Isabella’s UBC exchange

DesignLIFES offers many opportunities for its members to travel around the world to attend conferences and do exchanges with other universities’ labs. One such exchange was done by Isabella, who got to travel to Vancouver for 3 weeks to participate in the University of British Columbia’s Forestry Department labs, attend a teaching symposium for urban forestry, and participate in UBC’s urban forest school. Isabella is currently working on her PhD at Concordia, concentrating on urban forestry and the inequity in how it is distributed in different cities across Canada. Arriving in Vancouver was shocking for her because of the city’s differences compared to her home city of Montreal. Isabella found that having experienced another major city opened her eyes to the differences in culture and customs. She found that the traveling experience was really helpful to contextualize her analysis, which involved a lot of city comparison. She noted that living in Montreal for a long time made her think every city operated similarly to where she lives. Broadening her horizons on the exchange, she can now apply her experiences to improving the quality of her research.

Moreover, she got to connect with a lot of other graduate students and professors from across the country. Isabella started her PhD during COVID, and so being able to network and communicate in person has been a welcome change for her. Connecting with other PhD students in the same related field of research allows her to improve her own research and gain information in areas that she might not have expertise in. The knowledge she is learning from these other students is information being developed at the leading edge of the field in areas she might not have as much expertise in. For example, there were many social science-focused students, and Isabella was able to gain specific knowledge about their learning that she is now applying to her own research. She also acknowledges that there are a lot of added social benefits to being connected to a lot of other students who are at the same career stage as her. Isabella explains that being able to talk about shared experiences and connections has been a boost to her morale.

When it came to connecting with people, it was not just about other students but also other academics outside of her own university. She met with many collaborators and co-authors with whom she is going to be working with in the future. These connections have the power not only to drastically improve her research and science but also to open many new opportunities for herself in the future, both in the academic and professional spheres.

Isabella’s memorable travel experiences to the University of British Columbia can be seen as a real indicator of what possibilities being a member of DesignLIFES brings. Not only does it bring you into contact with many amazing principle investigators, but it also allows graduate students to reach far across the world and form relationships that would never have been possible without the help of DesignLIFES.