Alternative 2020 Universe
Air Date: November 30, 2020
#13 Alternative 2020 Universe
Nov. 30, 2020
0:00 Allie Leask interviews Sarah Maier, SCE/Concurrent Education alumna
9:15 Manahil Butt interviews Skye MacDonald, Criminology & Human Rights and Human Diversity student
18:10 Katelyn Thomson interviews Destiny Pitters, English student
Thank you to Serena Austin, One Market Research Assistant, Melissa Weaver for graphics, and Nicole Morgan for campus promotion. Music by Scott Holmes.
Bruce Gillespie 0:02
Welcome to One Market, keeping the Laurier Brantford community connected. I’m Bruce Gillespie. This week we’re excited to share the last bonus episode of the season with you. This is the fourth in our series of episodes produced by fourth-year students in the Digital Media and Journalism capstone course. On the show, we hear from a Laurier grad who spent the pandemic in New Zealand, as well as a current student who, along with her peers, is trying to keep a sense of Campus Connection alive for international students studying abroad. And finally, we hear about a new Zine one of our students is launching to showcase the work of local to 2SLGBTQ artists. All that and more coming up on this episode of One Market.
Our first guest is Sarah Maier, a Laurier Brantford alumna who has been in Wellington, New Zealand throughout the pandemic. In this conversation with DMJ student, Allie Leask, she talks about the experiences that she and her boyfriend have had as teachers in one of the few countries that seems to have overcome COVID-19.
Sarah Maier 1:08
We have been here for I guess, almost 10 months. Yeah, we landed on January 9, so 10 months.
Allie Leask 1:16
Okay, so just before all this COVID stuff really came out?
Sarah Maier 1:20
Yeah, honestly, we’ve been obviously talking about it. And it just never crossed our minds that this is at all what our time over here would look like. And we’ve got lots of family and friends back home with airline credits because they had tickets booked to come. But thankfully, we had enough time to get here, get a house, get sorted with our jobs, so that when it did happen, we, kind of, had a place to hang out for our lockdown. So, that was really fortunate.
Allie Leask 1:46
So what are the COVID restrictions like there?
Sarah Maier 1:52
At the moment we don’t really have many. The way that New Zealand works is the whole country is always on the same kind of scale, or we all we all go by levels. So, level four was our highest restriction. So, when we entered level four, we completely shut down for about seven to eight weeks, I think. So, level four meant that everything was close, except for grocery stores, hospitals, and pharmacies, and doctors offices, you know, obviously, if you really needed. And that was pretty strict. So, we were allowed to go for walks around our local area. But, that was pretty much it. And we could go to the grocery store, but only one person from the family and you couldn’t bring anything in with you. So, no bags, nothing like that. But, at the moment, we’re back down to level one, which is where we’re going to sit until, I guess, there’s a vaccine. And level one just means they encourage you to use the tracing app, we don’t have mandatory masks anymore. We did for a time when there was a bit of a second breakout. It just, kind of, means honestly, life as usual. But, with the awareness that, you know, there could be an outbreak really at any point. So, yeah, just keeping track of where you go and practicing general hygiene really.
Allie Leask 3:10
Okay, so you can still teach in class then, you don’t even have to do it online?
Sarah Maier 3:15
Yes, we have been back in classes. So, we taught online during level four for seven weeks. But, we’ve been back in school since, I think, May. And our school year is different. So, it’s January to December. So, we missed about a month but we went straight to online right away. Being so far from it for so long, I guess we had more time to prepare. So, it was never a question of whether school would really stop, it just switched to online.
Allie Leask 3:44
Oh, that’s awesome to hear. It’s nice that the kids can still have time to, like, see their friends and you’re not so constricted by other, like, things like masks and social bubbles, and stuff like that.
Sarah Maier 4:01
Yeah, yeah, it has been. I mean, like I said, it was pretty strict when it happened. But, we were really thankful for the government’s approach here. It was just very, it was very confident, they were very sure of their planning and it was very clear. And yeah, it has made life on the other end much more free for us than anywhere else in the world, so.
Allie Leask 4:22
Have you been traveling? You said that you guys like to travel during your breaks from school.
Sarah Maier 4:31
Yeah. Sorry, yes, we’re travelling within New Zealand.
