Forgot your password?

Remember when you were in elementary school and your teacher asked you, “What would you like to do when you grow up?” Most children’s answers have nothing to do with what they actually end up doing for a career as adults. I’m not sure what I would have told my elementary school teachers, but the other day I found a letter I had written my 14 year-old self, ‘from my future self’. It had been an exercise in my Grade 9 English course and became one of those things I had forgotten all about until I stumbled upon it while cleaning out some old boxes. According to my ‘future self’, I had finished up high school, continued on to the University of Winnipeg where I studied and played five years of university basketball for the Wesmen, and then became a doctor. I was very happy and there were no indications of having found my university days – or my current ‘life as a doctor’ – stressful in the least. Yeah, right.

Fast-forward ten years – it’s a pretty different story. Yes, I played university basketball – but only for four years, and only three at the University of Winnipeg. Once I entered Grade 11 and struggled through both Chemistry and Physics, I threw the dream of being a doctor out the window. Ever since then – the question of ‘what will I do when I grow up’ has become an ugly cloud looming darker and darker, with every passing year. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the answer to this question.

My career goals have ranged from becoming a journalist who investigates stories in developing countries – to teaching at a high school – to being a counsellor – to becoming a professor of history – to ‘I HAVE NO IDEA!’ – a lot, over my six years of university. After finally receiving my Honours B.A. degree a few weeks ago, I am still feeling quite unsure about where my future is headed.

I thought I was supposed to have this all figured out by now?

Last week I was at the University of Manitoba to sign up for my M.A. courses, and I met a woman who is completing her Ph.D. At first I thought – she’s doing exactly what I want to do! That's pretty awesome! But then I realized that her eyes were watering as she spoke with another student about how difficult it was to complete her thesis; the stresses of doctoral studies; the utter hopeless job market for history professors and; her struggle with deciding if she is willing to leave Winnipeg in order to pursue a career.

It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d heard of these problems – my parents and other professors have warned me of these issues many times (while still encouraging me to go for my Ph.D) - but in this moment reality hit so hard I literally had to sit down. I realized, sure - I can do my Masters and my Ph.D., but even if I do well there are absolutely no guarantees for job opportunities once I graduate (and it’s not as if completing a Ph.D would be an easy task). Moreover, I better be willing to move across the country – or perhaps even to a different country – if I want to find a job.

I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and disheartened by the time the Grad Studies Chair came into the room and called me into his office to sign up for my Masters courses. But as I sat and chatted with him, talking about the courses I had enjoyed during my undergrad and the courses I will be taking next fall, I found myself becoming increasingly excited about school again.

I love history, I love school, and I love teaching (and coaching). That may me a pretty huge nerd but I’m okay with it. So what am I going to do with the rest of my life? What am I going to do when I “grow up”? I'm not sure.

I don’t why we ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up - and expect high school students to choose their courses based on their future career - because it instills this assumption that usually by the end of high school, and certainly by the end of a university degree, you need to know exactly what you want to do with your life.

But maybe we don’t.

As someone who is constantly planning (I’m a pretty busy person – usually juggling around 3 or 4 part time jobs, coaching a team or two, playing on a team or two, and finding time for my friends and family - so I plan a lot… probably more than I need to) the prospect of an uncertain future used to terrify me. But I don’t think it should. I know I’m not ready to be done school yet, and I’m excited to start my M.A. I know from my internship that I enjoy working in the field of history, and there’s little doubt in my mind that that will change. But as for a career – I’m not sure. Maybe by the time I’m done my M.A. I’ll have figured things out, and if not – maybe I’ll track down that Ph.D. student and see how it worked out for her.

