There wasn’t a specific day I decided to pursue my Master’s in Information and Library Studies, but also, it was never something I had aspired to achieve. My name is Ayzel Calder, and I was raised in a rural Canadian village that upheld small town living over academic achievement. I knew bear awareness before I could read and have spent more hours outdoors than in (admittedly, not the most ideal for an incredibly pale redhead).
Despite not ever really considering grad school (or at the very most assuming it would come in my late thirties), I knew I would be going to university from a young age. There wasn’t anything that was going to stop me, and immediately after graduating high school I moved to attend the University of Alberta to achieve what would eventually become a Bachelor of Arts in English and History.
I took time away from school. Four and a half years of intense academic study, and all I wanted to do was write something fun and for myself, to read books I didn’t have to write a paper on, and be able to enjoy an evening without a to-do list the length of my arm (yes, we’ve all been there).Yet, after a while, I started to miss learning. With some encouragement, I hit submit on my application and a month later I received an acceptance letter into the Robert Gordon University Master’s of Information and Library Studies programme. To say I was shocked / overwhelmed / excited / all of the above was an understatement.
Now, you may be asking, why RGU? Why apply to a school thousands of miles and a continent away?
When looking for a university I had a couple requirements. Of those requirements, I was looking for a new experience. Having never travelled outside western Canada, the prospect of attending an international school was appealing to say the least.
And RGU was perfect – it has a stellar reputation, had the programme I was interested in attending, and the investment in their students was clear. It was a no brainer.
The more difficult decision was making the one to be long-distance. As a student who has taken a multitude of online courses in not only my undergrad but also in high school, I am well-versed in the digital academic world – that had no impact on my choice. It had everything to do with the developing pandemic. I had waited until the very last day to submit my application in hopes that the world wasn’t going in the direction that it looked like it was going (and did). So here I am, always a few feet from my laptop, but a world away from my university.
Now in the second semester of my one year programme, I am confident in saying: it is by far one of the hardest things I have done to date, but also the most rewarding.
Early on in the programme I volunteered to be one of the class representatives, a role that has forced me out of my comfort zone in many different ways. I have attended conferences and sat through presentations that I would not have previously chosen to, I have received additional accreditations through partnerships between RGU and the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, and have been published by CILIPS. The friends I have found and the community we’ve created is one that has (not to sound too dramatic) changed my life.
I will say this, regardless of what COVID has limited, it has led to the expansion of the digital world and has created an environment that is even more adaptable to distance learning. Many of the opportunities that have come my way would have previously not been possible, even for an established online programme. So while this year has been one of the most difficult, it has given me so much more in positives, and for that I am grateful.