Peer Tutor Spotlight – Giselle Mirfallah

Giselle Mirfallah
Photo source: Giselle Mirfallah

Hello, my name is Giselle and I am majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience and minoring in Biochemistry at UBC. I have peer tutored BIOL 111 twice now, and hopefully I can also do it next term.

I was born in the capital city of Iran and shortly after I moved to one of the most beautiful cities in Iran, Rasht, the city of rain. After 18 wonderful years with my family, I got a scholarship from UBC and so I moved to another city of rain, but this time across the globe.

What do you most enjoy about being a peer tutor?

Answering emails and piazza posts at midnight. We are all students and we all have procrastinated and have put things off till the last minute, and right before the 11:59 due date, we have realized that we don’t understand something or we were wrong all along or, worst of all, we were prepared to submit at 11:58, thinking we made it, and a monster called “technical difficulties” appears. At this time we might freak out and email the profs, the TAs and maybe the peer tutor, wishing someone would help. I have had amazing opportunities to help some students right before and after a deadline and even though I only talk to them through email or piazza at that time, I can feel how they calm down email after email and that is truly the highlight of my whole peer tutoring experience.

What has been an interesting outcome of your peer tutoring experience?

I would say the best outcome has been to gain some confidence in myself! I am an incredibly nervous and self-doubting person, but being able to help other students and hear them say “oh yeah, I get it now” means the world to me. In addition, now when I imagine myself in 10 years, so many aspects of my life are still unclear, but teaching is definitely part of it.

How has your unique background influenced your peer tutoring experience?

When I first came to university and had to suddenly start studying in my third language, I tried many unbelievably ineffective ways of studying that I wished someone had warned me about sooner. I became a peer tutor to try and help other students get prepared and be more successful, especially while studying in a second language. Of course, these methods differ with different levels of language, but the baseline is still the same. I would be more than happy to try and help anyone who is reading this right now and think they are struggling.

What is something you are currently doing at UBC that you are excited about?

Aside from my peer tutoring job, I am writing two articles for my classes that I am really excited about. One of my research topics is “the relationship between brain trauma and addiction”, and the second one is “does smoking cannabis increase your creativity?” Spoiler alert, it does not.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Is that still a thing? As a third-year university student at UBC, with a major, minor, and peer tutoring job, I barely find any time to really get away from work. Something I am sure many of you can relate to. So unfortunately, whenever I have a minute to rest I usually watch brainless TV shows, but if I actually would have some time to relax, I can get lost for hours writing movie scripts and pitch them to my father who is a retired director. I have rehearsed my reaction while getting an Oscar for the best script many times, so I am just waiting for the call now!

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?

My best friend and I wrote a soap opera in high school with more than 1000 episodes (honestly I have lost count). Our stories cover more than 5 generations and to this day it still continues. Even though we are miles apart we still sometimes randomly start a conversation with, “did you know this character did this while…” or “remember when we said this, well forget that and now listen to this…”. Hearing these words for both of us means that at least for the next half an hour we can forget about whatever problems we have and go into a world of super-rich people with teen drama love stories. So yeah, not only are there more than 1000 episodes, but there are also different versions.

What are your plans following graduation?

Depends on who you ask. If you ask my parents and my aunts they would probably say “whatever she wants,” but deep down there would be “med school” echoing in their minds. My plan, for now, is to try my best and go to grad school and get a Ph.D. in pharmacology. However, if you would have asked this from me a month ago I would have given a different answer, and a month before that a different answer again. I believe that is what undergrad is for, trying out different scenarios until we finally find the one that we believe will make us the happiest.

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