Enriching Experiences: Reflections from an Education Undergrad

June 09, 2023

Emmalee Rao, a dedicated and passionate individual, is graduating this week with a Bachelor of General Studies in Education and triple minors in Early Learning, Educational Psychology, and Social Justice in Education. In this Q&A, she shares insights into her undergraduate journey and her aspirations for the future. 

Q: What inspired you to pursue education and come to SFU?  

A: After completing the first two years of my bachelor's degree at Douglas College, I transferred to SFU's Faculty of Education to pursue my passion for education. The desire to study at SFU has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents dedicated their careers to teaching in high schools, and their influence, along with the positive experiences I had as a student, led me to choose a path in education. SFU's stellar reputation as a place of connection played a significant role in my decision to attend.

Q: How do you feel as you approach the milestone of graduating from your undergraduate program? What emotions and thoughts are running through your mind? 

A: I am thrilled to be finishing my undergraduate program! Looking back, I feel a sense of fulfillment. It's incredible how time has flown, and it's hard to believe that I am done! Graduating feels bittersweet because I will be returning to SFU this fall for the Professional Development Program (PDP) to become a teacher! Knowing that I will be coming back has eased some of the emotions associated with graduating. Overall, I am excited and proud of my accomplishments. It's amazing to see how years of work, courses, and dedication have led up to this moment!

Q: What are some of your most memorable experiences or highlights from your time at SFU? 

A: The most significant highlights revolve around the experiences and people I encountered. During my time at SFU, I actively engaged in various roles, such as being a Peer Mentor for the Faculty of Education, a Home for Virtual Interactive Engagement (HIVE) leader, a Wayfinding tour guide, and a notetaker. Each of these experiences holds a special place in my heart. Getting involved, forging connections, collaborating in groups, and becoming a student ambassador deeply connected to SFU brought me immense joy.

Another noteworthy highlight was the unexpected job opportunity I had as a Research Assistant for the Centre for Child Health and Education. This unique experience exceeded my expectations and greatly enriched my undergraduate journey.

These experiences played a pivotal role in my personal growth, reinforcing my sense of community, nurturing my leadership skills, and bringing me immense joy through assisting others.

Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced during your academic journey, and how did you overcome them? 

A: Balancing school and other aspects of my life was the biggest challenge during my undergraduate journey. In my first year of university, I focused intensely on academics, neglecting activities I enjoyed, time with friends, and weekend pursuits. Over time, I overcame this challenge by improving my time management skills and aligning my personal and academic priorities.

Q: Are there any specific mentors who have made a significant impact on your academic and personal growth during your time at SFU? How did they influence you? 

A: If I could thank two people endlessly, it would be my student advisor Sarah Lison and one of my teaching assistants, Mackenzie Graves. Sarah consistently went above and beyond to support me, as she does for all students. She helped me whenever I was stuck, had questions, or needed assistance with course planning. Sarah's enthusiasm and support as the Peer Mentor group coordinator gave me opportunities to try new things, like speaking as a student speaker on SFU's Counsellor Day. I am grateful for her guidance.

Mackenzie, as my teaching assistant, provided detailed feedback on my assignments. Later, he became my boss during my position as a Research Assistant, offering me numerous opportunities to work with students and data. He continues to support me by finding new studies to where I can contribute. I am thankful to both Sarah and Mackenzie for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout my journey.

Q: What are your plans and aspirations after graduation? 

A: My next step is to become a teacher! I cannot wait to get started in PDP at SFU in the fall and continue my journey within this university environment and community.