“I love universities,” says Susanna Cupido, who is graduating in 2023 with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and psychology. Cupido comes by her affection for the academic world naturally; her mother teaches English literature and her father teaches Canadian history at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. “My parents talked about King’s Foundation Year Program and as soon as they told me about it, I got excited.”
A Foundation Year Program (FYP) lecture on medieval literature captivated Cupido and led her toward her major. “When I was a kid, I loved fantasy…knights…princesses,” she laughs. “To have a chance to study that at [the] university level was amazing. And there is the beauty of the language. I love poetry and in medieval literature every single word is poetry.”
Cupido is, in fact, a poet; her work has been published in literary journals. She is also a writer of short stories—her story, Me Against Jim Bailey, was shortlisted for the 2022 CBC Short Story prize. Her fascination with psychology is as evident as her love of language. “When I write I try to be honest about what people feel and think, and that’s where studying both psychology and English come together in my work in a way that people can recognize and that I hope rings true for them.”
Discussing FYP, Cupido speaks fondly of the support she received. “Half-way through FYP I was struggling with analyzing philosophical texts and feeling doubtful that I was good enough. I went to my tutor and I remember him being so sweet and reassuring that yes, I do belong in the program. They really do want you to win.”
This fall Cupido will begin an MFA in Creative Writing at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “It’s a small program that takes four fiction and four poetry students each year. I love the idea of being a part of a small, tight creative group.” As well, she notes, the program offers the chance to stay on for two years as a teaching assistant, a powerful draw for someone who loves the university world.
“My parents talked about King’s Foundation Year Program and as soon as they told me about it, I got excited.”
“Foundation Year was the best decision I ever made,” says Althea Pilapil, referring to the ways in which FYP shaped her path. “All the major philosophies and perspectives on life fascinated me. It was the start of my love for social anthropology.”
A day student from Fall River, N.S., Pilapil, who will graduate this spring with a BA, combined honours in Social Anthropology and International Development Studies, was undaunted by the challenge of finding her place in a close-knit, largely residential community. “I got involved in the Day Student Society and I was president in my third and fourth years. That’s how I made my closest friends and we’ve been together ever since.”
Choirs have been another source of connectivity. “I’ve sung in choirs all my life,” Pilapil explains. “I sang with the King’s Chorus in first year and this last year I joined Unconscious Collective Vocal Ensemble, an a cappella group that practices at King’s.” Pilapil looked to choirs as the source of her fourth year Social Anthropology thesis project, studying the role of cultural identity, community and collective music-making in the Harana Singers of Nova Scotia, a choir comprised of Filipinos based in Halifax.
Currently working with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), Pilapil is regrouping after four intense years. “I want to slow things down a bit and reorganize my goals,” she says. “I’d love to do a masters in social anthropology and continue doing research, especially in the Filipino community. And I’d also love to study international law. I can see myself working in government, in diplomacy and international relations. But right now, I’m happy to be out of school and working for a bit. I’m grateful.”
“Foundation Year was the best decision I ever made … All the major philosophies and perspectives on life fascinated me. It was the start of my love for social anthropology.”
Only a handful of students shared Nerissa Zhang’s experience of King’s; she was one of a small number of international students who lived and isolated on campus during Covid’s first wave in the spring of 2020. “That’s when I truly appreciated how supportive King’s is,” she says. “I experienced it every day.”
Thankfully, Zhang had the rich community experience of FYP under her belt before Covid struck. Born and raised in China, she left home at 15 to live and study at a boarding school near Victoria, B.C. “I went to a university fair and met Kimberley [Gosse] from King’s. She had the enthusiasm and passion I was looking for from a university, and King’s focus on humanities studies made me certain of my decision.” says Zhang, who completed a BA with combined honours in classics and philosophy.
For Zhang, small things create rich memories. “I will always remember the President’s Instagram #magnoliawatch posts in the summer of 2022. When I went down to the Quad I would often see him talking to King’s students and he would always remember my name… This close-knitted community is what makes King’s special.”
Now with a working visa and a lot of enthusiasm, Zhang plans to stay in Halifax. “For now, I don’t intend to go to grad school as I wish to pursue my career,” she says. King’s Liberal Arts Passport to Innovation program helped focus her attention on her talents for project management. “This means I take what I’ve learned about culture, philosophy, or history and apply it in areas as diverse as project management in business, healthcare and technology. It’s not just about having knowledge, it’s about how I can adapt and apply that knowledge in unexpected ways, sparking innovation.”
“When I went down to the Quad I would often see [the President] talking to King’s students and he would always remember my name … This close-knitted community is what makes King’s special.”