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JJC International Student: Victoria Barclay

​For many international students, life can be rough when they first arrive in the U.S. They have to adjust to a new culture, lifestyle, and even a new education system. However, these circumstances did not deter international student Victoria Barclay from attending JJC. In fact, Victoria flourished at JJC, even becoming one of the chemistry program's top students.

Victoria began her journey at JJC in 2014 as an international student from Canada with a GED. She was self-taught leading up to her classes at JJC. Although she initially planned to enter the vet tech program, she soon gained an interest in chemistry after taking a general chemistry class.

"I had never looked at a periodic table, let alone planned to major in chemistry," she said. "But now I want to base my whole career around it. I am so grateful that my professor, Dr. Govoni, shared with me his excitement for chemistry and provided the inspiration for my chosen major."

During her time at JJC, Victoria says that one of the reasons she gained so much confidence was a great relationship with her mentor, Professor Sheryl Smithson.

"She was incredible right from the get-go, she said. "Whether it was a personal or an educational problem. I can go to her," she said. "I can't tell you how amazing that was. Just to be given that one person that you can go to when you don't know anyone. That really made me realize that the benefits of a mentoring relationship."

In addition to being a student, Victoria also worked part time as a tutor in the Tutoring and Learning center on campus. She also received numerous scholarships that helped her along the way financially.

Today, Victoria is transferring her 67 credits and a 4.0 GPA from JJC to a chemical engineering program at Olivet Nazarene University, receiving the highest academic scholarship of $23,000 a year.

See a video of Victoria

Q&A with Victoria Barclay

Q: What made you choose Joliet Junior College as an international student?

A: I choose JJC because I found out that they had a brand-new campus, it was the United States' first community college, and that they had an international program, which hit all my check marks.

Q: What class experience took you by surprise, and why?

A: Math was the class I learned the most in. To be perfectly honest, I had a very vague idea of what algebra was coming into pre-calculus. However, Professor Tuskey was incredible. He is just the boss of math professors! He has a gift for sharing information with students. He doesn't spoon feed it to you. He makes you work for it and I think working for it makes you really learn it. In fact, I am using those skills every day to the course that I am in now. There is just no way I could have done physics, chemistry, or any of it without the skills that Professor Tuskey taught me.

Q: What makes JJC special?

A: The people here. They were just really down to earth and accepting. They wanted to get behind the nontraditional student, which is a little nerve-wracking coming in as an older, returning student with a GED. You are constantly wondering, "Can I do this? Am I capable of this?" However, the people here want you to succeed. It is incredible. It's life changing, really.

Q: What advice do you have for incoming students?

A: My advice would be to ask a lot of questions because the people here are willing to answer them. Use the tutoring services. Whether you're getting straight, A's or whether you're getting straight D's, use the tutoring services. It's not going to ever hurt you. Use all the resources that they have for you here. Because these resources are a gift. You're not always going to be given these types of tools that you can use throughout your life, so take advantage of everything you have here. Apply for scholarships. Attend class. It's worth it and it will pay off.


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