Posted: 28/06/2011 9:00:58 AM by Sarah Reilly | with 0 comments

As I enter my fourth week working full-time at Canada’s History, it’s hard to believe that my internship is nearing an end. I feel as though I have only begun to brush the surface of understanding the intense process of updating a website, let alone writing and publishing a magazine. The one thing I am sure of at this point is that it takes incredible dedication and determination in order to be successful. It’s an interesting and demanding business. After writing for the University of Winnipeg’s student newspaper, the Uniter, for the past two years, I have had some experience with weekly deadlines but I always knew exactly what was expected of me. What has impressed me the most at Canada’s History is the overwhelming cooperation and willingness of everyone working here to help one another, take on extra assignments (even when they are already swamped), and still manage to enjoy their job.

One of my favourite aspects of this internship is how it has opened my eyes to the world of public history. Thanks to my mom’s career, I always knew about potential museum positions, but I never looked into possibilities beyond museums. My internship has provided me with the chance to learn about all kinds of career opportunities from people who are passionate about their work. Additionally, I have developed a number of new skills, and have worked to further hone those I already had coming into this position. A few of these skills include: managing websites;  doing website design; knowing how to make and edit a good video; doing a podcast interview; transcribing podcasts; knowing what to look for when editing articles, and finally; understanding and being able to practice the different writing styles favoured by public and academic histories.

I also had the opportunity to work our booth at the Regional Heritage Fair at the University of Winnipeg a few weeks ago. This was interesting, because it provided me with the opportunity to see the various projects created by children from grades 4 to 11. The diversity in the projects was impressive. There were projects about key medical contributions and discoveries, the Winnipeg General Strike, Canadian animation, our Canadian NHL teams (past and present), various famous Canadians including many past Prime Ministers, and even Canada’s young pop-star, Justin Beiber,(which came as a surprise to me). More exciting than the projects, however, was the enthusiasm of the participants. My job was to chat with the children, help them find the answer to our question in the scavenger hunt, and hand out free copies of our children’s magazine, Kayak.

When the children came to our booth, many told me how happy they were to be a part of the heritage fair, and how much they had loved creating their projects. Despite the fact that they were in the middle of a scavenger hunt, quite a few children stayed on longer at our booth to tell me about their projects. More than one child mentioned that the fair was the highlight of their semester, and how much they wanted to take part in the fair again next year. It was also neat to hear their stories about reading Kayak. Admittedly, some had never heard of our magazine, and a few ‘forgot’ their copy at the booth, but the vast majority were excited to be able to take a copy home with them, and a few even told me about their favourite issue of Kayak - accompanied by a detailed explanation of that issue’s historical adventure.

Overall, this was a pretty great experience. I love history (I know, big surprise), and I think it’s exciting when I meet other people who feel the same way. I rarely meet children who are excited about history, so to be in a gym filled with history-enthusiasts (children and adults) was wonderful. When I was in school, I heard nothing of heritage fairs. Unfortunately, none of the schools I went to participated in them – we only were allowed to participate in the science fairs. I knew from an early age that science was not for me – but I would have loved the opportunity to take part in a heritage fair! I think it’s great that these fairs exist, and it is important to make sure they continue to survive. I hope I have the opportunity to help out at the fair again, and that more schools encourage their students to participate.

Posted: 25/05/2011 11:24:34 AM by Sarah Reilly | with 0 comments

            Last month I went to visit my 92-year-old grandmother in Courtice, Ontario. Before leaving, a friend of mine encouraged me to sit down with my grandma while I in Ontario, and to ask her to tell me some of her life stories. Of course, as a historian who is seriously considering pursing a Ph.D. in Oral History down the road, I thought this was a great idea. During the last two years of my undergraduate degree, I read many life stories in my oral history and memory courses. I found it to be an incredible way to learn about the past. I love how oral histories have to power to uncover silences in the existing historical literature. Oral history was one of the ways in which women and ethnic minorities were first given a voice in the public history arena. It allowed them share their own stories which, especially prior to the late 1900s, were so often left out of Western history books. While there is much more to oral history than that, it is this process of sharing memories that fits into my own story today.

