New student society provides international students with a home away from home
The Islanders Society is a new group on campus this year. The organizers started the group to create a place where Caribbean and Bermudian students can get together and celebrate their culture and because of a need for community at Mount Allison.
Arianna Woodley, a third-year aviation student and one of the founding members, said, “It felt kind of weird that I was the only person from my island at this school. So the society is just a way to find people that you have something in common with and having each other on the journey of learning and experiencing new and different things.”
Fourth-year biology student Sertara Wilkinson, a member of the society, agreed. “When I came to Mt. A, it was a culture shock. I wanted a piece of home. Having the Islanders Society is really nice because having a safe space is always good,” she said.
The society also aims to be an educational resource for students. Aminah Simmons, a third-year religious studies student and founding member, said, “The purpose is for Caribbean and Bermudian students to find an outlet, to feel wanted, and to educate the campus and the community.”
Woodley also stressed this point. “Members of the student body will be able to understand what islanders do, and how it’s different from other islanders,” she said. “Like PEI for example: They’re an island but they don’t have the same Caribbean history.”
The society aims to educate students about parts of islander culture like food through events and potlucks. “We’ll have potlucks with some inter-Caribbean foods,” said Wilkinson. “We’ll have fried plantain, peas and rice, bean and rice, split pea soup, grits, codfish, roti, stew fish, stew conch and anything else.”
The society also wants form connections with similar societies at other schools across the region. “Since we’re new we’re just trying to establish ourselves in the Maritimes,” said Woodley. “There are a lot of active West Indian societies and Caribbean societies at places like Dalhousie and Acadia. We want to have interactive events where we move across the Maritimes and collaborate with other islanders.” The society plans to attend Caribana events in Halifax throughout the school year.
Members of the Mt. A community who are not from the Caribbean or Bermuda are also encouraged to attend meetings and events. “Come out and get to experience islander culture,” said Wilkinson. “If you can’t go to the Caribbean, you can experience a little slice of it and its culture from us here.”
The society is optimistic about the upcoming school year and beyond. “I am so excited that the Islanders Society is actually official,” said Wilkinson. “I see that there is more of a community now, rather than just seeing someone on campus and knowing they’re from the Caribbean, but never talking. Now we’re all getting to know each other and becoming more of a family.”