A New Version of Fifth Week Blues

No, I’m not back at Oxford. No, the term is NOT eight weeks but much longer than that. Though I’ve been working hard in a number of ways, I’m not writing as much as I was at Hertford or creating as much tangible progress. But I feel like I’ve hit the same sort of lull: fifth week blues.

My buddies. Sent, received, owls, and smiley!

My buddies. Sent, received, owls, and smiley!

I’ve been in Canada for just over a month and I think it’s getting to me. I’ve worked hard to fit in, to adapt to my roommate, my new apartment, my school, my graduate studies, and so much more. Some students have derided my references to being an international student, claiming that it “doesn’t count” because my home country is across an ocean and instead seems to share a lot with Canadian culture. I can tell you that right now, I do feel like a foreigner. There are cultural references in my classes that surprise me on a daily basis. There’s a whole history that I didn’t know and that makes a difference. The biggest example: my performance class did a project on the G20 riots in Toronto in the summer of 2010. I had never heard about the violent protests, the police brutality, none of it. Some of my classmates were there. Most of them were in the city around that time or nearby. Some had friends and relatives who were arrested. Watching the footage of these events made me horribly sad, depressed, vulnerable, scared. It made me also wonder: why didn’t I hear about this? Or the riots in Vancouver? Or the student strikes in Montreal? There’s a whole political culture up here that may be similar to the United States in foundation, but is moving to the rhythm of a different nation. And for the next year, I’m part of it.

I want to be part of it as a theatre artist and a growing human being. It’s part of my life story to experience everything that Toronto has to offer. It meant leaping away from family and friends instead of planting myself in a new city in a new part of the country, but with the same cultural backbone and the close support network of close friends. Instead I went for the city where I knew no one. That’s not true now. I have friends from class, friends from my neighborhood, friends from Meetup groups and random meetings on the bus and at theatre performances. I have connections from friends of friends of Rice professors. They have taught me so much about the city, but it’s not the same. It takes time to build a network, people that you can text or call out of the blue.

It also takes time to adjust to being alone more often. I thought I liked it as an introvert, but it’s isolating at times. It’s not unique to studying internationally–this one is more just part of the transition away from undergraduate and Rice where my friends were just a room away.

I’m working to keep making new “friend dates” and to make sure I’m talking to my old friends in the States whenever I feel the need. I’m hoping they’ll understand that I may lean on them a little more in the next few weeks, but that’s it a phase; I won’t be digitally clingy forever . . .

I’ve been doing a lot more and I’ll post about it soon. Maybe once I have a nice break out in the country for Canadian Thanksgiving (I must say, their timing is much better, at least for this year), I’ll be ready to fill everyone in on the rest of my Toronto theatre adventures.

In the meantime, send a little extra love my way. It’s fifth week and I may not have a case of the mean reds, but the blues are still making me a bit more emotional.

Just as I was about to post this, some of that extra care came in my first care package! I was about to give up hope that any of my mail from the US would ever arrive, and then I got a letter AND cookies . . . Serendipity. (And hopefully the thanks here will eventually be read by the sender of this inaugural care package and will mean just a little bit more.)


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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