Who are your fellow students? It can feel like you are all alone in your studies, but across the nation, around the globe, students like you are also pursuing their AU education, and The Voice Magazine wants to bring their stories to you. If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!
The Voice Magazine recently had the chance to chat with Xine Xu from Edmonton, Alberta, located on Treaty 6 territory and a traditional meeting ground and home for many Indigenous Peoples, including the Cree, Saulteaux, Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, and Nakota Sioux Peoples.
Xine is currently in her last year of the Pharmacy program at the University of Alberta, and has been writing for The Voice Magazine and taking courses through AU for several years. In addition to her schooling, she is currently attempting to complete some practicums, “which are essentially 40-hour work weeks.” In the future, she hopes to work in a pharmacy, but mentioned, “The learning never really stops for me. I’m one of those workaholics!”
Although several 400-level psychology courses look appealing, she is very interested in one particular course for next semester, namely PSYC 435: Abnormal Psychology. She stated, “AU has been really great for letting me explore avenues of interest.” She added, “I’ve always had this passion for psychology and sociology,” leading her to take many of these types of courses at AU. “It’s been excellent – the way that courses are organized, with how flexible it is … I like the science side, but I’m also so curious about learning from these different disciplines. Athabasca [University] has given me that option.”
Xine was born in and spent several years in Shanghai, China, where she fell in love “with the food and culture,” before moving to Edmonton in 2001. She loves the area, stating, “I’m a big fan of hiking,” and of “the interesting cuisines here of the immigrant communities. That’s always something I’ve been interested in and reflected in my writing.” (Be sure to check out Xine’s regular column, “The Not-So Starving Student” and other thoughtful articles in The Voice Magazine!)
When she is not studying or writing, she mentioned, “I used to do a lot of photography. I haven’t had the chance to get out lately, but whenever I’m in the mountains in Banff or when I’m on a road trip, I always have my camera with me.” She continued, “I also really enjoy listening to podcasts as well.” One of her favourites is “How I Built This,” which describes “how people shape their passion projects to a way of life.” She also loves cooking, and recently purchased an air fryer, stating, “It’s been incredible, everything tastes amazing …Just trying different things in the kitchen keeps you feeling energetic and alive.”
Xine’s father has had the greatest influence on her desire to learn. She stated, “He grew up in a rural community. There was really not much opportunity, initially, for him to learn,” yet he found ways to obtain books “and consumed them.” She continued, “I’m also of that mindset where it doesn’t matter what profession, job, or career you have your sights set on, especially in this type of work environment post-COVID era. There’s going to be a lot of pivots that people go through career wise, life wise. It’s just about being prepared for different things that you might not see yourself doing initially but could definitely make a big impact on your life later on.” She does not see herself “being in healthcare forever, or even being in pharmacy forever.” She added, “That’s what’s so excellent about AU and being able to learn things on the fly.”
So far, her experience with online learning has been good overall. It “has its own challenges. People think that it’s more convenient. You can definitely sit in the comfort of your bedroom and complete some assignments there. Or be in a Zoom call and be in a very comfortable place, as opposed to commuting to the actual campuses. But at the same time, it takes a lot of grit to stay on top of your coursework and feel really supported … There’s so many things competing for your attention. Learning can be put on a backburner if you’re not really passionate about what you want to learn.” Her advice? “Not procrastinating and really staying on top of things rather than leaving the studying for last minute.”
She found her course tutors to be “pretty responsive, [often] within 48 hours,” although she has not taken any courses during the pandemic, so cannot say if this has changed. “Previously, it was excellent; I haven’t had any issues. If I wanted, they even offered and provided me with their phone number so I could call them at any time.”
Her most memorable course so far has been HADM379: Introduction to Epidemiology. She stated, “I actually took the textbook out during COVID[-19] because I was thinking about how contact tracing works, how the whole health system functions during a crisis state. That course just gave you a lot of insights into …healthcare.”
If she were the new president of AU, Xine would “continue to give people choices because you have students from all types of backgrounds.” She stated, “During COVID, I’ve noticed this huge shift in post-secondary education. There’s a lot of challenges ahead …As more and more universities are becoming an online platform, how does AU distinguish itself from any of the international universities? …Now you’re not confined to taking courses from your local university. The strength of AU has always been offering a …diversity of courses. It has so many options, and the speed that you can complete certain certificates and degrees is incredible. It’s all at your own pace, which I love.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, Xine chose SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk. She stated, “I finished reading his book not too long ago. What a powerhouse of work, innovation, [and] always about thinking outside of the box. … I think that he has these wild ideas, what they call ‘moonshot ideas;’ I soak up that kind of inspiration!” The lunch would be “a rundown of what the meal is like in a spaceship … something kind of funky that I’ve never tried before.” She continued, “I’ve seen these space food museums that have all these dehumidified foods. It probably wouldn’t taste very good, but it’s a new experience!”
She is currently reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which she called “very inspiring,” and mentioned that she is looking forward to reading Barak Obama’s new book as well, and is watching “Stephen King adaptations” and thrillers on Netflix, including The Mist.
Her most valuable lesson in life came in the form of a quote. As mentioned by Steve Jobs to a graduating university class in the United States, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking backward.” She stated, “I think that’s a good way to sum up my experiences with AU. A lot of the courses I take, sometimes at the time don’t make any sense, like Epidemiology. I was just interested in how Ebola was handled, but now I see the relevance of learning about this information and how it applies to the current situation. You never know where that knowledge, where that information will lead you, but you just have to believe that if it’s something you’re interested in, in the current time … I would just say go ahead and take that class. If it looks interesting to you, don’t …[ask] ‘How is this going to be applicable to my future?’ Don’t ask those questions because you never know.”
Xine’s proudest moment took place last year during her study abroad program. She stated, “I don’t know if it’s my proudest moment, but I’m glad that I took the step to be part of this study abroad trip …at one of the universities in Shanghai. I was there for a month. The amount of people that you meet, the networks that you make, the amazing cultural experience … I don’t think that I will have another experience like that again.” She is proud to have taken “that risk even though at time it may have made more sense to work full time.” She stated, “But I did it anyway, and it worked out because this year I can’t go anywhere.” Her favourite food in Shanghai was Xiaolongbao, a “famous Shanghainese street food … little soup dumplings.” She explained, “How you eat it is you poke a little hole with your chopsticks, and you’ll see some of the soup come out. Then with your spoon, you drink some of the broth while you’re eating the little buns. It’s a lot of fun! There’s a process but it’s a lot of fun!”
When asked what distinguishes her from other people, she stated, “I’m very curious. I like to learn how things work … I’ll be a student for as long as I live … I watch all these different documentaries about … anything and everything you can think of … I’m just fascinated with how things work.” Best of luck Xine!