Allie Leask 4:34
Sarah Maier 4:35
Yeah, no, we can’t leave New Zealand because a) I mean, there’s not really many flights and nowhere to go. But, b) we don’t have residency visas here, so we wouldn’t be allowed back in. So, we’re definitely not leaving New Zealand. It’s also such a safe, beautiful place to be right now, and we’re heading into summer. But, the way the school year works here is, you have 10 weeks of class, two weeks of term holiday, 10 weeks of class, two weeks of term holiday, and it repeats. So, you’ve got three term holidays and then summer. So, we’re really fortunate we have a lot of holiday time. And New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful country. So, we’ve just been traveling within New Zealand, and that has kept us extremely busy and extremely in awe. So, yeah, it would be cool to be able to go elsewhere. But no, we’re happy to travel within.
Allie Leask 5:25
Well, yeah, it definitely sounds like it would be such a beautiful place to continue traveling. And you definitely have lots that you can still go and see without leaving the country.
Sarah Maier 5:38
Yeah, I mean, it’s it does feel small compared to Canada. Like, we’ve driven almost, and seen pretty much most of it now. But, there’s just so much hiking and so many outdoor sports and activities that if that’s what you’re into, it’s just such an awesome place. And there’s still lots of areas we haven’t fully explored or haven’t seen yet. So, our whole summer holidays will be new things that we haven’t done yet. So, we’re looking forward to that.
Allie Leask 6:08
Now, if COVID wasn’t a thing right now, would you be thinking about going home at all for the summer holidays?
Sarah Maier 6:18
No, so we have two year working-holiday visas and our plan was always to stay. And like I said, we have a lot of people at home who had tickets to come out here. So, the plan was actually that my parents would visit on our first holiday, which we were in lockdown for. And then, friends of ours from Laurier actually, were going to come visit over our winter, your summer holiday, and two of them were going to stay for six months and the other one was going to go back home. Simon’s family was going to come for our third holiday, which we just had. And then, our summer is over Christmas, so my sister was going to be traveling through Australia, and come spend Christmas with us. And some of my other friends had thought about maybe coming over, so we didn’t ever really think about going home just because we had so many people who are coming here, and also because we wanted to take advantage of our holidays and explore.
Allie Leask 7:11
Once this is all over, do you think they would still decide to come see you guys again, make some plans to go to New Zealand?
Sarah Maier 7:19
Yeah, definitely. I mean, right now, they definitely can’t. You can’t enter without being a citizen or resident. Plus, there’s a mandatory two week quarantine for a pretty expensive price. But, for sure, I mean, a) they’ve got flight credits or travel credits. And b) my family, definitely. This is the longest that I’ve gone without seeing my parents. So, I would be so happy if they were able to come and visit us. So, we’re hopeful. We’re hopeful that you know, soon, but definitely not until it’s safe. It’s just not worth it. It’s just not really worth the risk.
Allie Leask 7:53
Yeah, of course. I really hope you guys can see each other sometime soon. And all these restrictions can be lifted eventually, and we can find a vaccine.
Sarah Maier 8:04
We all hope, yeah.
Allie Leask 8:06
But, it does sound like you guys are having a really good time and that’s amazing. It’s amazing that you’re in New Zealand right now still teaching, and it’s seems pretty normal there for what’s going on in Canada.
Sarah Maier 8:21
Yeah, we are. And honestly, I think we’re living in this like very sheltered bubble where, we’ve obviously experienced COVID and we did have our hard lockdown. But, even during our hard lockdown, the risk wasn’t very high still, like, they acted early, and they went really hard. So, I almost feel like we’re living in an alternative 2020 universe where we know what’s going on, but life is continuing as usual here. Which of all the countries to have landed in, we’re so thankful that this is the one we’re in.
Allie Leask 8:54
I think that’s a great way to end our session here. Thank you so much for chatting with me. And I hope you have a great rest of your time and New Zealand until you can at least see your family and have them come visit.
Sarah Maier 9:09
Yeah, no worries. Thanks so much for having me.
Bruce Gillespie 9:13
Our next guest is Skye MacDonald, a fourth-year Criminology and Human Rights and Human Diversity student. She’s involved in two groups that support international students in Brantford. And in this conversation with DMJ student, Manahil Butt, she talks about some of the ways they’ve worked to keep students studying around the world feel connected to campus and their Canadian peers.
Skye MacDonald 9:33
This is my second year of being the Vice President for the Intercultural Students Association of Brantford, also known as ISAB. Due to COVID, this year it looks a little bit different, but the aim of the club is still the same. What we do is we work with students from different cultures, both international and domestic students, to promote a cultural understanding and learning on campus through various events and projects that we put on. I’m also an International Student Leader, this is also my second year doing that. A lot of it is planning events, and helping liaison with students to tell them about Laurier, and help them with problems with study permits, or registering for classes and things like that.
Manahil Butt 10:12
What concerns are you hearing from Laurier Brantford international students?
