McGill PhD student named CBIE International Student of the Year

Editor’s Note: In October, Karron James not only successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis in microbiology and immunology in the James Coulton lab, she also was named Liz Paterson International Student of the Year by the Canadian Bureau for International Education. Candidates for the award had to offer their insights into the study-in-Canada experience by submitting a one-page letter written to family or friends about what it’s like to study here. Here’s her entry:

Dear Sherry,

It’s been a while since I left Antigua to pursue my studies at McGill but I promised that I would keep in touch.

At first, I was nervous about moving to ‘the big city’ but I have been having an amazing time thus far. This opportunity to study at one of Canada’s world-renowned universities was a bit overwhelming in the beginning. Many of the professors are at the top of their field and their research is best described as ‘cutting-edge.’ However, many of these professors are also good teachers who are willing to provide the resources, human and otherwise, to help you get up to speed with the field. This has really helped me to become more at ease and adept at my work.

As if that wasn’t enough, I have been given opportunities to attend scientific conferences where I’ve networked with students and professors from other universities in Canada and around the world. My department also routinely invites scientists from other parts of the world who are eager to share and discuss their research. A few of these scholars have expressed excitement at being able to do so in such a peaceful and welcoming environment. I feel very fortunate that this country in which I chose to pursue my education is so revered by others for the quality of research conducted here as well as for its sense of community.

Being from a small island, it has been amazing to meet so many different people from so many, many different countries, cultures and ethnicities who have also chosen Canada to pursue graduate studies. I am experiencing real multiculturalism here. I have developed relationships with people from other parts of the Caribbean, South America, North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. We’ve shared our food, our music and our thoughts on everything from history, to politics, to religion, to pop culture. Our experiences and points of view often vary but we have a deep appreciation for each other nonetheless. We also support each other in our research whenever possible. Whether this happens at our workbenches, in the hallways of the Lyman Duff building, or at the University pub on Friday evening.

It’s endearing how the Canadians whom I’ve met are so eager to hear about my culture as well as share theirs with me. A professor in my department invited us graduate students and staff members to his club to teach us how to curl. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the sport, but it has nothing to do with hair! If you ever come across it on TV, trust me, its way more fun than it looks. I’ve also tried snowshoeing and ice skating and even managed not to fall too many times. Amazingly, I’ve also become a fan of hockey! Canadians go absolutely wild for this sport and their enthusiasm is too infectious to ignore.

Overall, my experience here has so far been a very positive one. I won an award for an oral presentation at a scientific conference this past summer. That was great to realize that merit is awarded based on quality of work and that being an international student doesn’t disqualify you. You should really think about doing your studies here in the future. In the meantime, there’s a lot to do before I can join you back home again. I’ll keep you up to date on life here.