VIU student not only studying resilience, but living and practicing it!

This blog post is strictly about me. After almost three months in Belize I have a few thoughts on conducting research and what I’ve learned about myself along the way. The above picture is post-colour party on Caye Caulker Lobster Festival. I’m covered in dirt, sweat and colour and couldn’t be happier.

When I first found out that I got the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship I was taken-aback. Overnight things that were once up in the air needed to be settled – and I had no clue where to begin. Early on, I realized how much easier it would be for everyone involved (myself, my research professor, my thesis supervisors) if my thesis research and scholarship research were one in the same. So I began to create a framework for sense of place interviews, a social-ecological system analysis and the design of planning interventions. The hard work and trouble resulted in a strong thesis proposal and I submitted my project to the Research Ethics Board in March with confidence.

Time went on, and soon we were flying to Belize. This is where things got bad for me. Long story short, I spent about six weeks in-country unable to do research. After all of the countless revisions and work, I was told that it would be better if I abandoned my initial project and did something that would be more easily approved. The pragmatic and practical side of me completely understood, but my emotional side was devastated. I felt like I was not only studying resilience, but living and practicing it. The whole situation was a bitter pill to swallow.

My new project got approved after one round of revisions and I hit the ground running. Setting up interviews here can range from quite easy to extremely difficult. If I could turn back the clock I would have gotten my own phone number. Turns out that texts get better response than emails, who knew? Most of the time I don’t’ get a response from my initial email, something that I will have to mention in my research limitations. After four or five interviews I realized I was hearing the same sorts of things from my interviewees. I now have more people interviewed and that saturation has only amplified. I’ll be going home with some strong research and that feels good after everything that happened. Maybe one day if I decide to get my doctorate I will dust the old idea off, but for now I’ve let it go. Sometimes you just have to accept that things are beyond your control and make the best out of the situation.

Research aside, life here has been pretty good. I knew it was going to be difficult living with three men, and I was right. Like any roommate situation you need to put your own selfish stuff (literally and figuratively) aside and try to move forward as smoothly as possible. At this point I have had little alone time – like life on a ship – so I can’t say that I’ve had much time to reflect on myself and how I have changed since coming to Belize. If anything, being here has solidified my self-knowledge even more. I feel like I am going to go back as a better version of myself, only with A LOT more patience and empathy. Belize has also made me incredibly thankful for my amazing friends and family. I appreciate the people in my life so much more. Sometimes with distance there comes clarity.

There is still so much to come, and I can’t wait to see what else this beautiful place has in store for me!

Teunesha Evertse, Community Planning, VIU