Skye MacDonald 10:16
It’s kind of the same for both of my roles. But, in more of the international student leader role, I’m hearing a lot from my students saying that their professors are being really understanding with them at this time. Which is really awesome because they’re functioning in different time zones. I have students who are running nine and a half hours ahead, I have students who are running two hours ahead and students who are running 12 hours ahead. So, some of them, if they have, like, a 10pm class, is their, like, 4am. And that’s been really challenging for some of them, I’ve been told that have turned themselves nocturnal, which is, kind of, I can imagine to be a struggle. In my role as ISAB and an ISL, one thing that we found really challenging is event planning, because we’re trying to do events that all of our students can attend. But, it’s really hard to do that when we have students in such different time zones. So, what we’ve been doing is running two sets of events. So, like, for example, we just did our escape room for Halloween, we did one at 8:30 in the morning, and then one at 3:30 in the afternoon, so that we could have students attend in different time zones and have it work out. It’s just been a lot of time management and organization on our part, honestly.
Manahil Butt 11:26
How are they coping with studying remotely, as some of them are in completely, wildly different time zones? And how did you become aware of these challenges in order to help these students?
Skye MacDonald 11:37
Yeah, it’s definitely been a challenge. It’s a challenge that we didn’t even realize we were going to have at first until one of our students actually messaged us and said, “Look, like, I am nine and a half hours ahead of you. And I want to attend your event, but I can’t.” And like, “I want to do things. And it’s getting so frustrating.” And like, I empathize with that because it was an email that I personally got from them. So, I was able to, fortunately, start looking into that and making double event times which has been awesome. But, students have been having a huge struggle with that actually, we are, as International Education Week is coming up, doing a student run campaign called Laurier Stands with International Students. And we’re doing a video as well as some posters to promote the struggles international students are facing. And the video that we are going to be premiering at the end of the week was made by a Film Studies student at the Waterloo campus who is also studying from Mumbai right now. And it’s all international student scripted and filmed. And it’s all the struggles they face from their firsthand and their everyday lives. So, I’m really excited about that, just to raise awareness a little bit more for everyone who is wondering what they’re going through right now, because it’s a lot and I can’t even begin to imagine the stresses it has on them. I can only just hear about it.
Manahil Butt 12:50
Are there any other experiences or challenges that have been brought to your attention from the Laurier international students,
Skye MacDonald 12:57
A lot of our students, I think, are just missing out on the Canadian experience. I’ve heard that a lot from my students because usually in students’ first-year, as we did last year, we always welcomed them in with International Orientation. We take them to Walmart to go shopping, we take them on a trip to Niagara Falls to see the sights, we do a whole bunch of cool stuff with them. And the students this year, I think, felt really slighted. And I completely get that. We tried to run as much programming and stuff as we could, but obviously due to COVID and the situation, it’s not entirely the same. So, I feel that there’s often a disconnect, which is why we are trying to run so much programming. And so many of our students just want to be here, and they want to be in Canada, and they want to experience, pretty much they want their university experience. And they feel really slighted and I feel awful about it. And we try to remedy it in as many ways as we can and hopefully they’ll be able to come back soon.
Manahil Butt 13:50
Yeah, I think many Canadian students are also missing their international peers right now. And you guys doing so much for the international students, in order to get some of the Canadian experience while being remote is just amazing. So, when hosting these events, what is the turnout rate for the international students who are attending?
Skye MacDonald 14:10
Depends on the event, but what we do when we advertise events, as both an ISL and as the vice president of ISAB, we advertise to all students, so any student who’s available, or willing, or able is welcome to come to any of our events. We want to promote as much talk and interaction between the international students and domestic students as possible for when they come back, so that they have a strong support system. And so, our events, it depends on the turnout. Like, I said, some events are really culturally specific. We did a diya decorating, diya painting for Diwali. I think we had about 10 students sign up for that. But, bigger events like our Halloween escape room, we had about 18 registrants. About, yeah, about nine or 10 of them were international students and the rest were domestic, but it was really a cool experience to have all those people together like that. And it was really, like, one of my probably favorite events of the semester so far.
Manahil Butt 15:09
Wow, that’s so cool and creative. I can only imagine this is probably so fulfilling, like, after hearing all these people giving you feedback on what new things to do for, like, future events and stuff like that. So like, what do you think is your biggest response that you’re getting back from these students?
