Learning about Themselves, Life, and the World: Two McKendree Students' Fulbright Experience

Learning doesn’t always happen in the classroom. At McKendree, it’s not unusual to find students gaining knowledge and skills under the sun-dappled trees in the front lawn, within exciting internships off campus, or even alongside enthusiastic professors in the field (oftentimes literally). For two of our students this summer, growing, conducting important research, and testing their hypotheses took place not on the grounds of Illinois’s first college, but in bustling and beautiful Ontario, Canada. This opportunity presented itself to these students thanks to the Fulbright-Mitacs Globalink Student Program, which enables about 60 students from the United States to attend a Canadian university in which they will undertake advanced research projects for 10 to 12 weeks in their area of interest under the supervision of a professor. Now, Peyton Osgood and Breanna Sampo, two of our seniors in the undergraduate psychology program, return this semester ready to further their education and brimming with hope for their senior year.

Peyton Osgood: Upping Her Research Game While Soaking in Toronto’s Beauty

Peyton Osgood

Peyton’s internship took her to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto in which she worked as an intern in a fast-paced lab surrounded by other psychology interns and research assistants for 12 weeks. She conducted a cross-cultural study of loot boxes in video games, exploring the possible relationship between the boxes and problem gambling in non-Western countries. While at the university, Peyton was allowed to spend her time however and wherever she wanted, provided she finished her work, and she was able to access most of the student spaces in the university, along with the endless opportunities Toronto had to offer.

“One of my favorite places was this free conservatory that was just a five-minute walk from my apartment, and, of course, the aquarium that was along the lakefront,” Peyton recalled.

Peyton set and met – even exceeded – the many goals she laid out for herself this summer, including learning how to carry out a research project from start to finish (check), improve her leadership and teamwork skills (check, check), exploring Toronto to try new things (naturellement), and gaining independence and confidence (smashed). Best of all, she experienced something countless researchers and students yearn for – getting significant results on her study that she hypothesized, which, for her, may help bridge the gap in the literature on loot boxes and their cross-cultural impact and implications.

Outside of the lab, Peyton experienced living in a big city for the first time, which came with plenty of amazing events: time well spent at the aquarium, exhilarating festivals, the Toronto Pride Parade, and so much more. “I was privileged enough to travel to Niagara Falls, and I can happily report that it was the most beautiful place I have ever seen,” she said. “Toronto is a vibrant city with a lot of different people and cultures, so much so that I was met with a surprising amount of challenges in communication. I had to learn how to slow down and be patient and clear in my speech in order to be understood; as a result of these challenges, I learned so much from a lot of different people.”

Now that she’s returned to McKendree for her senior year, the Crest Hill, Ill., native is hoping to apply what she’s learned about the research experience to her senior thesis class, as well as her research practicum that she will be completing with Dr. Guy Boysen, professor of psychology. “I am hoping to carry with me these lessons and experiences and allow them to drive and guide me through my senior year,” Peyton said. Following graduation, Peyton plans to take a gap year to move to a new state and gain some work experience, after which she will pursue a master’s degree in educational psychology and eventually become a school counselor or school psychologist.

Breanna Sampo: Passionate Researcher with the Heart of an Adventurer

Breanna Sampo
Breanna’s journey took her to Waterloo, Ontario – just shy of two hours from where Peyton was conducting her research for the summer. For 10 weeks, the Cedar Point, Ill., native stayed at Wilfrid Laurier University, her days filled with research assistant tasks such as qualitative data collection, literature review, data analysis through coding, and wiring of a manuscript. During her internship, Breanna was able to accomplish her goal of getting a paper - School Leadership and Inclusive Education in Canada – ready for submission.

“I actually over-exceeded my expectations for myself and have become the lead author for this journal article,” Breanna said. “My research experience at Wilfrid Laurier University was incredible. The team I worked with had great collaboration and sense of community while producing high-quality results and real-world contributions both in Canadian contexts and beyond.”

Outside of the university, Breanna’s world expanded even further as she met other international interns, navigated new relationships with people of diverse cultures, and even made some new lifelong friends from several countries as she traveled and adventured with them in southern Ontario. “We camped, did lots of hiking around the Canadian wilderness, traveled to Boussole Island in the Georgian Bay, did some yoga on the beach of the lake at sunrise, and cooked food over the fire underneath countless stars,” she said.

With feet firmly planted in Bearcat soil once more, Breanna aims to continue exploring her passion in research and successfully completing projects with Dr. Michael Hahn, assistant professor of psychology, in an independent study during her senior year. She also hopes to present and possibly publish her senior thesis in Dr. Boysen’s class and host several interactive and educational events as president of the Psychology Club on campus. “I am very excited to begin formulating my own research proposals and seeing them all the way through to presentation!” she remarked.

Following graduation next spring, Breanna hopes to find more research opportunities for a year abroad. She’s also looking into future graduate programs; her life goal is to earn a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in positive psychology.

Make the Most of Your Education, Bearcats – Broaden Your Horizons and Explore the World

Breanna and PeytonPeyton and Breanna return to McKendree with a deeper zest for life and an unshakeable determination to succeed in their goals. “The MITACS-Fulbright Scholar program was an incredibly enriching experience, and I cannot recommend the program enough to students at McKendree,” Peyton said. “The opportunity to go to another country and complete a research internship on a scholarship was so incredible. With so many research options that are offered, there is almost certainly something that any student in almost any major would be interested in.”

“Because of this scholarship, my worldview was opened, which allowed me to recognize that there are endless opportunities for my future career path that can allow me to give back and better the communities around me,” Breanna said. “Explore the world. Talk with Dr. Patterson to see how you can find a program fit for you, or look into our international study abroad program.”