Student created her own truly international education
Back in high school, Kelly Whiting (Artsci’13) knew she wanted to go to a university that offered abundant international opportunities. She set her sights on Queen’s, and over the course of five years at the university, she took part in five study-abroad programs and travelled to dozens of countries, all of which Ms. Whiting funded herself, or through bursaries, scholarships and loans.
“My goal was to make my education as international as possible,” says Ms. Whiting, who finishes this year with a degree in history and world language studies. “We live in a globalized world and travelling and living in other places are the best ways to engage with other people, learn about their cultures and in turn, find your own place in the world.”
Ms. Whiting started her Queen’s career at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in the United Kingdom. She returned home for second year and began planning her next journey, this time to Japan, a place she’d been fascinated with since she was a small child, watching Sailor Moon. Her interest spiralled as she learned more about the language and culture.
Her plans changed, however, when Japan was hit by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. “It was devastating, and challenging for me to figure out what to do next academically while contemplating the effects of the disaster,” she says.
Thanks to staff in the International Programs Office, Ms. Whiting found a new direction. She held off on Japan and chose an international summer school program in Hong Kong, where she learned Mandarin. She also took an opportunity in her fourth year to spend two weeks in Cuba through a Global Development Studies program, and she spent five weeks in Quebec to learn French, through the government-funded Explore program. And, finally, in her fifth year of studies, she got her trip to Japan, through the Cross-Cultural College program that links Queen’s students with Kwansei Gakuin University and its students.
“It was incredible to see a country that has such a distinct national identity, so different than Canada’s multi-cultural identity,” says Ms. Whiting. “It’s a fascinating country, one that focuses so much on the communal, rather than the individual.”
Throughout her time at Queen’s, Ms. Whiting held down several jobs and sought out every possible bursary or scholarship to make her travel dreams a reality. She’s graduating with only $600 in debt.
“I am a first-generation student and my parents were unable to contribute financially,” she says. “My experience shows that no matter your circumstances, through hard work and the generosity of alumni, you can achieve your educational goals and dreams at Queen’s.”
Next year, Ms. Whiting will come full-circle and move back to the UK to be with her boyfriend, whom she met while he was studying at Queen’s. She plans to take a year off to work and travel before pursuing graduate studies, possibly in business, and later, in midwifery.