For many students, September feels like a breath of fresh air after a stagnant, muggy season.
The excitement of summer has long worn off, replaced with boredom and solitude as seasonal programs wind down and families try to fit their last few cabin trips in before the days get too short.
This anticipation is especially true for post-secondary students, many of whom have just said goodbye to their long-time high school classmates and are ready to write the next chapter. For others returning to university or college, a semester at home may have felt like a decade away from their friends and the lives they’ve begun building outside of the confines of their hometown.
But one thing both high school and post-secondary students share is the pressure of choosing the right educational path. The variants of the question “What are your plans for the future?” get old pretty quick. Many of us have absolutely no idea who we are, let alone what we would like to dedicate the rest of our lives to doing. Some of us do have specific hopes and dreams about what job opportunities might arise. We think about these with caution, however, as the opportunities (and lack thereof) are well known to us.
Memorial University currently boasts more than 100 degree programs with three campuses in Newfoundland. College of the North Atlantic has over 90 programs listed for the 2018-19 school year and has 17 campuses in the province. There are several other smaller institutions across the island offering a variety of other programs.
Despite the seemingly endless choices at our fingertips, a lot of students struggle to find a program to suit both their interests and needs. This is not necessarily because the courses aren’t available here at home, although this is sometimes the case with long wait lists for popular programs, but it is often due to the lack of work available once we have our diploma.
Although there is always the demand for more labour, retail, and health care workers, it is much more difficult to find a career in gender studies or computational chemistry.
Just as the international students who come to Newfoundland for the low tuition and leave for better employment, local students are feeling pressured to move away for bigger and better things. There is a greater diversity of occupations available in other parts of Canada. Positions comparable to those that are available here often pay better wages elsewhere. It is not uncommon to see young people with diplomas in the trades do turnarounds in Alberta and engineering graduates seek out positions in Ontario. Planning your entrance into adulthood around plane tickets to the mainland has become a part of growing up in Newfoundland.
Although I have also toyed with the idea of saying goodbye to the island once and for all, I have yet to decide whether I will be able to let go of my home for good. Currently I am studying human biology and computer science via distance education with a university in Alberta in hopes of laying a solid foundation for medical school in the future.
Working in the health care field already, I know I will always have a place in this province somewhere on the spectrum of professionals that are vital to our society, particularly the increasingly aging population.
For me, it is the decision between giving back to my province or leaving for better conditions. There is also the concern of whether or not I would be able to perform bioinformatic research here, a contribution to society I may not be able to make without the equipment and opportunities we lack. I still have hope that it be available for me within the province in the future.
Nevertheless, we can’t all be doctors.
Kirsten Dalley is a biology student, published writer, and robotics enthusiast from central Newfoundland.