Guided By Cairns

Dominique Liuzzo

My parents gifted me an espresso machine for my birthday this year. When opening the gift, my mom explained it was to help save some money and, more importantly, because she thought I needed it. You may think to yourself, ‘another graduate student coffee cliché’. However, if you are an IEDP student, you would know that it is more than that. On a personal note, when I received the gift, I thought of the program’s Boba-Making event, or the general love of coffee shown in this cohort (shoutout to Sam and Caitlin with tea), how I was excited to share the gift with my classmates, and how something so simple can provide meaningful touch points.

In the spirit of transparency, I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a graduate student. Reflecting on my time, which I find to be a recurring sentiment, is the community that IEDP offers. As a part-time student, I am still learning how to (attempt) balance, getting to know the cohort beyond the classroom while maintaining my own personal life and succeeding in terms of my full-time employment. I started taking classes during the middle of the pandemic after I moved back in with my parents, questioning daily what ‘community’ even meant. I can happily say that it’s tangible with a group of IEDP students.

The IEDP community is also representational of what the world has to offer and what you have to offer the world in return. Have you ever gone hiking and seen one of those cool rock stacks?

A quick google search has informed me that this is called a cairn. The idea behind them is to guide hikers as a trailhead or post, marked by other hikers. We all applied and enrolled in IEDP for different reasons, coming from all corners of the world and finding our paths. While cairns mean different things for different people, it could be the start of someone’s trail, a check mark, a mid-way point, or the end. It’s also important not to mess with the cairn or take a rock out since this could impact the next hiker’s journey. IEDP is similar; we are all here, rooting for one another, on different points of our path, while respecting each other’s journey thus far.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see small bits of many countries, experience diverse cultures, and try out different cuisines, but meeting people is always my favourite part. In the IEDP, what you learn from its people can be equally as important as what you learn in a course. The beauty of the program lies in how it facilitates this seamlessly.

The journey has its ups and downs, but don’t forget to laugh along the way. And kiss your cat.

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