Fanshawe welcomes Bahamian student on exchange
Credit: MELISSA NOVACASKA
Dion Mackey (centre) is adjusting to life in Canada and Fanshawe while he is on exchange from the Bahamas for the next two semesters. Gerrard Russell (left) and Caitlin Smith (right) are here to help give Mackey a smooth transition.
Mackey, an information technology major from the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) came to Fanshawe through the Canada-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Leadership Scholarships Program, which is in conjunction with an Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP) scholarship. The latter is directed towards Latin American students.
These scholarship programs are funded by Global Affairs Canada, according to Caitlin Smith, international projects and exchange co-ordinator at Fanshawe International Centre.
Though the college cannot send out students to the Bahamas as of yet, the signed exchange agreement allows the college to bring in students to London, Ont.
“It’s always such a positive experience to add different perspectives and different knowledge base and different personalities into our classrooms,” Smith said. “Domestic students kind of get shaken up a little bit and have an opportunity to learn from them about what it’s like to study Information Technology (IT) in the Bahamas and the differences and so it’s great in that sense.”
Mackey, was “extremely interested” in the exchange program when he first heard of it through his friend, former BTVI student and former exchange student to Fanshawe, Gerrard Russell.
Russell recently returned to Fanshawe to continue his studies.
Mackey said he made sure to keep his grades up, so when the opportunity to actually apply for the program came about, he could do it.
“I was like, ‘Canada is a really cool place. If I can get involved in something like that, that would be awesome,’” Mackey said. “Once I did get the opportunity, I pursued it like crazy, I was trying to come from last year, actually with one of my friends, so I was glad I came this year.”
Mackey said what drew him to Fanshawe was that through his online research, he was able to see how the college treats international students, along with recreational offers. Overall, he saw the campus as something that was “pretty good” to him.
During his time at Fanshawe, Mackey is studying under the computer systems technician (CTN2) program and wants to broaden his IT knowledge.
“It’s actually pretty good. I feel like by the time I go back, I’ll know a lot more so it’ll be easier to graduate when I’m over there so I can come back over here,” Mackey said.
According to Mackey, BTVI is quite a small campus, so to come to Fanshawe through the exchange program is important.
“It’s always good to get a different view, from just staying on the island that I’m from, it’s always good to venture out into the world and see how things are, so it’s really good to be able to get a different view of the world and meet new people too,” Mackey said.
In terms of the transition and making friends, Mackey said it’s been a little rough at first, but getting easier having Russell and his roommate around to talk to.
Mackey said Smith also helped make the transition smooth since she was able to answer all his questions and concerns.
This is the first time Mackey has been to Canada, and although the weather is quite a change for him and it hurts his face at times, Mackey said he does like the cooler weather and snow. “I like Canada, I think Canada is really cool. I want to snowboard, I want to try out all kinds of different activities,” he said.
Mackey is looking forward to his time in London and hopes to explore it more when he has some downtime.
“I’m trying to get into the culture and see how people live over here,” Mackey said. “You should never be comfortable just staying in one place, you should always try to broaden your view of the world.”
In terms of advice for future students in the exchange program, Mackey said they should focus on keeping their grades up and making sure to take opportunities as they come.
“Once you try, there are always opportunities available, so you should always try to do your best so you can be available when things like this come,” Mackey said.
Former CARICOM exchange student and friend of Mackey, Russell is back at Fanshawe for the next three years as an international student, also studying in a sector of the computer systems technician (CTY1) program.
Russell spoke of his time with the exchange program and Fanshawe with love and positivity.
“It was phenomenal. It was a culture shock for me, it was everything I ever wanted [and] a little bit more, because I never expected to leave the Bahamas, I actually never expected to return to school either, so everything was just amazing,” Russell said.
What drew Russell to come back was a multitude of things, including his love for Canada, the college, the atmosphere and technology.
Russell agrees with Mackey in that students back home need to take opportunities as they come.
“The exposure is necessary for broadening your perspectives of the world. Nassau is a very small place with limited views. Forget everything you know, because we come over here with the perceptions from back at home and it doesn’t work.” Russell said. “To grow our little island, because it’s between third world and first world, a lot of people need to leave, get the exposure and then come back. So I think it’s necessary that they do leave.”