By Christine Elie, November 2012
Floxy Akhuetie moved from Nigeria to Kingston to pursue her Master’s in Environmental Studies. Reflecting on this move, she says: “It was a big adjustment. The environment and the style of communication are different from back home.” Of this challenging experience, she claims that the key to navigating the difficult periods comes from finding an equilibrium between the academic and the extracurricular: “I try to strike a balance because it’s different from where I’m coming from.”
Floxy came to Queen’s after completing her undergraduate degree in Nigeria. While many of her friends decided to go to the United Kingdom, she knew she wanted to go overseas. “I checked out a few Canadian schools and decided to apply to Queen’s because of the environmental studies program.”
She wanted to find a program that was related to Microbiology, but would allow her to study the environment: “I have a passion,” she affirms, “I love being in environmental studies. The program just matched with what I wanted.”
Her current work with her supervisor Stephen Brown focuses on conducting bacteria tests in water intended for the public market. Floxy finds that this work is a perfect balance for her academically: “I’m using what I knew from microbiology in environmental studies.”
Her move to Kingston proved to be more challenging than she had anticipated. Back at home in Nigeria, “it’s more like a community, here it’s more about individuals. It was a big cultural shock for me. In a few months I adjusted though.”
Floxy credits her supervisor, Stephen Brown, and Christy Dunkinson (Senior Microbiologist at Endetec) with providing her the strength and guidance to successfully adjust to her new surroundings: “my supervisor helped a great deal and Christy from Endetec…They really helped with my transition into Queen’s and into the program.” While at times Floxy struggled with the adjustment, with the help of her friends and the Queen’s community she says “Right now, I’m doing very well and I’m grateful to them for their help.”
In addition to a drastic change in culture and communication, last year Floxy had been anticipating her first Canadian winter. Wearily, she admits that she never thought she would adjust to the weather. “The winter last year was mild,” she says, “and I was like ‘oh? This is it?’”
Like many international students, Floxy knows how important the Queen’s University International Center (QUIC) can be to new students. She is currently a volunteer host for QUIC. QUIC put Floxy in contact with her pastor, who would go on to become her host when she first arrived.
Now, she fills the role of host to arriving students: “the experience I had with them was so important, I knew that when students come from another country it is very difficult at times. So I volunteer because I know what it’s like to adjust.” In addition to her work at QUIC, Floxy is also a volunteer Queen’s career ambassador.
Reflecting on her move to Kingston and time at Queen’s, Floxy says that “my studies at Queen’s has given me the opportunity to build and broaden my knowledge and skills about the environment as well as academics.” As a Master’s student, she has had the opportunity to participate in a variety of events and conferences dealing specifically with her field, including the Royal Society of Canada conference on the Alberta oil sands.
As Floxy approaches the end of her Master’s, she plans to get some work experience under her belt before she pursues her Ph.D. Her intention of taking some time off to gain some work experience coincides well with her desire to continue working at Queen’s with Stephen Brown: “the school of environmental studies is setting up their Ph.D. program. So by the time I get my MES done and get to work a little, I can come back to do my Ph.D.”