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Personal Essay: changing degrees and settings

I have been in university for almost four years now and I’ve had many experiences that have made this journey worth it. 

My name is Noah Dove-Smith. I am originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. 

I began my journey in higher education at the Memorial University of Newfoundland back in 2018, only to realize this was going to be so much different than all my experiences to date.

Figuring things out

I quickly had to adapt to the university workload because simply “winging it” was no longer effective. When I started, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I felt like I wasn’t prepared, like I had to figure out quickly what I wanted to spend my life doing. That said, even with no plan, I enjoyed university life.

I felt ecstatic to learn new things while trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It felt like I was figuring out my future independently for the first time. I met so many people through my courses during my two years at Memorial, who later became good friends. Although I still needed to figure out what I wanted to do, I enjoyed many courses at Memorial.

Creative writing — the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel

Then came a new challenge with online learning when the COVID-19 pandemic started. It became difficult to learn in the same environment every day. Being unable to meet new people made me realize how lucky I was to have had that opportunity during my first two years. 

While at Memorial, I found I was not enthusiastic about anything I was learning at university. I realized during the lockdown period I needed change, to finally find something I was passionate about. I discovered the creative writing program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, which I hoped would help me become a better writer. 

I was always inspired to be a writer someday but never seriously worked at it. And I was unaware that there was a university program specifically for creative writing. I was finally excited about a program because it was something I always knew I wanted to do. Better yet, it promised new experiences in a different city. 

I lived most of my life in St. John’s and during the pandemic, I realized I needed to get away.

Starting fresh in the middle of a pandemic isn’t easy. But Gazette contributor Noah Dove-Smith is satisfied with his decision. (Lane Harrison)

Starting fresh

After working to save up for a year of tuition and once Dal permitted in-person learning to resume, I headed to Halifax to start my fall semester. Starting at Dal was much different from how my first year at Memorial was. I knew nobody, I did not live on campus and it was a challenge to meet new people. 

Age was challenging as well. The majority of my first-year classmates were 17 and 18 years old, while I was 21. 

Even with all these challenges, I was excited to be at Dal. It is such a beautiful university in a great location. Soon after, I started meeting people to make my experience more lively. 

When we got into the classroom the experience was quite different. It felt like a mix of how our classes were pre-pandemic and during the pandemic since while we were back to in-person learning, masks and social distancing were enforced whenever on campus. Also, many of us still had online classes on top of the in-person learning.

I did not think about it at the time, but it made it very tough to start socializing with classmates without violating the rules for social distancing. 

A new normal

Nowadays, we are finally at a point where things seem to be heading back to normal. Mask mandates and other COVID-19-related restrictions have been dropped across most of Canada. While some universities like Dal still have partial mask mandates, we only have to wear masks in class. Life continues to slowly head back to how it was before the pandemic, which feels even crazier now that I’m in my senior year. 

What’s next?

It’s strange to be planning out my last few semesters. 

It’s scary thinking of graduating. 

It’s so much easier to just plan out what courses I need to take for my degree than to consider when will happen after I graduate.

When I actually have a degree what will I do? So much is uncertainty in my post-graduation plans and I feel so unprepared for what’s to come. 

Despite that, I am excited to finally finish my undergrad so I can figure out what I can use my degree for and what adventures await. While I am afraid of the unknown, I am excited to see what is next.

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