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Posted by Faculty of Graduate Studies on May 31, 2021 in News

Name: Karla Valenzuela 
Country: Chile 
Degree & Program: PhD in Microbiology and Immunology 
Faculty: Medicine 

Karla selected Dalhousie to pursue her master’s because of the unique opportunity it provides to combine the study of microbiology and immunology. She stayed to pursue her PhD because of her love of Halifax, the lifestyle it offers and its proximity to nature. 


What do you study?  

I did my master’s here at Dal and I’m in my 5th year of a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Dal, too. 

Why Canada? 

I always wanted to do grad school abroad in an English-speaking country. I had various options, but I ended up choosing Canada because of the hospitality and good attitude towards immigration. I was very pleased to find that all the good things I read about living in Canada were true. This is a wonderful country in so many aspects!   

Why did you choose Dalhousie University?  

I had three universities in mind (UBC, UAlberta and Dalhousie), mostly because I wanted to get a degree that included both microbiology and immunology in one program. Not many universities in Canada offer these two disciplines together. I contacted professors at these universities and the first one to reply was from Dalhousie. I am so glad I ended up coming to Dalhousie. I never heard about Halifax before but it’s such a beautiful city and it reminds me so much of my home country because it’s right by the ocean.  

Did you receive any scholarships to help fund your studies?  

Yes, I had a scholarship from the government of Chile that covered both tuition and stipends for two years during my master’s and then four years for my PhD.  The money I received was enough to pay rent, eat and buy clothes without the need to work. This scholarship is called “Becas Chile” and is given to around 1,000 students every year to pursue grad school overseas. Sadly, applications had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 challenges. I hope the program resumes next year. 

What are your favourite things about Dalhousie?  

I love the collegial atmosphere here at Dal, people are so nice and friendly here. I like that Dal takes care of their students and makes sure that we have enough resources to make the most out of our studies. There are plenty of opportunities to grow academically and also personally. For example, you can access free training to prepare you for professional life and for how to apply to jobs. Dal also offers English as a second language programs that are very helpful for international students.  

What is it like to be an international student in Halifax?

Halifax is a wonderful place to live. It isn’t a huge city, but it has pretty much everything (food, retail, places to visit, etc.) a bigger city offers and most importantly, Halifax is very safe. People here are so nice and polite that it makes me homesick anytime I go elsewhere, and I don’t get treated as respectfully and nicely as here. As an international student it can sometimes be tough to communicate in a second language, but Haligonians are very patient and try their best to communicate with you. Also, Halifax has three other universities, so the city is full of students most of the time so you can make many friends.   

What do you enjoy about your life on and off campus?  

Dalhousie’s campuses are immersed in the city so you can go to school and have lunch at one of the many restaurants downtown and then go back to school all within walking distance. The city is very walkable, I feel everything (supermarket, restaurants, school, etc.) is close by. Also, Halifax has many beautiful parks and trails to explore by foot or bicycle. There are also plenty of beaches to visit! One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to ride my bike to Lawrencetown Beach and have a picnic there. I also enjoy going for a walk to Point Pleasant Park which is at about a 15-minute walk from where I live. Winters in Halifax are very mild compared to other Canadian cities, so you can enjoy a walk outside pretty much year-round.  

Any advice for future candidates that would like to come to Canada to do their graduate studies? 

I think the best advice I can give future students is to embrace Canada, their people and their culture. Living in Canada has taught me so much about compassion, acceptance and respect that I feel I have grown not only academically but also emotionally. Also, that missing family is normal, and you learn to live with that feeling. In fact, I feel I got closer to friends and family while living overseas because you tend to keep in contact with them more often. Lastly, Canadian educational standards are high so be prepared to get a great academic experience and make the most out of it.   

Find Karla on Twitter: @KarlaVV_TM