A fall 2020 graduate’s story: Imposter no more

Posted on Thursday, November 26, 2020

Rebecca Kingston

Her name is Rebecca Kingston. She’s a 2020 graduate of OLBI’s Master of Arts in Bilingualism Studies and despite what she might have thought at one time, she’s far from an imposter!

A bilingual heritage

Rebecca is from New Brunswick and of bilingual heritage; her maternal grandparents are fully bilingual Francophones. This heritage is precious to her family. To preserve it, Rebecca’s parents put her and her siblings in French immersion in elementary school. Her desire to pursue studies in French carried through to university, where she received an honours bachelor’s in French with a major in history.

Rebecca’s ability to communicate in two languages has enriched her personal and professional lives by enhancing her cultural awareness and appreciation. In choosing to continue study in French at university, she was furthering a skill she had been developing for years. This has expanded her social circle and been an asset on the job market. “I am interested in working in government, where bilingualism is a huge advantage at the provincial and federal levels. Bilingualism is a fundamental part of who I am, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have had because of it,” she says.

Overcoming self-doubt

Rebecca wanted to continue her education in both French and English and had always been curious about language policy and teaching. After her bachelor’s, OLBI’s MA in Bilingualism Studies perfectly matched her academic goals.

At first, the idea of joining a cohort of seasoned students felt quite daunting to Rebecca. She talks about her struggle with “imposter syndrome,” especially in the first term of the master’s program, feeling inadequate and doubting her skills and talents. Most of her classmates had already had a few years of work experience or had done an extra year of undergraduate studies before starting graduate school. She found herself as one of the youngest and least experienced members of her classes. It was intimidating for her to hear her classmates contributing based on experiences that she had not had.

Rebecca focused on her work and appreciated the variety of perspectives brought to the table by her classmates, who had diverse backgrounds. It helped her deal with her feelings and encouraged her to fully participate in her program. Her professors and peers welcomed discussion on a variety of topics in and out of class, and they sometimes asked her directly about her experiences in a bilingual province. “My cohort was small enough that we got to know each other fairly well and could share in a more casual way,” she says, “It helped build my confidence.” Thankfully, she was in a great cohort and eventually found that she was in good company, as many shared her feelings.

Yet, overcoming her imposter syndrome was a slow process, one which involved googling “how to manage imposter syndrome” more than once. Rebecca started to feel better once grades and feedback from her professors started coming in that confirmed she was doing well in her studies. She figured that she was not less worthy of being in graduate school. “After all, I had been accepted in the program too!” she says.

Making her mark

One of Rebecca’s proudest moments at uOttawa was having her project titled “Second and multiple language learning and identity construction through social media” accepted for the 2020 International Conference on Second Language Pedagogies. Unfortunately, the conference was cancelled due to COVID-19 but her sense of accomplishment remained. Rebecca hopes to be a lifelong learner, whether through more formal education or just things she picks up along the way. She aspires one day to contribute to French language policy in New Brunswick. “Language policies are forever changing to adapt to the social and political climate and I would love to be a part of that process,” she says.

A bright future ahead

Rebecca is now working as a project officer at the Council of the Federation secretariat in Ottawa. Her years at uOttawa have been formative and insightful. She has followed her passion, and through hard work and determination, boosted her confidence. Without a doubt, Rebecca will be a formidable contributor to the advancement of bilingualism in Canada.

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