in the transition process. I found not only a person that helps me but is also a new friend. I would also suggest to participate to the Graduate Orientation Welcome Event, as I did. During that day I received so much information that I thought it was impossible to remember it all. I also found very useful the presence of many booths, where I could talk to different people about the facilities and opportunities at Memorial University, one thing I discovered was the Writing Centre, a very useful facility . This is a free opportunity for all students. A tutor will help you get over your writing problems, for example reviewing a proposal you wrote. Even though I already knew a bit about the campus, I registered to the campus tour. It was a good idea and I met new students during it.
Since I arrived here, there has been a bit of culture shock. I have had a few headaches and I have felt tired at times. It’s difficult to deal with a new language, a new place to live, and a new culture, but I know I will adapt soon enough. There are a lot of different foods too! Clearly the food you find here in the supermarket is quite different, in particular meats and cheese. Ice-cream and chocolate also have a different taste. But I discovered good things too. For example, that this is the time of year for blueberries, and everybody likes to pick blueberries. I find it fun and relaxing.
This is the first time that I met a large number of people from many different places in the world, even from places that I didn’t know existed. Everyone has a different accent in English, so some are easier to understand than others, but it is just question of time until I am able to understand them. It also has big advantages: there are so many opportunities to get to know new cultures, exchange ideas and have your mind opened. Also within the university I have learned you have the opportunity to meet others in different departments and make connections with new people, and hear new ideas. This is something that I did not experienced before in my master program.
Now, after 4 weeks since my arrival, I am starting to get settled, but still feel a bit confused sometimes. I am still trying to understand how to deal with all the things I have to do including studying, classes, housework, my social life, events, presentations, and discovering the city. But I think this is normal at the beginning, I have to be patient and persistent. But just in case, there are resources on campus to help. For example the Counselling Centre, the School of Graduate Studies, and so on. And even though I didn’t ask for help, someone wrote to me few days ago to find out if I was doing okay. This kind person was from the ISA office and wrote me to offer her support.
So the beginning is going very well, and even if it is too early to make a forecast, I believe this first year at Memorial will be great!