A day in the life
Nathan Banks talks about fourth year
The professors strive for real learning, not memorization and regurgitation. There’s an emphasis on critical thinking—analyzing and drawing your own conclusions rather than just accepting what a textbook says.
Finding the right fit north of the border
Nathan Banks may come from a town just 20 minutes outside one of the great U.S. East Coast cities (and one of the greatest university cities south of the border), but he decided to come north for school and hasn’t regretted a thing.
“Nova Scotia’s coastal beauty, scrub pine forests and quaint villages immediately struck me,” he says. “Halifax boasts the diversity and amenities of a city combined with a friendliness and sense of familiarity normally found in small towns.”
A native of Lincoln, Ma., northwest of Boston, Nathan was drawn to Canada by the lower tuition fees and high academic quality of the universities. He actually started school in British Columbia but switched to the East Coast when one of his professors recommended Dal’s progressive International Development Studies (IDS) program. The ability to do a combined honours degree with Spanish sealed the deal.
“I thought Spanish would fit well with my degree,” he says. “It’s always been a passion of mine. Since working on a small farm in Spain after high school, I knew that I wanted a second language and the opportunities it can bring to enrich my life. Improving my Spanish became a priority—it’s a useful language to know professionally and socially.”
Nathan took a year off after high school so he could travel, experience new things, and learn a new language. Through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (a global network of organizations that pairs travelers/workers with organic farms to work in exchange for room and board), he found a couple in the Alpujarra region of Spain who farmed a small crop of fruits, vegetables, olives, and almonds and also ran a small yoga retreat centre.
“I stayed for a month, working under the Andalusian sun, learning about the earth and about myself,” he says. “My responsibilities involved weeding, watering, planting, harvesting, and general property maintenance. I had studied Spanish in high school, but nothing compares to immersion. Learning was a constant process of frustration and reward, but as my speech became more fluid, I started to love it.”
Nathan has continued to improve his language skills at Dal, however his favourite class so far has been Latin American Literature with Assistant Professor Diana Pifano.
“We read a nearly 500-page Argentine novel,” he says. “Being pushed and challenged brought my Spanish comprehension to a new level and increased my confidence. I never imagined that I’d be able to read and comprehend such interesting works as the ones we studied.”
Next up for Nathan is hopefully a career that takes advantage of his studies in both Spanish and IDS—ideally working in food policy and sustainability back in the U.S.
“I hope Spanish can be of use in helping underprivileged immigrant communities find access to healthy, sustainable food sources.”