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Q&A: Emily Davidson

Author: Young Alumni

Posted on Feb 11, 2016

Category: UNB Saint John , Young Alumni

Emily Davidson, 30, Vancouver, B.C., BA ’08

Q: What is your most memorable moment from UNB?

I was involved with a university production of Godspell, which went up at the Phoenix Dinner Theatre. Performing with that troupe was an absolute blast and one of my favourite UNB memories.

Q: Did you come to UNB knowing which degree program and career path you wanted to explore?

Not in the least. I only knew that I liked to read, and wasn’t bad at expressing myself on paper. I naturally gravitated towards English classes and then found my way to the few Creative Writing classes offered at UNB Saint John – and in both of those environments, found my people. The English professors at UNB  are the best of the best: encouraging, invested, curious. I wouldn’t be where and who I am today without my time spent soaking up their knowledge.

Q: What was your first job after graduation?

The Saint John Theatre Company took me in as their Marketing and Communications Coordinator, bless them. I worked for a full season there, managing the promotions and print materials for the company, and basically learning how to get the word out about the fantastic theatre happening in Saint John. They were incredibly gracious as I learned and I wish I could go back to do it all over again, with what I know now, to pay back their initial investment.

Q: Were there specific skills you learned in your time at UNB that you highlighted in order to be hired?

I worked for The Baron for a few years during my degree, and the articles and editing I did there helped me pitch myself as someone who could write press releases and marketing materials. The English classes, too, were formative – the process of having your work handed back to you covered in notes is an invaluable way to learn how to write clearly and effectively. And then there are the intangible but vital skills that are picked up simply by being a student – time management, prioritizing tasks, meeting deadlines. All of these were fledged at UNB.

Q: What is your current job?

I’m currently wrapping up a year as the Studio Manager for DHX Media Vancouver. DHX is an animation studio focusing on children’s cartoons, and I’ve been coordinating facilities, office support, and events for the company. I’ll be moving into a role coordinating scrips and I’m looking forward to learning more of the production side of the business.

Q: Has your current career met your expectations?

I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to career, because I have to be two things at once. I’m a writer of fiction and poetry, which is what brought me out to Vancouver – I studied Creative Writing at UBC after UNB, and I’ve written a first draft of both a novel and a poetry collection. The open secret about writing, however, is that there can be little money in it. So I also need a day job – something I find fulfilling that leaves me with enough resources to work on my creative projects. Have I met my expectations? Not at all – there are so many things I still want to achieve that seem far out of reach at the moment. But am I alive and paying my bills? Yes, so far so good.

Q: If you weren’t in your current career field, what would you be doing?

I very nearly pursued acting as a career. I auditioned with the Saint John Theatre Company during the final year of my degree and it turned out I wasn’t half bad. I think I surprised myself with how much I absolutely loved being on stage.

Q: What was your ‘aha’ moment?

My ‘aha’ moments tend to be more like slow realizations; I’m a plodder.  I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way is a sort of boot camp book for creativity and for me it was the first document that gave credence to the idea of writing as a valid vocation. It had never occurred to me that this thing I did privately – forming poems, sketching out stories – was a thing someone could do as their main life’s work. Which is ironic, considering how many books I read during my studies.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you've experienced since graduation?

One challenge I think we’re seeing across the board, and that needs to be talked about, is the crippling weight of student loans. I’m not unique in coming out of my seven years of education with about twelve years’ worth of debt. I’ve now been working full-time for over three years and I can’t overstate the way my debt impinges on my decisions. I don’t own a car. I don’t have any savings. I live a very modest lifestyle, and it’s hard to imagine the day where my loans are paid off. At the moment, that day will be sometime a decade from now. Would I do it differently? No. Do I regret any of my studies? Never. But there is an imbalance in our system, where young people and mature students alike are taking on vast amounts of debt. I value education deeply, and firmly believe in the opportunities offered by our institutions – for employment, but also for the widening of the mind and the extension of experiences.

Q: If you had just one piece of advice to share with fellow young alumni, what would it be?

Ha ha – oh, goodness! Don’t do what I did? No, I’m kidding. But I don’t feel like I’ve lived enough to be giving advice. Check if your student loan qualifies for interest relief! And if you’re flying in and out of Saint John around the Christmas holidays, expect delays.