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Finding connection through virtual exchange — Corbett Scholar Linnea Burke

Glencoe Cove, British Columbia. Photo credit: Linnea Burke

April 1, 2022

This year has been a tumultuous one for everyone, and personally has been one of the hardest of my life. In the spring of 2021, I was accepted into the Corbett Program and planned to spend my entire next year of school at the University of Washington. I was excited to move to a different city and meet new people in Seattle, but the exchange ended up being postponed until January due to COVID. Then, at the end of August one of my closest friends passed away very suddenly. I moved back to Victoria from my hometown a week later, and despite being back to in-person classes, I had the most isolating and difficult semester of my degree. Not feeling ready to uproot myself again and move to Seattle, I had to make the difficult decision of dropping out of the program. I struggled a lot with this decision because passing up such an amazing opportunity felt like a failure on my part. As I thought about it more, I realized that choosing to put my mental health first was not a failure at all. In fact, it took a lot of strength to do.

The opportunity to participate in the Virtual Exchange ended up being the perfect fit for me and I’m so glad that it worked out this way. I have loved the two workshops that we’ve had so far, especially the second one with Natalie Baloy, focused on the Salish Sea. I grew up in Squamish, BC, but my dad’s side of the family lives in Lynnwood, WA, which means that I have spent my childhood visiting the Seattle area every couple of months. My parents also love to travel, which has allowed me to visit some of the San Juan Islands, and a lot of the Washington coast. The border closure brought on by the pandemic was the longest I have ever gone without visiting Washington—from December 2019 to December 2021. It was so strange to not be able to jump in the car and go visit my family, as well as some of my favourite areas in Washington like Lake Joy and the Edmonds waterfront. I have always found it interesting how my family to the South has so many differences with me and my mom and sister, even though they live only a four-hour drive away. Natalie’s presentation really got me thinking about the way that these differences have been created by the colonial imagination of what Canada is, compared to what the U.S. is. The idea that the land does not know whether it is in the U.S. or Canada is so interesting to me. 

Linnea Burke at Glencoe Cove. Photo credit: Linnea Burke

This photo is taken at a beach called Glencoe Cove, that is a 10-minute walk from my house. I like to go there at least once a week, either with friends or just by myself to clear my head. Looking out from the rocky point, you can see San Juan Island in the distance. Every time I am there, I look at San Juan Island and reflect on how close I live to another country, and to the other students in the exchange with me. For me, the Salish Sea is an extremely special region, and I’m grateful that this Virtual Exchange has allowed me to discuss that connection, and to build some more connections with other students in the region.

The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program Fund provides an opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Washington to spend two semesters at the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria; and for students from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria to spend three quarters at the University of Washington.