Before August, Heidis Alonso had never been to Canada. Alonso, a second year biology student from Miami-Dade College in Miami, Fla., is a Fulbright Canada Killam Fellow studying at Acadia University for the Fall Semester.
The Killam Fellowship Program allows undergraduate students from Canada and the United States to participate in a bi-national exchange for either a semester or full year. “We get a lot of emails about opportunities we can pursue,” says Alonso. “When I saw this one I thought, I don’t know anything about Canada. From the start I really wanted to do it, I wanted to come to Canada to learn more about the culture and the people.”
When applying for the Killam Fellowship, students are required to pick their top three choices of eligible schools. “Acadia was one of my choices and then I had two universities in bigger cities, but I connected with Acadia the most. I thought I would be able to acquire the most unique experience here,” says Alonso, and so far she hasn’t been disappointed. “Adjusting was difficult at first, but it’s been a good change,” says Alonso. “Meeting people here isn’t a problem. Everyone is very friendly, it’s great. It makes me feel more at home. From the first day I got here I felt so comfortable.”
Acadia’s culture is proving to be vastly different than Alonso is used to at Miami-Dade. “Miami-Dade is a college with mostly two year programs,” she says. “There are no residences there, you go to school, do your clubs and organizations and then you go home.” Living on campus 24/7 is quite a change for Alonso. “The biggest difference for me is living on campus. It’s a totally different environment than back home. There are lots of things to do on campus.”
Alonso hopes to join the Acadia Dance Collective, attend as many sporting events as she can, and become involved with Acadia’s Global Brigades, a program she would like to start up when she is back in Miami. “Every student has to do an honours project that gives back to the community, I want a medical brigade to be mine.” says Alonso. Working with Acadia’s Global Brigades while she is here, Alonso plans to help as much as she can, taking everything she learns with her when she establishes her own Brigade back at Miami-Dade.
Alonso is taking courses in biology while at Acadia, trying to match the courses she’d be taking if she were back at Miami Dade. “I want to be a neonatal doctor, or a pediatrician,” says Alonso. In December, Alonso will go back to Miami-Dade for two semesters before heading off to university to finish her bachelor’s degree.
While she’s only on campus for four months, Alonso has an ambitious plan. “I’m looking forward to everything, succeeding in my courses, travelling, and learning about the culture,” she says. “I feel like I’ve already learned so much. Not only am I learning about Canadian culture, but I’m learning about so many other cultures from other international students.”
One thing Alonso wishes is that there was more time. “One semester isn’t enough,” she says.