BIPOC Project – Reem


Reem brings a fresh perspective to her interview, sharing how she navigated the pandemic from the point of view of a full time student and mother of three. Originally from Saudi Arabia, Reem, her husband, and their then 10 month old son immigrated to Canada in pursuit of a university degree in 2010, planning on returning to Saudi Arabia once their schooling was completed. However, when the time came for them to consider returning to their home country, they decided to call Canada home. Now in pursuit of her third and fourth degree, Reem continues to study education and psychology at UNBSJ. She finds community on campus, creating connections with her professors and fellow classmates. Reem is an avid advocate for therapy and mental wellness, detailing how important self care and external support systems are during the inconsistencies of the pandemic. Reem is vocal about her own experiences with therapy. We talked about her experiences with on-campus counselling services, which she recommends to others who have found themselves overwhelmed or struggling. Reem is an advocate for community, kindness, and helping others, discussing how her experiences living in Saint John during COVID have highlighted the city’s sense of community.

Reem on COVID:

Reem has experienced COVID through many different perspectives: as a student, as a new mother, and through her childrens’ point of view. Through her studies, Reem has experienced the pandemic through a unique lens. Now in pursuit of her third and fourth degree, Reem approaches the shift to online school as a mature student. Having created longstanding positive relationships with her professors, she has experienced nothing but support and accommodation. “I have been in university forever but with COVID and the kids being in the house, it wasn’t easy, but my professors were really amazing” she says when asked how she tackled school during the pandemic. “It makes it easier when you know your professor and you trust them and they trust you. If, for instance, you submit a file and it didn’t go through because of technical issues, but it’s past the due date already. I did that twice; I submitted the wrong file for the wrong course”. In response, Reem received nothing but patience and kindness. “They said no, no, no, it’s ok, think it through, don’t worry, let us know if there’s anything we can help you with”. Most of them sent emails saying “If you would let us know how you are doing, we would really appreciate it”. They are really under pressure as well, they really care about us a lot. I try really hard to talk about this, and I let them know this during feedback at the end of the course. I love UNBSJ, it’s amazing, I’ve had such a positive experience”.

However, COVID came with other challenges. Reem describes a Canadian couple that she and her family befriended, one of whom was diagnosed with cancer last year. “That’s really something not easy to deal with, for us or for him. We missed him so much because his immune system was compromised, so we can’t meet much”. Reem describes the pain of being separated from family during occasions and holidays

Because of the transition to online school, Reem had to put her two youngest children in daycare, a new but necessary change. “Communication was key at the community level.” Reem explains, when Again, trusting that people are doing their best to succeed in this critical situation”

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