She graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in Social Anthropology from Dal and is now starting her master’s in the same program, but there was a time when Brooke Edwards didn’t think she would stay in school past her first year.
“I was a straight A student in my last couple years of high school and was shocked when I got my first history paper back and got a C,” she says. “I think I was really unprepared for university-level learning and I didn’t like first-year courses because they were too broad. Adjusting to university life is no easy task, and I wanted to quit by Christmas. But I stuck it out and am very glad I did.”
Born and raised in Huntsville, Ont., a small town in the Muskoka cottage district north of Toronto, Brooke was the first person in her family to go to university. She had heard good things about Dalhousie, but her parents encouraged her to choose a university closer to home, fearing that as a first-generation student she would be too far away from family support.
But after being accepted to and visiting a few Ontario schools, Brooke didn’t find one she felt comfortable with. And her mind kept drifting back to Halifax.
“I decided to revisit the idea of Dal and went to Toronto to one of those welcome sessions,” she says. “One amazing presentation and a hilarious DSU video later, I decided to apply. I had never visited Halifax before, but as soon as I got here I loved it. I’ve never looked back and now call Halifax my home.”
Despite feeling comfortable in her new home, the fact she was a first-generation student far from home added to her challenges during first year. She didn’t have anyone in her family who could share their own personal experiences of university life, tell her about the challenges she might face, or help guide her through academic decisions.
“Before coming to university I intended to major in psychology with a minor in sociology,” she says. “I took psychology and almost failed it. It wasn’t what I was expecting it to be and I struggled with it a lot. I realized it wasn’t necessarily psychology that I was interested in — it was the broader social and cultural reasons behind peoples' behaviours.”
An unexpected path
Brooke didn’t even know about social anthropology before arriving at Dal; she just picked it as a random elective. But after the first class, she knew what she wanted to focus on. The professor was engaging, she was riveted by the topics, and it was the only course in her first year in which she thrived.
“It speaks to the importance of taking subjects that interest you and trying new things,” she says. “You might just like it!”
As she made the switch to social anthropology, her passion for school started to grow. Her third- and fourth-year classes focused on more specific topics than the broad ones she struggled with in her first year. She was interested in the content and loved the research aspect — enough so to change her plans of getting her BA and heading home, and instead staying for a fifth year to do the honours program.
At the same time, Brooke decided to get more involved on campus and joined the Sociology and Social Anthropology (SOSA) Society as the social media representative, and became a peer advisor, helping other students with assignments and general inquiries about SOSA. That experience helped with her job this summer as a peer advisor with First-Year Advising.
“I had an amazing experience of my own with a first-year peer advisor before I started at Dal,” she says.
“I had called to see if I was on the right track about course selection and ended up asking a lot of other questions. The advisor was so helpful and ultimately left me feeling more excited to start school and more confident in my choice to come to Dalhousie. My favourite aspect of the job was meeting with students in person. It was great to be able to be a support for them and make them feel welcome at Dal.”
The summer job may be over, but Brooke’s days of helping other students aren’t. This year she will also be working as a study skills coach with Studying for Success. And she’s hoping the theme will continue after she finishes her master’s, now that she knows she wants to find some sort of counselling or advising role.
“What specifically? I’m not sure,” she says. “I’ve always been a people person and am very passionate about helping others. But I’m actually the least sure than ever before about where I’m going in terms of a career, and I’m OK with that. The challenges I faced when I started school showed me that plans always change and that’s a good thing. When you embrace change it creates space for new opportunities.”
comments powered by Disqus