It’s safe to say that the transition to online education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led many members of the Dalhousie on a learning curve. For Medical Sciences student Laith AlHadeed, this shift is another part of why his time at Dalhousie has been so unique.
Laith will be entering his third and final year of the Medical Sciences program in the Faculty of Science this fall. Originally from Jordan, the international student knew that he wanted to study abroad in Canada. Friends from home had travelled to Nova Scotia, some also beginning their studies at Dal, inspiring Laith to make the move to Halifax. Coming from a country with a warm climate, Laith was also drawn to the milder, more seasonal climate of Canada’s East Coast.
Joining the Dal community
Each year, Dalhousie welcomes thousands of students from around the world. Starting university in a new country can be both an exciting and challenging experience. For Laith, getting involved on campus was essential in making the transition a smooth one.
“As an international student from the Middle East I had to adapt to a new lifestyle and I had to meet new friends,” says Laith. “That was a challenge, but everyone’s friendly and it was a fun experience getting to know a lot of people.” The soon-to-be third year student in the Faculty of Science’ Medical Sciences Program says he met a lot of his closest friends during Orientation week and at events targeted to his program.
Having previously completed a pharmacology class online, Laith already had some experience with online learning. He says the class was memorable, and that there was plenty of interaction between the professor and students. “In-person teaching sticks with me more, however, the resources that were offered for virtual learning were diverse, and there was a lot to go back and reference,” Laith says.
In March 2020, Dalhousie’s in-person classes had to quickly make the shift to online learning as students left campus last semester. “Dalhousie made strong efforts with virtual learning,” says Laith. His professors were able to answer questions through Zoom and offered online resources such as YouTube videos to help students continue to get the most out of their courses during what have been uncertain times.
The Fall semester will mark the beginning of Laith’s final year of his program. Having taken advanced placement (AP) courses in high school, he was able to transfer credits over and complete an accelerated degree in Medical Sciences. During his time at Dal, Laith has been involved both on campus and in his community as well.
Laith is currently volunteering with the Canadian Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society. This is his second summer volunteering with the organization, but this year things have looked a little different. “Since the pandemic, [the MS Society] has shifted their focus to virtual volunteering,” he says. “Many organizations are doing this, and they need a lot of help. These are great platforms for students to get engaged in.”
Laith has also worked as a teaching assistant (TA) in Chemistry. As a TA, he has led experiments for first years, sterilized equipment, invigilated exams and more. This collection of academics and extracurriculars is what has shaped his Dal experience into something entirely his own.
Looking to the future
With the airports in Jordan closed, Laith will be completing the Fall semester from home, hoping to return to Halifax for his final semester in the New Year. In the meantime, he’s looking to continue to share his love for science with others by creating educational YouTube videos that will help students with the concepts covered in their classes.
“Teaching is a passion for me. I wanted to support a lot of first years throughout their journey. That’s why I applied to be a TA,” says Laith, who in the long-term is aiming to become a medical practitioner and educator.
“I feel like that also translates into my degree. At the end of the day, as you pursue medical sciences you also have to be a teacher. Starting young and helping other students is a good way to take those skills and apply them.”
Reflecting on his experiences so far at Dalhousie, Laith passed on some advice he would offer to incoming students. “Make yourself uncomfortable. Always challenge yourself to put yourself out there. That’s how you meet friends, engage and learn,” he says. “You have to keep an open mind. I feel like that’s one of the necessary principles for first years to abide by. That’s how you learn.”
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