Master's graduate finds inspiration in learning and teaching

Victoria AgapovaWhen Victoria Agapova took her first undergraduate anatomy course she felt she had found her calling in life. While working with human cadavers might not be for everyone, she found the experience inspiring.

“When you work with the human body, it’s a very special experience. Someone donated their body to science,” said Agapova. “It’s very rewarding to learn from someone who wanted to make sure future generations of medical professionals can have a better education.”

Now, six years later, she is set to graduate from Western with a Master of Science degree in clinical anatomy, after completing her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto. The passion she first felt for anatomy has continued to grow and develop, and she hopes to one day share her knowledge with others as an anatomy teacher.

“It can be a very raw experience when you’re faced with mortality,” said Agapova, who wants to help others navigate their own experiences. “It’s not easy to process at first and that first experience for people can be quite shocking. Some people can feel unwell and it’s important that you emotionally prepare students to face mortality.”

It was that drive to hone her teaching skills, while also continuing research in neuroscience, that ultimately brought her to Western. Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Agapova came to Canada as an international student in 2014. Interested in finding an English-speaking university, she chose the University of Toronto and says, for her, the transition from Moscow to Toronto was fairly seamless.

“For me, moving to London to attend Western was the big change,” she laughed. “I found it more difficult at first to meet people and to get involved as a graduate student.”

Soon after arriving, though, Agapova happened to meet someone in the same workshop she was taking at Western’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. It’s a memory and a meeting she is grateful for today. 

“As we were leaving and I was heading home, I noticed we were going in the same direction. We kept going a bit further. Then, we were at my apartment building and she was still walking with me, and then we discovered we lived in the apartments right across from each other. Then, we realized we were in the same program and had the same office hours. We’ve been friends ever since. It was a life-changing meeting for me. There were only nine people in the program. What are the odds?”

Victoria Agapova and friendAgapova’s friend also suggested she join her and become involved in Western International’s Peer Guide program, which offered an opportunity for her to help other international students adjust to living in a new country and culture. Agapova encouraged them to focus on maintaining balance between life and work and ensuring they were looking after their academic selves and their mental health.

Being a mentor to students is something she hopes to continue in her future career. Although she’s not entirely certain yet what will come next for her, Agapova believes the skills and learning she’s acquired over the course of her education will serve her well.

“I want to gain some work experience in Canada this year and take a bit of a break from school to think about where my skills would be best suited. I’m proud of my accomplishments so far and I’ve grown a lot. I want to leverage that as I move forward.”

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