Day 320 - Sonia (3rd person I approached)
November 16, 2014 - Sonia was on a break from work and eating lunch when I told her about The Stranger Project. She told me she thought the project was a great idea, and agreed to chat. I explained all the details, making sure she’d be okay with me taking her picture. I also wanted to make sure she’d continue eating while we chatted.
I detected an English accent. When Sonia told me her name, I asked if she spelled it with a ‘y’ or a ‘j’ completely forgetting about the ‘i’ option.
“I was born in west London (England). We moved around a fair bit, but always within west London,” she said. Sonia is the oldest of four children, with two brothers and a sister. “The youngest, my brother, is ten years younger than me. He’s my little brother,” she said in an affectionate tone.
“My grandparents are from India, and both of my parents are English. My Father was born in London and my mother was born in Coventry, in the west midlands.”
“Growing up I did fairly well in school. My mother would ask us every morning ‘What is happening in the world today?’ She wanted to spark our interest in world events. It was rather annoying at times, and I see her still doing it with my siblings. But as an adult, I understand what she was doing and why,” said Sonia.
“I stayed on at school and did my ‘A’ levels (General Certificate of Education Advanced Level). I wanted to take a gap year, but this happened right at the time when the British Government increased tuition by three hundred percent. It meant if I went to university right after completing my ‘A’ levels, my courses were three thousand pounds. If I took a gap year, then the cost would have been nine thousand pounds. I felt that staying in school was the better option at that time. I can always travel when I’m finished school,” she said. Sonia went to the University of Birmingham, in Edgbaston, on the outskirts of Birmingham City.
“I was studying Political Economics,” she said.
During her first year at university, Sonia’s parents immigrated to Vancouver.
“I stayed behind in England to go to school. After my first year, I came here to Vancouver, to spend the summer with my family. I was offered a job as a Brand Ambassador, going into retail stores and representing a product or line of products. I thought I might as well make some money while I as here. I fell in love with the city. I met a few other students from UBC (University of British Columbia) who were working for the same company that I was. They talked about how much they liked the school. They were in a sorority as well. We don’t have those in England,” she told me.
Sonia’s parents applied for Sonia to go to UBC without her knowing about it, and she got accepted.
“They wanted me to be living closer to them. I decided to accept the placement at UBC, studying Economics and Politics. I’m living on campus in the sorority house. It was just one of those opportunities I couldn’t pass on,” she said. Sonia told me that she went back to England for a vacation last summer, and realized that nothing had changed there.
“My two closest friends are both in university, one in London and the other one in Budapest. We talk almost daily online or texting. So I’m not really missing out on anything.”
Sonia is in her fourth and final year of her Bachelor's degree.
“I’m thinking of taking a gap year after this. I intend to sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day,” she said, laughing.
“I’m thinking I'd like to get a job and work for awhile before continuing with my schooling.” Sonia is considering working in financial and investment advising.
“I’d like to work for a company or organization that does work in third world countries. Perhaps helping with infrastructure development and support. I’m not exactly sure at this point,” she said.
“I haven't even applied for other schools. I might go on to do a graduate degree. But I also feel that I don’t even need a degree to get a job. I’m doing this for the life experience and opportunities. I can get any job I want to, really,” she said.
“My mother has a degree in law from Warwick University (England). My father dropped out of school at age sixteen. They are both successful, however, my father has done better for himself than my mother, without a university education,” she told me.
We spoke about Sonia continuing to work while in classes at UBC.
"I still work on occasion as a Brand Ambassador. I’m a student, and I like to drink. I have a social life and the extra money helps pay for me to do social things with my friends. My parents pay for my education, and I pay for my vodka. It only seems fair.” #notastranger