Nov. 2, 2021

Class of 2021: 5 questions with Isabel Fandino

The Master of Art in Sociology graduate student shares why she often had a toothbrush with her, and the research that most influenced her experience as an international student
Isabel Fandino
Isabel Fandino

This is part of series of articles where we asked the fall cohort of the class of 2021 to reflect on their time at the university and share what they learned and loved about their time here. For more student responses, visit Congratulations, Class of 2021.

Isabel Fandino has spent a better part of the last decade at the University of Calgary as an undergraduate and a graduate student in sociology.  

Her thesis, “Lost in Translation: The (Unseen) Experiences of International Graduate Students and Families,” is based on 41 in-depth interviews with international graduate students and their spouses at UCalgary. It details how their experiences are framed by gender, race, legal status and family composition, and it argues that Canadian universities should revise their policies to make them fairer and just places for these students.  

Her thesis has led to multiple presentations, including leading a workshop on the experiences of international students in North America for the Sociologists for Women in Society — one of the most prominent international feminist academic professional organizations in the world.  

Fandino, BA’18, graduated with a Master of Arts in sociology in fall 2021 and took a few minutes to answer our questions about her time at the university. 

What advice would you give yourself on your first day of university?  

Check your university email right now and use an online calendar.  

Is there a project, discovery or moment from your time at the university that you are most proud of?  

The interviews I conducted with the participants of my research allowed for deep introspection and made me look at my decade-long experience as an international student differently, with immense pride.   

Tell us about one person who supported you through your studies and powered you along the way.   

It comes across a little cliche to say my supervisor, Dr. (Pallavi) Banerjee, since it was part of her role to motivate me. Throughout the program, she was the one person I knew would have my back. She got to know me — my fears and insecurities, my qualities and strengths — in ways that very few have. I joined the program with the perspective that it was a necessary step for my career, but today I recognize it was less about my career and more about me as an individual and the international student community. 

What was the most unexpected or surprising thing you learned in your studies at the University of Calgary?  

I did not expect to live on-campus for so many years (seven) and develop such a strong connection to the campus. I watched a couple of buildings that were important to me be torn down and replaced, and I was genuinely sad! I feel like each part of this campus holds a piece of my story.  

What is your favourite physical space on campus? When you come back to visit in years to come, where will you make sure to stop by? 

I spent many nights on the first floor of the Taylor Family Digital Library, keeping a toothbrush in my bag for years due to my overnight stays at the library. I took out books, interlibrary loans and owed a ridiculous amount of late fees to the front desk. It's a place I will definitely go back to! 


Congratulations, Class of 2021

Read more Q-and-As from fall 2021 graduates.