Tanaya Chatterjee loves The Duke of Duckworth pub, 120s, moose, salt fish, Jigg’s dinner and calls Newfoundland and Labrador home.
It doesn’t really matter to her that she was born in Calcutta, India, and has only lived in the province for three years while working on a doctor of psychology.
“We say thank you and hold the door, and are very different from other people as a whole.”
“I believe I’m a Newfoundlander now,” she said. “We say thank you and hold the door, and are very different from other people as a whole. My accent is not like a Newfoundlander, but I behave like one.
“People here are amazing,” added Ms. Chatterjee. “I’ve been asked, ‘Why Newfoundland?’ by everybody from Immigration to my friends back in India. I tell them acceptance is very high here and trust is contagious. I come from a place where you are on guard all of the time, but one day I left my phone on the bus here, and someone got off to return it to me. You learn from that and then you do the same thing.”
Still, she says the province has also helped her to appreciate where she came from and the struggles and hardships she’s endured. Being away from friends and family has made Ms. Chatterjee realize she is tougher than she thought.
That internal strength and the constant support she received from her clinical supervisors is important when she works in her areas of interest: trauma and personality disorder, and clients with complex mental health issues.
“Canada is a safe haven, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Ms. Chatterjee said. “You can walk on the road at 2:30 a.m. and no one will touch you. You will still reach home. When I came here I thought what kind of population can I work with? But my supervisors have been very supportive of my interests and during my placements have referred certain walk-in clinics to me.”
They also encouraged self-reflection; Ms. Chatterjee says she was often able to challenge her world views and belief system, which helped her grow as a person.
It’s now a very bittersweet time for Ms. Chatterjee. Having finished her course work at Memorial, she is currently completing her final six-week practicum in Labrador before a quick visit home and then going on to her last internship, a one-year residency at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in downtown Toronto.
“Yesterday was my last day in the lab and I was feeling a little sentimental,” she said. “But my supervisor, Dr. Michelle Ploughman from the Faculty of Medicine, said this would always be my home base. If I wanted to come home, all I had to do was take a flight here.”
First lonely days
She says Dr. Ploughman has always been beside her helping her cope with the culture shock and lonely days of her first winter and Christmas in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Michelle would touch base with me, ask me how I was doing and would invite me over to her house for Christmas dinner,” Ms. Chatterjee said. “I was never alone. She would take me to her cabin in Port Rexton, iceberg hunting and hiking in the East Coast Trail. She’s not only a great supervisor and mentor, but a friend. I trust her with everything and I really want to be like her someday.”
Dr. Jacqueline Carter-Major, Ms. Chatterjee’s director of clinical training, helped her with required documentation—she is the first international student in her department—and several others assisted with her internship paperwork. Ms. Chatterjee says that kind of support is not likely to be repeated in a large city like Toronto.
“When I am back to being in a bigger city, I will know the difference in human relationships. But I am happy I came here first. This is part of the route that I don’t want to forget. It’s been a journey, a beautiful one.”
“I love my culture, but I also love the freedom I get in Canada.”
Like many of the people who call Newfoundland and Labrador home but live elsewhere, Ms. Chatterjee knows she likely won’t get to settle down here.
“I knew when I left India I would not go back,” she said. “I love my culture, but I also love the freedom I get in Canada. I feel I am accepted more here. That’s important to me. So I will try to get permanent residency in Canada.
“I want to give back to the community. Maybe that won’t be in Newfoundland, maybe it will be Toronto, or wherever. Because I don’t have family here, geographical restrictions are not applicable. I will make my own family. But I will always call Newfoundland home.”