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UKIC / Ukic Operations / International Student Leadership Team Graduates to Continue Education at Columbia University

International Student Leadership Team Graduates to Continue Education at Columbia University

Thursday, May 4, 2023 | By Daniel Flener

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2023) – Commencement can sometimes be a bittersweet time for graduates. A time to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of graduating from the University of Kentucky, it can also be filled with “goodbyes” or “see you laters” to friends and mentors.

For two former International Student Leadership Team members, though, commencement will be the start of a journey together. Graduates from the College of Design, Tracey Sun and Nashia Olise, will both be attending graduate school at Columbia University this fall, continuing their studies in architecture.

Sun and Olise met each other through UK’s International Student Leadership Team. ISLT works to develop and promote events and programs for international and domestic students. With a variety of cultural, academic and social events, ISLT provides an environment to build a sense of belonging at UK.

While serving on ISLT and as their educations progressed at UK, both knew they wanted to continue their studies in graduate school. For Sun and Olise, it proved a relief to have a friend to go through the often-stressful process of graduate school applications.

“It was incredibly helpful to have someone to go through the process with,” said Sun. “It’s often frustrating and stressful, but having a friend in the exact same situation as me definitely made it easier.”

While applying, it became clear to both Sun and Olise that they each had the same first-choice school, Columbia University.

“It was really a no-brainer to pursue Columbia,” said Olise. “It’s a fantastic program in an exciting location. For my next step in my life and career, that’s what I wanted, and Columbia lined up with those goals. It was just really exciting to have someone else with me right there who had those same goals.”

Of course, one of the most stressful parts of applying to graduate school is the waiting. For Olise and Sun, that became a bit easier with someone to commiserate with. Finally, they received the exciting news.

“It felt like it took forever, just frantically checking email all the time, and finally, one day I got my acceptance,” said Sun. “It actually came to my junk mail! I just called Nashia and was like ‘check your email.’”

“I was so excited,” said Olise. “The fact that we both got in, we just didn’t think that was possible going into this.”

As Sun and Olise prepare for the next chapter together, they are thankful for the connection made at UK and for the various academic and leadership opportunities that allowed them to achieve their dreams.

“UK provided so many opportunities to take on leadership roles and get involved,” said Sun. “I really felt like joining ISLT not only allowed me to make friends like Nashia, but it allowed me to come out of my shell a bit and be more confident in myself.”

“When I got to UK, I was a bit shy,” said Olise. “But getting involved on campus helped me discover who I am, what I’m passionate about, and helped me find my people.”

With graduate school at a prestigious institution and life in one of the biggest cities in the world looming, both Sun and Olise are grateful to have a friend to tackle new challenges with.

“I’m excited to have someone to experience this new opportunity with,” said Sun. “It’s going to be challenging but having someone who knows exactly what I’m going through will be really helpful.”