Convocation Spotlight: Cristian Neves

Masters in community engagement graduand shares his experiences during his master's degree.

29 May 2024

With two master’s degrees already under his belt from his home country of Chile — one in health psychology and one in clinical psychology — Cristian Neves was drawn to the University of Alberta School of Public Health master’s in community engagement because of his curiosity about how to meaningfully involve communities in bringing about social change. And his academic journey is not yet over; he plans to apply for a PhD program in counselling or psychology while also pursuing certification through the College of Alberta Psychologists so he can practise psychology in the province.

Here, Neves tells us more about his experiences during his master’s degree.

What are you most proud of from your time in the program? 

As a non-English speaker, I'm most proud of being able to participate in deep theoretical conversations in English and convey complex ideas in writing. It was a significant accomplishment for me during the program. Additionally, engaging with the New Canadians Health Centre was rewarding as it introduced me to the field of refugee health, which was initially unfamiliar territory but became a meaningful part of my journey.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Overcoming the language barrier to fully engage in academic discussions and express myself effectively was a significant hurdle. Additionally, managing financial limitations as a student added another layer of complexity to my academic journey, especially considering that foreign students pay three times the locals’ tuition fee.

How did you stay motivated and who helped you keep going when things got tough?

Throughout challenging times, my wife Lidia was a tremendous source of support, offering encouragement and assistance in various ways. Additionally, having a long-term plan helped me stay motivated and focused, guiding me through difficulties and keeping me on the right track towards my goals.

What advice would you give to a student thinking of entering this program?

I would advise a student considering this program to start working on their thesis project early on. From my experience, the program may take longer to complete than what is publicized, so planning ahead is crucial. Additionally, I recommend taking a pragmatic approach to the thesis work, recognizing the significance of this project in a master's program and the need for thoroughness and practicality in your approach.