In The Media

Profound Learning Opportunities come from People and Experiences

By Cassandra Elphinstone • Schulich Leader at University of British Columbia
Spring 2013
Cassandra Elphinstone

In this first year at university I have learned more than I ever imagined I would. Although my classes have been densely packed with knowledge, I have found the most profound learning opportunities have come from the variety of people and unique experiences I have been surrounded by.

In January I was fortunate as a first year student to be chosen for a three month trip this coming summer in Costa Rica with UBC’s Go Global International Service Learning (ISL) program. I will be working to investigate and record both the native and invasive flora and fauna of a natural area known for its sea turtle hatchery. The goal is to draft a document that will help convince the government to preserve this area as a nature reserve. In preparation for this trip I have begun to study Spanish and do some thorough research on the country as a whole, both for the program and my own interest.

Through the ISL program I also had the opportunity to volunteer in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. The purpose of the opportunity was to learn how it felt to be immersed in a different way of life, if only for a short time. As a volunteer with a mobile farmers market in the area I went from door to door in BC housing developments telling people about this source of local cheap fruits and vegetables. I found the experience shocking and inspiring. Compared to the small range (e.g. Age, interests, lifestyle etc.) of people one encounters at university, the variety of people I spoke to in this housing development was striking. The experience made me eager to see more of the diversity in the world and at the same time made me long to eliminate the boundaries that lie between the rich and poor.

This term I also had the wonderful opportunity to go snow caving with UBC’s VOC and climb Mount Seymour. I practised my backcountry skiing skills and refreshed my memory on how to build a snow cave. I also succeeded in running to Stanley Park and back from UBC (29km); the furthest run I have ever completed!

The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation I was involved with last year in writing up a policy platform sent to the Rio +20 Summit, has gathered together again with the goal to set up a permanent Arctic Youth Council and establish a more stable Alumni Delegation. Currently we are in the initial stages of both processes but I am excited to see where they will go.

This term in Science One also continues to keep me extraordinarily busy. On top of my regular courses, I did a research paper on the Macronuclear DNA regulation of the two ciliates, Paramecium tetraurelia and Tetrahymena thermophila. The numerical model had some surprising aspects such that if selection rules always chose the larger macronucleus of the daughter cells, the system acted like a damped harmonic oscillator. This has the potential of helping determine the time scales associated with the DNA regulation.

The Science One and ISL programs combined with my other experiences have taught me a great deal in the past term, not only about academics but also about perseverance, my values, credibility, and the scientific world. University has forced me to more deeply understand my desire to learn.