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2017 Issue 4: How we learn

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The exchange experience: Sophie Fusigboye

The exchange experience: Sophie Fusigboye

[photo of Sophie Fusigboye in Shanghai]
Supplied photo

Sophie Fusigboye in Shanghai

Sophie Fusigboye, Artsci'18, spent a semester of third year studying at Fudan University in Shanghai. She is now in the final stretch of fourth year and considering her options for grad school. She is pretty sure she wants to do a master's degree in public health before going on to get her MD. Her time in Shanghai helped to solidify her career goals.

These days, while juggling courses in biology and global development studies, she spends an hour and a half every week at the International Programs Office in Mac-Corry. Ms. Fusigboye is a peer adviser with the international exchange program. She and 15 other students who have gone on exchange all hold office hours to meet with other students curious about the realities of studying abroad for a semester. Want to know how to meet people in Shanghai? Nervous about how you'll navigate Glasgow on public transit? Worried that you'll feel out of the loop once you've returned from exchange? Students can sign up to meet peer advisers like Ms. Fusigboye who have been there, done that.

"We can discuss anything – completing the application process, preparing academically, finances, housing, cultural adjustment and integration, and health and wellness," she says. Among her top tips for new exchange students is to immerse oneself in the culture of one's host country, from its history to the food. For her, that meant trips with classmates to historic sites, including the Great Wall of China and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial HalL The latter site proved to be an especially emotional experience, spurring Ms. Fusigboye to delve deeper into her understanding of geopolitical history and cementing her desire to pursue a career in the field of global health.

The peer adviser program

The International Programs Office [Office of the Associate Vice-Principal (International)] at Queen's has operated a peer adviser program for the last four years. While the IPO staff are well versed in helping students prepare for the many academic exchanges and independent study abroad opportunities available through Queen's, they also saw the need for more informal peer connections among students who had returned from exchange· and students preparing for their first trip. The peer adviser program serves both groups.

As Haley McCormick, IPO Exchange Coordinator, explains, "Sometimes students returning from exchange are not quite ready to let go of the experience when they come back." They have memories to process, and their semester away quite often shapes their future studies. They also have valuable information to impart to other students and can speak honestly about everything from homesickness to the cost of a restaurant meal in their exchange cities.

Ms. McCormick says the program allows students the opportunity to reflect critically on their own experiences and develop soft skills such as public speaking, cultural competencies, and active listening. And those soft skills, in addition to the program's formal training and the international exchange experience itself, are great for any new grad's resume.

 

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 4-2017]