Illustration by Jeff Kulak, '07 BDes

Continuing Education

That Time I Enrolled in a Community

I thought I was coming to Edmonton for graduate school. It turned into so much more

By Breanna Mroczek, '12 MA

September 22, 2018 •

When I first moved to Edmonton to attend the U of A, I assumed I would be lonely.

I was excited to start my graduate project in the Department of English and Film Studies, but I didn't know anyone in Edmonton and I didn't think I ever would. I hadn't been very active in campus life during my undergrad degree in Calgary - after all, I already had friends there and didn't feel compelled to make new ones. When classes were over, I'd take a long, quiet commute home.

But things changed when I got to the U of A.

Many of the English graduate students lived in the Graduate Residence buildings but I assumed this wouldn't amount to much more than an uninspired conversation topic. So I was shocked when an acquaintance knocked on my door to see if my roommate and I might want to see A Hard Day's Night at the Garneau Theatre near campus. The unexpected invitation had appeal. Instead of over-analyzing it, I grabbed my coat and went to the movie.

We all quickly bonded over activities we could easily organize: walk to class, shop for groceries, study, go for the requisite beers or dinner at the Sugarbowl or watch Mad Men in the communal gathering area. There was an informal policy to drop in for tea, coffee or beer whenever writer's block hit.

I was a twentysomething, figuring out life with new friends in a new city, working on a degree that would hopefully precede a career as a professional writer. I was already living out the premise of a sitcom, but I never expected to experience the "your door was open" trope, replete with a cast  of characters just walking into each others' apartments without knocking or making plans in advance. I once opened the door to find two peers singing show tunes; they were there to invite me to an ice cream social in the common room. Another time, a friend showed up with a basket of laundry and folded it while we watched television. That night, as every night, there was a lot of laughter.

I embraced this new, more social approach to school and community. It even translated to an overall positive attitude toward my studies.

By the time I completed my degree, I saw Edmonton as a place where I could build a life and a career. Even though many of my peers moved back home, knowing no one in a city was no longer discouraging. These days, I'm confident about networking and social events and I'm almost always up to meet with a new acquaintance. And I continue to go to the places that had become the settings for those regular-yet-spontaneous outings.

And my friend who extended that initial invite? We still visit that movie theatre near campus regularly.

About the Author

Breanna Mroczek, '12 MA, has been a magazine editor and freelance writer since graduating from the U of A.

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