Life in Northern Ontario is slow and simple. So familiar. So quiet. As I neared the end of my high school career in Timmins, it became time to think about my future. For me, this meant pursuing postsecondary education.
I soon discovered the closest university with a program of interest was three hours away…yikes. After restless nights of website surfing and endless pros and cons lists, I finally decided to venture 8.5 hours south to Waterloo. This was probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but definitely one of the best. Zero regrets.
Walking to and from the grocery store, paying my own bills, and cooking my own food was a bit of an adjustment. Good thing my mom taught me how to do laundry at the age of ten – or I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it past the third week! But I must admit, not recognizing a single familiar face on campus, or even across the entire city, was really the biggest shock. Not only did I not know anyone in Waterloo as I started my first year of university, but I felt as if I was the only one with an image like mine – Aboriginal.
But, as soon as I stuck my nose into my books, it became clear how important it was for me to earn an education. My goals depended on it. My life depended on it. With constant encouragement from my peers and family, I conquered a Kinesiology undergraduate degree. Me. I did it. Walking across that stage to accept my degree was something I’d never thought possible until I proved myself wrong.
Looking back now, as I work to complete a Master of Science, Kinesiology degree, I’ve realized that it wasn’t all that hard (even though at times I felt as though life was going to end as I knew it). The imposter syndrome: the real success story.
People ask me if this is always where I’d envisioned my life to be, and I tell them that up until now, my life has been unexpected – but for all the right reasons. I’m very passionate about my current research in biomechanics as I work to help prevent seniors from falling.
Aside from achieving academic success, I have also been successful in the cultural world. I am now, and have been, an active member of the Aboriginal Student Centre, the Vice President of the Aboriginal Student Association, a Board of Directors member for the Graduate Student Association, and the Graduate Representative for the Aboriginal Education Council at my institution. I’ve come to realize that there are many people in Southern Ontario with an image similar to mine – they are all just ‘cousins’ with their own look!
As a proud Cree woman from Northern Ontario, I support initiatives like the Council of Ontario Universities’ Future Further campaign. Future students and grads: here are a few words of wisdom to help you along the way. If you’re finishing your senior year of high school, or even your fourth year of an undergraduate degree, and you still don’t have a clue about what you’re going to do in life – that’s okay. Neither do I! Having a plan is great, but making the plan up as you go…that can be just as exciting. Just remember to be open to new experiences and grab hold of every opportunity that exposes itself. Zero regrets.
Visit futurefurther.ca to find out more about Elisabeth’s journey, and read more stories from inspiring aboriginal learners who are choosing to take their futures further.