Sunday, November 02, 2008

Social Dynamics

In the Veterinary Technician Program Class of 2010 at Seneca there are 97 students. 94 of them are women, ages ranging from eighteen to probably about forty, with the majority being in the eighteen to twenty three group. From the third day, I began to realize what a problem this could be. Because girls, together, can be mean. Remember high school? Yeah. So this is kinda similar.

Most of these girls are from small town Ontario - Kitchener, Cambridge, Aurora. These are the horse/large animal people, usually. Live on a farm, work at local stables, have been riding since childhood. Other girls are from GTA suburbs like Mississauga, Newmarket, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, & Markham. Lots of them work in clinics already and cop a bit of a "I know everything there is to know about working in a vet clinic" attitude. Some have exotic/pocket pets at home like ferrets, snakes, rats and talk about them constantly. A few people came into this program with a few friends, but most people - me included - entered it not knowing anyone. And, similar to high school, girls seem to make friends with other girls by deciding who they don't like and banding together against that person. Bonding over how annoying they are, which includes everything from how they speak, what they say, how they dress, how they walk & who they hang out with. If you join in the bashing, you've made a friend. It's pretty ruthless.

And this is not to say that there aren't some truly annoying people in the program. Absolutely there are. But so what? That's life. You won't like everyone you meet. Must every second be about talking about how much we don't like them? I have managed to make a few friends of the non-bitchy variety. I'm not really there to make friends, although in college one needs to have a few friends handy, since nearly everything is about "group work".

Two of my friends are immigrants to Canada and at the older end of the age range spectrum. Patricia is from Brazil. Most of her family still lives there. She lives in Etobicoke with her husband and her jack russell terrier. She works part time at a Dollarama, for $8.75 an hour. She takes public transit two and half hours one way to get to school...and I thought my commute was bad. Everyone in her Kennel Duty group thinks she is stupid and can't speak English and therefore, they hate her. Patricia is probably smarter than they are, and although she speaks with an accent, her English is just fine. She's the nicest lady, ever, and the fact that she's being bullied by rich early twenty-something students whose mommies and daddies are paying for their schooling, transportation, and living expenses makes me crazy. When Patricia and I bonded over the social weirdness that is our program this year, on a long bus ride home, I thought she was going to cry because she was so grateful that someone else understood and shared her feelings.

Derrix is from China, where he was a full blown veterinarian. Which is quite different in China, in that they work mostly with production animals like swine and cattle. Veterinary clinics, as we know them here, are pretty much non-existant. Derrix has been in Canada for only 2 years - he's got a wife, and a daughter, and they live in the Victoria Park and Finch area. Derrix's English is pretty abysmal - he translates everything into Mandarin in order to understand. He misses test dates, and other important announcements, because they're said too fast for him to translate and write down. He relies heavily on other students to help fill him in, and explain assignments, terms and concepts. When he speaks, you have to ask him to repeat himself several times - simply because the pronunciation is off and his accent is so thick. But he's out there, and he's trying. I can only imagine how difficult it is for him. He handles the animals somewhat roughly, because that's what he's used to in China. He has no pets of his own - his family simply can't afford them. He barely understands the concept of animals as companions: once, while we were together in the school's computer lab and I showed him some photos I had online of Siris, he remarked that I must "have a deep feeling" for my dog, which I thought was really cute. What an adjustment for him, culturally. Many of my classmates are impatient with Derrix, because it takes him so long to understand what's being asked, and he needs so much help, and admittedly, it can be taxing. Sometimes I get the feeling I'm going to school for the both of us, he can be so high maintenance. But I admire what he's doing, and hey, the man needs help, and it's not like it's that hard to offer it. Sometimes I don't know what's wrong with people.

To be honest, I'm not sure if either Derrix or Patricia will survive the two years. Derrix, from an academic perspective - he's not doing too well on assignments and tests because of the language barrier and he may not pass the required courses to advance in the program. Which sucks, because concept-wise, the guy knows his shit. He just doesn't know it in English. Patricia, from an emotional standpoint, may end up dropping out, if she continues to be bullied and targetted by mean girls. Her confidence is low, and I hope she'll have the strength to continue and rise above the immaturity that runs so rampant when 94 young women are thrown into close quarters.

Survival of the fittest. High school redux. Me, I'm concentrating on the learning, and on being a decent human being. Doing well academically, staying out of the drama and amassing good karma along the way are my goals for the next couple of years, and I'm gonna try to stay focused.

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