Brandon Augustine – Bachelor of Science Degree

Saint Mary’s University

When I first got to University, I didn’t know anybody…

Hello, my name is Brandon Augustine, and I am from Eel Ground First Nation. In January 2013, I will be graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Science degree, where I chose Biology as a major and Psychology as a minor.

In being from Eel Ground First Nation, I was put in their school system from kindergarten to grade 8, before leaving to go to Miramichi Valley High School for my four years of high school. In going to school in Eel Ground, I was given the chance to excel in school because of the relatively small class sizes and the amount of direct student to teacher time we were given. A lot of people in our community are now sending their children to school in town because of educational purposes, but I found the smaller school setting very beneficial, as I was a quiet and shy student. When I got to grade 9 at Miramichi Valley High School, I was a bit in awe of how big the classes were. I went from being in a class of five students, to classes with 30 plus students. I found Eel Ground School taught me all of the necessary tools to succeed in high school and I actually did quite well.

If you were to ask me seven years ago what the best time of my life was, I would have said high school. It was great, I found it particularly easy, I played sports, went to social events, I had a blast to tell you the truth. During the first semester of grade 12, I applied to Saint Mary’s University and was accepted a few months later. Before I knew it, my Father and Step Mother were dropping me off at Vanier Residence in Halifax and my University career was underway.

When I first got to University, I didn’t know anybody. I lived in a double room with a guy I had never met before from Pictou, Nova Scotia. This guy became one of my best friends at school and we actually ended up living together in residence for three years. The classes at Saint Mary’s were huge. I went from 30 students in a class, to classes with over 500 students and there was little, if any, interaction with the Professor.

After my first year of University, I decided that I wanted to major in Biology, so I lessened my workload and took only four courses per semester because of the work that had to be done in labs. Labs were like adding an extra course to your workload, so instead of having four courses, most of the time it actually felt like you were doing six.

In my third year, I wanted to have some extra cash to go along with what the NSMDC graciously gave me, so I decided to work with the SMU campus security. At this job I was in charge of supervising University sanctioned events, offering safe rides home to students, as well as working as a dispatcher during the over night shifts. While working with SMU campus security, I worked with people who came from all over the world. I worked with people from Iraq, England, Egypt, Africa, Japan, China, and France. I still keep in touch on a regular basis with my co-workers and became really good friends with most of them there. I was able to tell them about my growing up on a First Nation Reserve in Canada, and they were able to tell me a lot of what it was like to grow up in different parts of the world.

In my final year of school in 2010, I came up three credit hours or one course short of graduating. I was very discouraged and angry. All of my friends were graduating and I had to wait and do first year stats over again. I took a year off and decided to sign up for the course through Athabasca University and take it online. I found the online course much easier than what they had offered at Saint Mary’s and passed with flying colors. I recently have transferred my mark to Saint Mary’s and that is it for my undergraduate career.

If I had to say anything to today’s youth in not only our community, but all First Nation communities, it would be to take advantage of the opportunity that we have. The funding that we receive is like receiving a full ride scholarship to any university in Canada along with all living expenses. That in itself is huge! I went to school for five years and came out not owing a penny, while my friends are tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

In having a biology backround, I was contacted last year to work as a liaison biologist by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for Eel Ground and Red Bank First Nations. My job entitled monitoring Atlantic Salmon catch reports for both First Nations and reporting my information to the head office in Tracadie. I was told that this was the first time that they have ever hired any Aboriginal for this type of work. I worked this previous summer doing the same as work as I did last year and they told me that a full time position may soon be offered if I did in fact obtain my university degree. This goes to show how important finishing school actually is.

I would like to take this time to thank Hazel and the North Shore Micmac District Council for not only the funding you provided me, but also for the kind words of encouragement whenever I needed it. That truly helped me get through along with the love and support I got from my Family and Friends.

In conclusion, I would just like to say never give up. University is hard, it’s not easy, and it’s mentally draining, exhausting, it sometimes takes you to your breaking point. But, in the end, when your all done and you can look at all the things you had the opportunity to experience at school. All of the new friends you now have. And that little title that says Brandon Augustine, B.Sc. Yeah, that makes it all worth it, and that is why University is truly the best time of your life