Published on 15 July 2022
They say blood is thicker than water – and that truly is the case for Canadian sisters and University of Sunderland graduates Kanika and Bhavika Girdhar.
In 2015 Bhavika arrived in Sunderland to start her Pharmacy degree. Three years later, she was joined by her little sister Kanika, who, at the age of just 17, travelled from their family home in London, Canada, crossing 5,646 miles of ocean to enroll on the programme too.
Kanika, who is now 21, said: “Obviously I went a little further than most for university and this was my first time living away from home, so naturally my parents were quite nervous to send me across the Atlantic Ocean to England!
“However, my sister played a big part in this as she was the reason I chose to study at Sunderland. She used to say how much it felt like a home away from home, and I think this helped ease my parents into the idea of me moving here as well.”
Bhavika graduated in 2019 but now it’s Kanika’s turn to shine – as she celebrated her graduation at the Stadium of Light this week (Thursday, 14 July) as part of the University’s biggest ever graduation celebration.
Around 2,500 returned for the ceremonies at the venue last week (July 4 – July 8), after missing out in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. This week, a further 2,500 students from the Class of 2022 are celebrating their graduations.
Kanika admits studying during the pandemic was challenging but worth it.
“It feels absolutely incredible to be graduating, and to finally see my hard work pay off,” she said.
“It can be a stressful course to study, but I have my sister to thank for giving me that little bit of insight in terms of knowing what to expect. She has been both my friend and my family and having her here meant I got to experience moving away from home while still having family around me as well. I also had an amazing group of friends, I’m so proud of us all.”
Kanika, who graduated with a First Class Honours, added: “I think my parents are incredibly proud and excited to be able to say that they have two daughters who are Pharmacy graduates, and they always joke about my sister and I making Sunderland our home now.
"I love that there are beaches on my doorstep!”
And Canada’s loss is certainly Sunderland’s gain – as both sisters have decided to stay and progress their careers in the city.
Kanika will begin her pre-registration training at South Tyneside and Sunderland Foundation Trust in August to become a qualified registered pharmacist.
While Bhavika, 28, who is working at Sunderland Royal Hospital as a clinical pharmacist, is continuing her studies at the University on the MSc Clinical Pharmacy course.
On seeing her little sister graduate, Bhavika said: “I am so incredibly proud and couldn’t be happier for her.
“Kanika moved to Sunderland when she was just 17-years-old, and I’ve seen her grow so much over the past four years.
“I personally knew how demanding the Pharmacy programme was, but I knew she would take it in stride and make us all proud of her. It came with good times and stressful times for both of us, but it has been amazing to watch her learn and work hard towards her goal. I always knew she had it in her.”
So, why would Kanika recommend studying Pharmacy at Sunderland?
“I honestly really enjoyed it,” she said.
“The Pharmacy course has run at Sunderland for over 100 years, and it feels incredible to have studied at a university that takes such pride in how they teach and support their students.
“I am proud to have studied here, and I think if you work hard and believe in yourself the course flies by, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment for all we have achieved. I can happily and proudly say it’s been a great four years for me.
“I feel incredibly prepared and ready for my next steps in this career path and am grateful for the support of lecturers and staff along the way.”