Skye MacDonald 15:25
A lot of our students are honestly just really thankful that we’re trying so hard. They’re thankful that we have these events and this programming, and that we’re not just like, “Oh, COVID, sorry.” We are just making sure that we have everything lined out for them. And students are really thankful that we have these events and these opportunities to get to know people and that they have the support system that they need. And they’re just really grateful about that. And I know for students that, because we have lots of students that have been important in since like March. And by quarantine I mean, in countries like India, they haven’t left their house at all since March. And so, those students are really thankful that we’ve been doing events because it gives them some sort of human interaction, which they really need in times like this.
Manahil Butt 16:04
Yeah, most definitely. Having that human connection can really get you through tough times, which is really nice to hear. What can you tell us about future upcoming events?
Skye MacDonald 16:13
Every week, we do coffee club twice a week, so we just have an open space and forum. We’ll play games, we’ll talk to students just as in, like we usually do coffee club socials every week, and we’re still continuing that but through discord online. Future upcoming events, we’re looking into doing like a do-it-yourself bath bomb making night where we actually send all the kits to our students to make all this stuff and do the video lessons with them. We also, our students also absolutely love games, like, video games and everything. So, we have, like, a few Jackbox tournament nights coming up as well as, like, meetings with Santa and stuff like that, just so students can get a real taste of the culture that we have here in Canada.
Manahil Butt 16:55
That is amazing. I totally love what you guys are doing continuing to help with these international students because being so far away in completely, widely different timezones coping with all this. And obviously, as you hear their concerns, and, like, you want to help out and, like, missing the whole Canadian experience as well. Like, this is great that you’re helping them, and they can move forward in trying to have that balance of, like, having their education portion at Laurier Bradford, as well as, like, a social aspect to it as well. So, I think it’s really amazing what you guys are doing.
Skye MacDonald 17:25
Thank you, that means a lot. My staff and as well as colleagues, and my superiors have been working really hard to put on a lot of programming that includes, like, scavenger hunts, and, like, photo contests where you could win $100 gift cards, and then, like, lunch and learns where you can sit and talk to people from other cultures, or pen pals. And it’s really cool. There’s a whole schedule on Laurier International’s website, and you should definitely check out some of the events because we’ve worked really hard, and they’ll be really fun.
Manahil Butt 17:50
Yeah, I definitely will. And I’ll definitely spread the news about it.
Skye MacDonald 17:54
Manahil Butt 17:55
Well, thank you for talking to me. I really appreciate it. And this is so great, what you guys are doing, and obviously everyone behind these associations and these groups helping these international students. So, again, I thank you.
Skye MacDonald 18:06
Bruce Gillespie 18:08
Our final guest is Destiny Pitters, a fourth-year English major who recently received a grant from the LGBT Youth Line to create a new zine. Here’s her conversation with DMJ student Katelyn Thomson.
Destiny Pitters 18:22
So, the zine that I’m creating, I titled it The Prism, and it’s basically a community service project through LGBT Youth Line. Pretty sure that they’re Ontario’s largest nonprofit for, like, the 2SLGBTQ+ community. And they have a project called the Provincial Youth Ambassador Project. So, there’s about, I think they hire around, like, 10-20 volunteers yearly to participate in that, and I was selected for this year. And so, the whole goal is to complete like some anti-oppression training, and then create a community service project. And so, I wanted mine to be zine because I love art. I’m very art oriented. And the goal of the zine is basically to just get 2SLGBTQ+ folks in, like, Brantford, Brant, Six Nations, and Mississauga’s of the New Credit to submit, like, themed art about their experiences.
Katelyn Thomson 19:30
I think it’s so cool that you’re making a zine, like this is just such a cool opportunity for you.
Destiny Pitters 19:36
I know, honestly, I just, the zines that I’ve seen in times past from other, like, I don’t know, just like radical people. I’m just like, “God, I want to do that so badly.” So yeah, I’m happy that I have the opportunity to do it now.
Katelyn Thomson 19:51
Yeah, is that kind of why you chose to do a zine. It feels kind of like a throwback project, like, they were big in the 90s.
Destiny Pitters 20:00
Yeah, honestly, I even kind of touched on that, like, I’ve been doing some social media advertising for it. And I wanted to touch on the fact that, like, zines are historically important for radical movements like black liberation, and feminist liberation, stuff like that. So, that’s why I’m using it. Yeah, it’s just such a good platform to just be able to say and do whatever you want. So, yeah.
Katelyn Thomson 20:29
Yeah, that’s amazing. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about the theme of the zine and why you chose to call it The Prism?