When my friend suggested I talk to my grandmother about her past, I anticipated hearing from her about my father’s childhood. I thought, perhaps, learning about my grandfather - who passed away when I was five - would even provide some insight to my dad’s ‘unique’ sense of humor, which (unfortunately?) has been passed down to me. But what happened while I listened to my grandmother was unexpected. I began to see her as a different person. She transformed before my eyes from the elderly woman, who has almost always had been waited upon (my aunt who also lives in Courtice took this role over from my grandfather after he passed away nineteen years ago), into a young mother with her first child, whose husband was away serving in the Second World War.

            I have read numerous life stories and novels, watched many films and documentaries, and listened to a handful of interviews in which individuals told their own war-time stories. Yet none of these experiences came close to the emotions I felt when I pictured my own grandmother as a young mother in Cambridge, Ontario, giving birth to her first child while my grandfather was in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. It brought to life the horrible reality that was true for so many at that time: neither of my grandparents knew if my grandfather would ever meet their baby girl. Thankfully, my grandfather survived the war. When he returned he was introduced to his daughter, my Aunt Roz. Upon telling the story though, my grandmother teared up as she remembered handing her husband their daughter for the first time. She recalled, “Roslyn cried in his arms because to her, he was a stranger.” 

            This was the most interesting story that my grandmother told, because of how it affected me. It forced me to think about the realities of war during the 20th century, within the context of my own family. No matter how many stories you read about life for women during the war, hearing about the experience from your own family is quite different. It made me realize, yet again, how life stories and oral histories have the power to engage individuals in history in the most remarkable ways. 

Posted: 16/05/2011 11:50:06 AM by Sarah Reilly | with 0 comments

As a child, growing up in a house full of historians, my experience was somewhat different than that of my friends. When we had an in-service day at school I spent my time at the University of Winnipeg, where my dad is a Canadian History Professor, or at the Manitoba Museum, where my mom is a Social History Curator.  While others went off to daycare or a friend's house, I explored the Museum galleries, roamed the halls of the University, or played basketball with my older brother in the Duckworth Centre.  The University and the Museum were two of my favourite places to be.  As time passed, I found that I too, like my brother before me, had fallen in love with music, basketball, and history.  Today, not much has changed. 

For four years I was a university athlete, and I played basketball for both the University of Manitoba Bisons (2005-2006) and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen (2007-2010).  The experience of playing university basketball was incredible. Some of my closest friends are girls I played university basketball with, and my relationships with former coaches remain important to me.  Additionally, my experience with university basketball taught me much about working hard, time-management, teamwork, respecting myself and others, friendship, and goal setting.   

As a student-athlete, I was forced to learn how to balance my time between school and sport.  Many people do not realize that with games every weekend, travelling every other weekend, and the countless hours spent practicing and training, being a university athlete is a full-time job.  The commitment is huge, but I worked hard and was a CIS Academic All Canadian throughout my university basketball career.  This year, however, I decided that it was time to move on from basketball and start to focus on history at a more intensive level, which is how I ended up applying for the editorial internship with Canada's National History Society.  

I am excited to be here, and the internship is providing me with a great opportunity to experience working in public history.  I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be an intern for a magazine that I enjoy and support, while surrounded by interesting, friendly, and successful public historians.  I look forward to all that I will learn over the next few months, and hope you will enjoy reading my blog as I share with you some of my experiences as a student-intern for Canada's National History Society.

Posted: 04/02/2011 2:51:16 PM by Sarah Reilly | with 0 comments

Sarah Reilly

Sarah Reilly is completing her Honours History B.A. at the University of Winnipeg, and has applied for the University of Manitoba - University of Winnipeg Joint M.A. program for fall 2011. When she begins her Masters, Sarah will focus her studies on Canadian history, Oral history, and the history of Cuban & Latin America. Currently, she is working as a student intern for Canada's History.

No data found More Events
Students only: Canada's History magazine for just $15! Get Canada's History special print and digital combo!
Support history Right Now! Donate
© Canada's History 2016
Feedback Analytics