Day 97 - Natalia (2nd person I approached)
April 07, 2014 - Natalia was born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick. The youngest of two children, her mother is Greek and her father is Armenian. Growing up, Natalia has always had a good social network and a large, diverse group of friends.
“My mother used to worry sometimes about the friends I had. I think she thought I was maybe heading in the wrong direction. But I’ve always been able to focus on my schooling, while being social,” she said.
“When I was about seven, my brother was having some trouble and we kind of drifted apart from then. He’s extremely intelligent and gifted. A genius really. He has always been very serious about his studies and never really had much of a social outlook. He was a bit isolated because of his intelligence. We’re two very different people. My brother and I are civil with one another, but we don’t really talk all that much. He’s five years older than I am, and when we were kids it was enough of a gap that we weren’t really that close, we didn’t have many things in common. My parents are coming to visit next week and he’ll be coming as well. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone. We have family here in Vancouver that I’ve never met, so it’s going to be a big family get together!”
Natalia did well in school. In Grade 11, she started to take part in Advanced Placement (AP) classes were the curriculum was advanced and the work was challenging and more focussed.
“I took a lot of science classes. The first AP I took was Chemistry. I thought I’d be good at it but that class was really difficult. I still took other AP’s after though, in Calculus and Biology. I’ve always liked Biology. The AP’s in Grade 11 were at a Grade 12 study level and then in Grade 12 they were comparable to university prep classes,” she said.
After graduating, Natalia went to McGill University in Montreal.
“Everything I worked for those last two years in school was to get into McGill. There was no Plan B really. I applied at every school in case I didn’t get accepted to McGill, but I didn’t really have a second choice. I always wanted to go to McGill,” she told me.
Natalia studied Anatomy and Cell Biology. It was also her first time moving away from home.
“I was so scared about moving away from my parent’s. I didn’t even like sleep overs when I was younger. I would call my parents and get them to come and pick me up and take me home! But one of my best friends was there with me, and I got a single room in residence. So it all worked out ok. After that, I knew I’d never live at home again,” said Natalia, laughing.
She spent four years at McGill and after graduation, moved to Toronto.
“I had a few rough months of unemployment when I first got to Toronto, but then I got a job working in breast cancer research. I really liked the lab environment, but I wasn’t doing as much research as I wanted. I started to think that nursing would be a good fit for me, and began sending out applications for nursing school. It was either the University of Toronto, (U of T) or the University of British Columbia (UBC). You have to come to the school for an in person interview, so my boyfriend and I came to Vancouver for a week. It was the first time either of us had been here. We fell in love with the city, I got accepted to UBC and we moved here,” Natalia said.
“The nursing program is a condensed one, so that means a four year program in two years. Essentially with all the pre-required grades and studies, you’re starting the course in third year. We go right through the summer so I’ll be graduating around this time next year.”
We talked for a bit about the difference between McGill and that experience compared to university life now. Natalia is finding that nursing school and the education system seem to have become easier.
“McGill was so intense, and the exams would have questions that were like two or three large paragraphs long, and then there wold be a multiple choice answer. It was so overwhelming. Now I find it pretty straight forward, and it’s kind of like ‘Here’s a question, what’s the answer?’ I’m really liking nursing school. The other students are like an extended family and everyone is pretty close,” she said.
I wanted to know more about the ’boyfriend’ that had appeared in our conversation, and then like magic, he actually appeared. His name is Steven and we shook hands and I told him what we were talking about. Steven then left Natalia and I to talk, and he went to wander around Whole Foods. Natalia assures me he won’t mind leaving us to talk, telling me
“He likes to wander around, really it’s fine.” She then tells me they’ve been dating since high school.
“Steven is also from New Brunswick. We went to the same middle school and high school. Actually, we had a brief little thing (quote unquote) when I was like 13 years old. We went on a trip with our school and sort of dated during that. Nothing really happened. Then we had different sets of friends and it wasn’t until around Grade 11 we started to talk more and more and then we started dating. We’ve been together since then. He moved to Montreal, and we moved to Toronto together. It was Steven that wanted to move to Vancouver mores than I did. I was sort of hung up on the prestige of graduating from McGill and then U of T. You know, being a graduate of two of the top schools in the country. But once I got over that, and the fact that Toronto is too big and too cold, I’m happy we’re here in Vancouver.”
I said that it must be a really comfortable relationship, knowing where each other comes from and what high school was like and University, having that shared experience together.
“High school was so much fun and it was so busy as well. I was really involved in performing when I was in school. We had a huge theatre program and a massive theatre that would sell out 600 people every night for three weeks long. Even though the town we're from is really small. I got the lead in four musicals. I love performing, singing mainly. I used to play the piano, but singing and performing has always been a dream. That feeling of being in school, on stage and being the lead and singing with a full orchestra and choir singing with you, there’s nothing like that. It is so great that Steven knows all about that. When I talk to people who don’t know that about me, or weren’t there, it just doesn’t feel like they get it. He knows.” #notastranger