Destiny Pitters 20:38
Yes. Oh, my goodness. I honestly, I’m so cocky about that title because it made me feel so brilliant. So, yeah, I titled it The Prism because the theme follows the colors of the Pride flag. I don’t think a lot of folks know that when the original Pride flag was created. each color had a meaning. So, red represents life, orange represents healing, yellow for sunshine, green for nature, blue for magic and serenity, and then purple for spirit. And that was just, like, so beautiful to me when I found that out. Because I mean, when you think about, like, real country’s flags, like yeah, like, the colors have meaning. And so, the Pride flag is no different. It’s, like, a representation of, you know, our nation. I mean, I say our because I also identify as queer. So, it’s just such a beautiful thing to me. And I wanted folks from my hometown to be able to kind of share in that history and pride. And yeah, submit a piece that, you know, follows one of those colors and what that meaning looks like for them.
Katelyn Thomson 21:49
Yeah, I think that that’s amazing. And I definitely think it’s not something that a lot of people know about, especially straight people. And I think it’s important to educate people on that and to get that knowledge out there. And I think that the zine is such an interesting way to do that and to provide, like, the education as well as a creative tool for the community as well.
Destiny Pitters 22:11
Yeah, honestly, I don’t even think I realized until you just said it now. Like, that is kind of an educational opportunity for, like, straight people and, you know, cis folks, like, yeah. I’m constantly focused on, like, the 2SLGBTQ community part of it. I mean, yeah, when I do my advertising, like obviously, my cis and my straight friends will see that and, like, I guess, learn. So that’s cool, that makes me feel happy.
Katelyn Thomson 22:38
So, in your submissions, you’re prioritizing Black, Indigenous and people of color submissions. Can you tell me more about why you chose to do that?
Destiny Pitters 22:48
Absolutely. So, I myself identify as Black, and growing up in Brantford, like, no lie, it was tough. I’ve been here my whole life and it is a small white conservative city. But, there are, like, beautiful pockets of just, like, diversity and equity and, like, 2SLGBTQ folks, people of color. But, I don’t often feel like we have, you know, space, have a voice, just opportunities to share. And so, I’m so thankful for Youth Line for, like, doing the PYAP, so that I can bring that to Brantford and Six Nations and give that community in particular, like, Black, Indigenous, and people of color and opportunity to share. So yeah, I dealt with, I don’t know, I guess daily racism and, like, microaggressions as a kid. And so, that was just, like, obvious to me. And, you know, wherever you go, like, that’s gonna be there. There’s no, like, Atlantis for Black people to get away from racism. But, yeah, like, when I came to university, which obviously, like, I go to Laurier Brantford just downtown and, like, I saw even more and I was, like, shocked. Like, we have, like, a proud boys chapter. Which I think is, like, a chauvinistic, like, group of white men that just, like, hate all marginalized people and stuff like that. So, I mean, seriously, you gotta be safe here.
Katelyn Thomson 24:26
Yeah, that’s another one of those things. I mean, I didn’t know about that. And I’m sure a lot of other people don’t know about it either.
Destiny Pitters 24:34
Yeah, I know. It’s so scary. But, I mean, on the flip side, I am thankful because as I’ve matured in Brantford I’ve seen so many more outlets for, like, marginalized groups to come up and have a voice and, like, tell people, like, “Hey, you know, this is happening.” So, I’m proud about that.
Katelyn Thomson 24:53
Yeah. And now you’re a part of that.
Destiny Pitters 24:55
Katelyn Thomson 24:55
You’re one of those people providing those outlets.
Destiny Pitters 24:58
Oh my gosh, I always, like, take myself out of that and forget that. But, yeah, that does feel really special.
Katelyn Thomson 25:05
Yeah, you’re really doing something amazing with this. Like, as soon as I saw your post on Instagram, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool.” Like, this is so amazing.
Destiny Pitters 25:15
Thank you. It’s gonna be published digitally on Youth Line’s website. And then, physical copies will be sent to the artists who are selected and the organizations that, like, helped this come to be.
Katelyn Thomson 25:33
Thank you so much for being here and for telling us about The Prism zine, and I’m super excited to see how it all turns out.
Destiny Pitters 25:41
Thank you for having me. I feel so honored. This is my first podcast ever.
Bruce Gillespie 25:49
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us. We hope it’s helped you feel a little more connected to Laurier Brantford community. If you liked what you heard, tell your friends and colleagues. You can subscribe on Apple, Google, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts. Worried about missing an episode? Sign up for our newsletter. You can find the link on Twitter and Facebook @onemarketlb. One Market was created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield. Special thanks to this week’s guest hosts Allie Leask, Manahil Butt and Katelyn Thomson. Our music is by Scott Holmes, graphics by Melissa Weaver. Our research assistant and intern is Serena Austin. Thanks for listening. Keep in touch.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai