When Karen Jennifer Winstanley stepped foot into the St. Francis College campus in 2018, she wasn't only a first-time Terrier. She was a first-time resident of the United States.
Karen enrolled at St. Francis from Hong Kong, where she grew up and had been working in marketing for The Economist, a renowned weekly newspaper based in London. A sponsorship from a colleague there allowed her to complete her higher education in the U.S., an opportunity she pursued after much careful consideration.
Along her path to earning her St. Francis College degree in winter 2021, Karen says that there "was always that person who gave me a chance. Whether it was my sponsor – who became a mentor to me as well – from The Economist, the agents who gave me a break on my apartment in [Brooklyn], or the professors at St. Francis who helped me. I just never wanted to let them down." Karen's stand-out academic record is particularly impressive considering she took an unrelenting course load that allowed her no breaks from school work in two-and-one-half years.
Now that she's wrapped up her St. Francis College career, Karen plans to move out of the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn apartment that she's called home since 2018, and make her way back to Hong Kong. She'll embark on a job hunt there. Before she departs, Karen reflected on her time at the College.
What was your educational journey prior to arriving at St. Francis College?
I'm an international student. I was born and raised in Hong Kong and attended two different high schools, both were international. I was surrounded by students from different ethnic backgrounds, different walks of life, different religions. I graduated in 2012.
After [high school], I went to Australia and attended a university there for a semester. I had some family problems – my dad passed away – so I returned to Hong Kong. I started working in restaurants and then I got a job at The Economist, working for the marketing department for the Asia Pacific region.
I never thought I would go back to school until someone at The Economist offered to sponsor me to finish my studies [in the United States]. It took me a year to decide to go. At first I thought "I'm settled, I'm making money," but obviously I wasn't. I felt behind compared to all my colleagues who graduated [college]. So after talking to many people, including my mom, I decided to take the offer and go back to school.
How did you choose St. Francis College?
I really was not familiar with New York. I've never been to the United States before. My sponsor recommended SFC to me at the suggestion of John Sexton, who had been head of St. Francis College's Department of Religion before becoming president of NYU.
Because I'm a non-traditional student, I thought I'd start off at a smaller college and maybe transfer. But I got comfortable at St. Francis. I felt like I fit in and I liked that at a smaller school I could build relationships with my classmates and professors. So I stayed.
You completed your degree in just over two years. How did you do it so quickly?
I took all the intersessions, all the summer classes. I took six courses per semester. I maximized my routine.
How did you choose your major?
I was always interested in business, but I was working in marketing already, so I wasn't sure exactly what area business to study. I decided on management, and as I went along I got interested in entrepreneurship and IT, so I decided to make those my minor.
What professors had a big impact on your success?
Being in New York [for college], it's the first time I've been away from home for a long time. I was having a hard time. My professors were really helpful. They knew that I was a serious student, so they trusted me. They gave me some breaks at times where I had a hard time just dealing with things. I was able to manage my grades and stay on top.
Professor Vladimir Pashkevich [Assistant Professor of Management and Information Technology] was more than a professor, he was very caring. Professor Eda Sanchez-Persampieri [Assistant Professor of Management & Information Technology] has also been there for me even off office hours. She's inspired me to pursue my entrepreneurial goals! And of course [I'm grateful to] the international student department for all their assistance.
What's next for you?
I'm going to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my family there. Even though I'll be in quarantine first, it's just nice to be closer to them. Later I plan to return to Hong Kong and get a job. I definitely plan to take one month off first because it's been a very tough two and a half years.
What are your parting words for St. Francis College?
I'm just so grateful that the door is always open for me to for me to walk in, sit down and talk to my professors, whether it's something I need help with or just someone to talk to. That is something I really appreciate.
I'd also like to share the verse from Matthew 7:7: "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you!"