Unexpected Friendships are the Best Ones

My time here in Canada is wrapping up with only a few days left. I want to take this time to reflect on the unexpected friendships I have made.

When I was told I was a recipient of the LOREX, my expectations for this experience were solely based on research. “I will be inside my lab all day every day. I will be very busy working.”

Having a social life was not even on my radar. Now, it may be because I don’t have very much of a social life at my home institution. I’ve been at the University of South Carolina for over five years. I have seen Masters students come in, made friends with them, watched them leave, rinse and repeat two more times. I am tired of making new friends just to say goodbye so soon. And now I am watching all my Ph.D. friends get their degree and leave. I am pretty much the last one of my cohort. And that means most of my friends are gone and I no longer have a social life. Hey, I don’t mind. But that means I don’t expect a social life in graduate school any more…especially not in a location where I will only be there for six weeks…I am so happy to be wrong.

I am incredibly grateful for the friendships I have made and the adventures I have gone on since arriving in Halifax. Of course, I am very lucky to be surrounded by people who are social and encourage me out of my comfort zone.

My first friendships are with the other LOREX cohort here at Dalhousie University. Emily Chua, Jeff Nielson, Matt Woodstock, and Wiley Wolfe have been fantastic and getting to know them has been a blast. Now, because I lived with Jeff, Matt, and Wiley, I have gotten to know those three on a more personal basis. Wow! They have been incredible housemates! Did you know we have gotten happy hour sushi together almost every Friday as a house? We have also gone out to several bars together for a drink or two. We are truly a team.

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Emily Chua, Matt Woodstock, and Wiley Wolfe (left to right) hanging out around the Bay of Fundy during low tide. We were watching a graduate student collect some data. Jeff Nielson is off-camera to the left. Date: June 28, 2019.

The second friendships come from the lab I worked in. Dr. Zoe Finkel was my collaborator, but I saw Susan Sharpe, Olga Carnicer, and Vinitha Ebenzer every day in the lab. We all complained about how our phytoplankton weren’t growing, laughed at our past research mistakes, and planned for our futures. These girls have truly made my lab experience so enriching and enjoyable. They make me smile and that is all I ever need.

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On the left: Susan Sharpe in the Finkel Lab. On the right: Vinitha Ebenzer, and Olga Carnicer in the office.

And finally, the friendship of other graduate students here at Dalhousie has been so inviting. I don’t know if it is a cultural phenomenon here, but the graduate community is very social and open. They welcomed the LOREX students into their homes and hearts easily. They have taken us to their houses, favorite bars, restaurants, dance clubs, lakes, field sites, and more. We even celebrated Canada day and 4th of July together! What an amazing community of people!

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A group of us at Long Lake Provincial Park together on Saturday (July 6th, 2019). From top to bottom, left to right: Jannes, Emmanuelle, Ricardo, Matt, Katie, Eilea.

When I first got here and started being social I kept smiling and saying, “this is not my life.” I don’t go out very often so to experience such a social revival was unexpected, shocking, and plain outrageous. And now I am leaving soon and all I can say now is “I am going to miss you [or this].”

The LOREX truly gave me an experience that I was not expecting. Sure, I was learning research techniques and how to think about phytoplankton community modeling…but I was also learning how to have fun again and to smile and say yes to new opportunities.

Thank you to every single person who has shared a moment, a few hours, a day, or six weeks with me here in Halifax. I will miss you all. And who knows, we may see each other again someday.

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