Emma Sprayberry laughed when asked what it was like to be a visitor on her own college campus.
“It’s interesting because I didn’t realize there was so much construction going on,” said Sprayberry, an Innovations in Honors student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “When I got back home, I almost felt like I didn’t need to unpack. I needed to start packing again.”
Sprayberry, who grew up in nearby Rossville, Georgia, was back at UTC for a few days to see friends and participate in some Welcome Week activities after spending 10 weeks at the University of Saskatchewan, participating in a project called “School Leadership Preparation for Immigrants and Refugees.”
She was awarded the research opportunity through the Fulbright Canada Mitacs Globalink program, an international education experience under the Fulbright umbrella for U.S. students interested in traveling to Canada to undertake advanced research projects in their area of interest.
Shortly before departing for the Canadian city of Saskatoon, she learned that she had landed a second competitive national scholarship when she was accepted into the Killam Fellowships Program.
Also a Fulbright initiative, the Killam program provides undergraduate students from universities in Canada and the United States the opportunity to spend one semester as an exchange student in the other country.
But it wasn’t until several weeks into the University of Saskatchewan experience that she learned where she would spend her fall semester.
As such, Sprayberry—pursuing a degree in humanities: international studies with an emphasis in Asian studies and on pace to receive an undergraduate degree in spring 2024—was passing through Chattanooga between the research internship and McGill University in Montreal.
“I didn’t get my acceptance letter for McGill until the end of June, so I found out that I was going back to Canada in the middle of my internship,” Sprayberry said. “I started signing up for classes right away. I’m going to be in the East Asian studies program, and I’ll be taking courses like gender and sexuality in modern China and women’s history in China.
“I’m looking forward to taking those classes because I’ve wanted to take more courses about China—since I’m Chinese—and I haven’t had the opportunity to before.”
Sprayberry said she was both excited and apprehensive about heading to Montreal.
“I’m nervous about the weather because it’s going to be colder and just learning and navigating a new campus that’s pretty big and in a metropolitan area,” she said.
McGill University, with an enrollment of approximately 40,000 students, is located just minutes from downtown Montreal, comparable to the short walk between UTC and downtown Chattanooga.
“And I don’t know any French,” Sprayberry continued. “I minored in Spanish, but I can definitely learn some French while I’m there.”
Sprayberry characterized her time at the University of Saskatchewan as essential in her academic pursuits. Working under the guidance of Janet Okoko, an associate professor in educational administration, Sprayberry said the research project helped her see how leaders and principals react to immigrants, the types of programs already in place at schools and programs that were in the process of being implemented.
“It helped me narrow down my focus for my departmental thesis that I’m going to have to do next year for the Honors College because I want to do something about the history of education in a certain country,” Sprayberry said.
This was her second consecutive summer participating in an out-of-the-country educational experience. She spent the summer of 2021 studying in South Korea thanks to the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and a Freeman-ASIA Scholarship.
“I want to work with immigrants, refugees and international groups of people, and these international experiences will help me become more empathetic and compassionate and understanding towards them,” Sprayberry said. “My long-term goal is to work at a nonprofit such as UNICEF, so each international experience will help me in the future.
“When I first started going to UTC, I didn’t realize that there were so many resources and study-abroad opportunities for people who might not be able to afford it. The Office of National Scholarships and (Program Director) Leslie Pusey have really helped me with all these opportunities.”