Explore real student stories of experiential learning at UCalgary

Katie Qin and her supervisor Nancy Janovicek look over documents in the Glenbow Western Research Centre.

Katie Qin, right, and her supervisor, Nancy Janovicek, look over documents in the Glenbow Western Research Centre.

Elyse Bouvier

Katie Qin

3rd-year history (BA)

Katie Qin approached Dr. Nancy Janovicek in the Department of History about summer research opportunities and was awarded funds from the Program for Undergraduate Research Experiences (PURE) to explore the historical foodways of Forest Lawn as part of the Calgary Atlas Project out of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities.

Doing the project has "made me fall in love with Calgary as an area of intellectual research and an area of stories. There’s been a lot of research, especially on immigrants and minorities, done in the bigger cities in Toronto and Vancouver but not as many about Calgary,” she says.

Read Katie's story >>

Food Culture in Spain

In this study abroad program, students travel to Spain for two experiential learning courses that immerse them in Spanish culture and foodways.

Jordan Christopher-Shah

5th-year engineering (BEng)

Jordan Christopher-Shah delayed convocation to participate in the study abroad program and says he doesn't regret that choice. "It made me open up a lot more to just diving into things that are totally new and unknown to me. And helps give me the tools to actually take value out of those situations and learn from them as opposed to just being an observer, actually engaging with these new concepts and cultures and people. Just being able to handle new things and really embrace learning from new experiences was an essential part of the trip and something I will carry forward into pretty much every aspect of my life."

Darby Link

1st-year education (BEd) and international Indigenous studies (BA)

For Darby Link, it was intimidating to apply in her first year of her studies but she encourages anyone to take the leap and do it. "It was really the hands-on experience that reminded me that it's so important for an educator to involve students, especially from my perspective as someone who does want to teach people. It was really valuable to be reminded that those hands-on, in-person experiences can change the way we learn and have a deeper meaning."

A selfie with a group of students on a beach in Spain.

Jordan Christopher-Shah (left) and Darby Link (centre) participated in Food Culture in Spain, a semester abroad program that took place summer 2024.

Submitted by Darby Link

Mini story

Bonnie Piercy

5th-year archaeology (BSc) and visual studies (BFA)

UCalgary undergraduate student Bonnie Piercey’s interests are an unusual combination of her programs of study in archaeology (BSc) and visual studies (BFA). On a 2019 study trip to Pompeii, she fell in love with the site which led her to take a class with UCalgary professor Dr Lisa Hughes. “She had built a virtual 3D model of the House of the Golden Cupids – a fascinating ancient Pompeiian house which has an elevated theatrical stage at one end of its garden, and an intriguing sculptural collection.” Bonnie and Lisa collaborated in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) in the summer of 2022 to digitally recreate the decorations of the house including sculptures and paintings – a formidable task! As Bonnie struggled with translating texts to fill in missing information, something Lisa said to her resonated:

“Those gaps and walls that a researcher encounters, are not stopping places — they’re starting places. They are questions that no one has asked yet, so maybe I can be the one to ask them.”

An undergraduate student sits cross legged outside holding a book on her head and a large book in front of her.

Bonnie Piercy participated in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experiences in 2022.

Bonnie Piercy

Nick Basilio, a young racialized athlete, kneels on an indoor track. He is wearing a t-shirt and shorts and smiling.

Nick Basilio created an autoethnography on his experiences as a queer, racialized runner.

Elyse Bouvier

Nick Basilio

1st-year Kinesiology

For Nick, doing an undergraduate research summer studentship was just as much about healing as the academic skills he gained. “It’s not easy," he says. "There were times when I felt my story wasn’t valid. I had imposter syndrome most of the summer but as long as you remember what your purpose was for the research and why you’re doing it in the first place, that’s what shows your research.”

Read Nick's story >>

Urban Studies 451

In this unique urban studies class, students get the opportunity to bring their learning to a real situation and present their final projects to members of the city council at Calgary City Hall.

Fourth-year urban studies student Annica Best says, “It was honestly refreshing. This is one of my first classes where I could actually experience something practical and see an almost real-world situation of getting a group together, having a master plan done, being a planning manager, and then presenting it to council."

Read the story >>

Two students present an urban studies project at Calgary city hall.

Urban studies students Annica Best and Mhairi McGuigan present at Calgary city hall.

Elyse Bouvier

Two student working in the Book Arts lab making paper and printing paper.

Kailyn Tourney, left, and Anisha Baproda, right, work in the Book Arts Lab in the department of English.

Elyse Bouvier

Book Arts Lab

In the Book Arts Lab, learning and research come to life with traditional printing technology. Under the supervision of English professor Maria Zytaruk, PhD, students learn to print and make paper, connecting it to their studies. In 2023, two students participated in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experiences at the Book Arts Lab.

Anisha Baproda

4th-year biological sciences (BSc) and English (BA)

Anisha Baproda says the freedom to follow curiosities has been a huge benefit of doing PURE. "You can read a book as many times are you want but you're not physically reliving it. Seeing and feeling the process of bookmaking was really alluring to me about this research."

Kailyn Tourney

2nd-year English (BA)

Kailyn Tourney focussed her research on how to make paper from kitchen compost scraps. Of her experience, she says, "I didn't even know that this was a possibility, that you could do research and do something that you were genuinely interested in. I guess it's kind of validating to know that we can do this kind of important research as well and it doesn't just have to be an essay — it can be fun!"

More stories coming soon!