With much uncertainty, I have been applying to post-graduate opportunities overseas and more locally. Originally planning to go away – preferably far far away – this year has made me unsure of those plans. I realized that some of you may also be feeling a lot of anxiety related to the pandemic, as well as applying for grad schools, so I went to someone who I knew would have a snippet of insight to give us all based on her own experiences that she endured this year.
Rebecca Withers, a recent Honours graduate of St.FX’s Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics program, has been traversing the new world that COVID-19 has brought with bravery since the March shutdown. In the last few weeks on campus, prior to ‘March Madness’, and the scramble home, Rebecca was able to present her honours defense. Though she managed to present her thesis, the shutdown meant that the opportunity extended for all Human Kinetics Honours students across Atlantic Canada to attend the APES+ Conference, was cancelled. Instead, Rebecca was packing her bags and returning to Halifax to “Stay the blazes home”.
Rebecca recalls that this time, after finishing all of her projects and exams online, there was much more uncertainty about what would come next. She stated that the whole process of graduating was pretty anticlimactic, and that she “Instead received [her] degree in a manila envelope”. A particularly difficult time in her life following the passing of her grandfather, celebration of any kind was not in the cards. Rebecca recalls the time led to a depressive atmosphere in the community. In an attempt to get out of the depressive state, Rebecca began to piece together what was next for her. Big decisions were ahead. Without school to keep her busy, Rebecca was left to decide whether she would navigate the job market during the pandemic or remain home. Having always spent her spring and summers hard at work in aquatics, the lockdown left her without these usual job opportunities. With her post-graduate studies looming, and the financial burden it placed on her, she applied for every job she could. In June, Rebecca was fortunate enough to gain employment in the COVID relief pool with the Nova Scotia Health Authority where she was working in blood collection. Having training in First Aid, Rebecca was also able to teach courses as a way to help her save for post-grad.
Having been accepted to Glasgow Caledonia University for a Masters of Science in Physiotherapy, Rebecca was also in a tough spot in having to make the difficult decision of whether or not she would go. With additional hoops to jump through, in an already stressful process of moving across the world, Rebecca decided that if she didn’t stay true to course, she may end up never going. With the decision to go abroad solidified in her mind, Rebecca encountered new issues due to the pandemic. Of the things that could have possibly deterred her from going to her post graduate program, Rebecca recalled some of the more difficult obstacles. She said,
“From my understanding the Visa Application office usually does a pop up office in Halifax once a month, where I was hoping to attend the mandatory biometric appointment. However due to the pandemic the visa office decided not to send staff down due to the mandatory 14 day quarantine. This required me to travel to another province to attend an appointment. However, the next closest office is Toronto Ontario, which unfortunately for me is outside of the Atlantic bubble. I knew it might be a possibility that I may have to travel for this appointment, but what I didn’t expect was having to travel to Toronto during a pandemic. Toronto was a hotspot for covid at the time I was travelling, and I am required to quarantine for 2 weeks upon my return to Nova Scotia which forced me to take 2 weeks off of work at the hospital and rent an accommodation for the two weeks in quarantine, so that my family did not have to quarantine with me. Most offices have moved to some sort of online form for applications, but giving my biometrics includes finger prints and facial scans, I still have to travel to Toronto”
Despite these challenges, on New Years Eve, Rebecca will be on a flight to Scotland, which she stated is daunting given the pandemic, let alone one of the bigger steps she will take in her life – but Rebecca is hopeful, and feels that she will look back on this difficult time as another challenge she will have overcome with the support of her family.
Though St.FX University has offered 2020 Graduates to come back to celebrate their graduation, at any graduation within the next five years, Rebecca says she will be long gone to Scotland, and unable to return to walk the stage with her friends. She notes that at least the 2020 graduates had the chance to participate in the X-Ring ceremony just before the world turned upside down. A bittersweet ending, but she says it was nice to have that time to “celebrate the milestone of receiving an X-ring” with friends.
From her time at St.FX, Rebecca recalls that she has a long list of highlights. Being involved as much as possible, Rebecca listed her accomplishments which have led her to the path she follows today. Proud of all that she has had the opportunity to be a part of at X, Rebecca mused:
“In first year I started working at the St.FX pool, and taking positions on both the St.FX swim club and Human Kinetics society. Second year I returned to lane Hall as a Community Advisor and volunteer on a mission trip to South Carolina with the Habitat for Humanity. In second year I also took on a leadership position as senior lifeguard at the St.FX pool, halfway through third year I transitioned into the head lifeguard role which I held for the remainder of my time at St.FX. I spent the last two years of my degree volunteering as a student therapist on the Men’s’ hockey team in third year and the women’s’ basketball team in fourth year. Athletic therapy was an amazing experience for the people and experiences it introduced me to, as well as the opportunity to build a relationship with head Athletic therapist Tara Sutherland who became one of my co-advisor for my honors project in fourth year alongside Dr. Roy Rasmussen. We completed a study on looking at the recovery of sport related concussions with varsity athletes at St.FX. I couldn’t have been luckier to work along experts in the field and hope to continue related research throughout my Masters program.”
I look forward to seeing what this new chapter of life brings for Rebecca. As a proud X Alumni, she is willing to answer any questions about her time at X, and the process she has gone through to transition to her new graduate program in Scotland. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck Rebecca!
Photo by John David Photography