Relationship and interaction with peer groups
Good relationships and interactions among graduate students are important. They provide mutual help while studying, lessen the feeling of isolation and loneliness, and lead to the development of professional networks. The majority of South Asian women in the sample, because of their specialization in male dominated subjects such as physics, mathematics, architecture etc., were either the only woman or the only South Asian among a very limited number of women students in their program. Their peer groups consisted mostly of white men. Although they had good working relationships with everyone, the extent of friendships varied. The women who were single had more opportunity to develop friendships with peer groups than the married women. A few had better friendships with the students from similar cultural backgrounds and socialized more with them.

South Asian women were either the only woman or the only South Asian among a very limited number of women in their programs.

While married women without children maintained some relationship with their peer groups and occasionally socialized with them, those with young children had no time to develop real friendships with their peer groups. They attended classes and immediately returned home. As one mother mentioned, "there was no time to think about isolation." The situation was different for another student who was married and the mother of a teenage girl. When, after a decade in Canada, she became a doctoral student, she enjoyed meeting younger students. According to her, they accepted her with friendliness and openness and she remained friends with many of them. image

The women in the sample stressed that they never felt any discrimination from their peer groups because of their gender and race. However, one woman compared her friendships with Canadians not all that favourably to her friendships with other immigrants. As a single woman she often entertained in her apartment. She felt, however, that her immigrant peers were more sincere and helpful. Her Canadian friends never invited her to their homes, perhaps because of her different culture or because they were uncomfortable introducing her to their parents.

Affect of family life on student life
Married women students, especially those with children, often face hardships in finishing their graduate programs because of household, relationship and family responsibilities. South Asian women are no exception. They studied mostly at home and were kept extremely busy with their studies, childcare and housework. Fortunately, many of them had helpful families; their husbands were supportive of their higher education and shared the housework and childcare. The mothers of two women one who lived in Canada and one who came from South Asia tried to ease the burden as much as possible. But these women took longer to earn their degrees.

While doing her doctoral studies, one woman often went to the university at 4 a.m. to work in the laboratory. Two or three times a week she took her two children to the university daycare centre and met them at lunch, concerned that they not feel she was away from them. Another woman, who was a doctoral student when her first son was born, arranged to have her father baby-sit. When her second child was born, she left the baby with her parents and traveled by subway back and forth to attend classes and to breast-feed. Both of these women admitted that without their parents' support they could not have completed their Ph.D.

Not all the women were as fortunate. One respondent wanted to continue her Ph.D. program as a part-time student after her second child was born, but the university's rigid regulation regarding full-time Ph.D. study combined with the lack of help at home hampered her ambition. She quit the Ph.D. program and finished a Masters degree. Another woman hired a babysitter when her first child was born. But after the birth of her second child she gave up the idea of doing a Ph.D. although she had completed most of the required courses. She said her heart was no longer in her studies.

Back Contents Next