Learning clicks ambassador Ashlyn

This Grant MacEwan University psychology student found her purpose when she studied in Ecuador for 6 months.


Learning clicks ambassador Ashlyn

I was born in St. Albert and I’ve been dancing since I was 2. I play several instruments and I’m a total nature nerd. I love travel and hiking.

Before high school I didn’t really have to study to get good grades, but in grade 10 my marks tanked. I grew to despise school and chose to focus on dance instead. I had absolutely no desire to attend post-secondary, but my mom (who never got the chance) pushed me to go. So, after taking a year off after high school, I decided to try to be a criminal profiler since I loved crime investigation shows. I applied to MacEwan’s Bachelor of Arts program, where I planned to major in sociology and take a bunch of criminology courses. I the campus and smaller class sizes, but I ended up hating the whole experience, so I mentally checked out. My grades plummeted and I was miserable. I shouldn’t have based my career path on a TV show. Figuring out what you’re going to do after high school is one of the first big decisions you get to make as a young adult, so use that opportunity to really think about what you want.

Next, I had an opportunity to attend a dance training program at Harbour Dance Centre in Vancouver. I was off to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional dancer, but an ankle injury changed that. I had to make a hard choice between dancing for a few years and potentially losing the ability to walk or moving back home to get my surgery and heal. I chose to heal. Saying goodbye to my dance dream left me in a dark place for a while, but school changed my attitude.

I believe that we all have the power to decide how we feel about what life’s challenges. Instead of sulking about my losses I started thinking about my possibilities, it changed my entire outlook on life. My surgery recovery allowed me time to pivot. If it weren’t for these derailments, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. I’ve broadened my interests and I’ve gotten to know myself as a person. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but you can make peace with the situation and see what’s next.

On the first day of my third year Spanish class, I met a girl who was planning to study abroad in Ecuador. Immediately after class I applied to the exchange program. That 6 months changed my life – I viewed education through a different cultural lens, I toured the Amazon, I was cleansed by a Shaman, and set my sights on becoming a Naturopathic Doctor. Entering the last semester of my degree I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. However, the uncertainty wasn’t stressful, instead it was kind of exciting. I’m not sure of the end of my career path, but I know the kind of lifestyle I want to lead and the types of people I want to be around. My journey has given me the confidence to find the right career for me – even if I need to create one. We all make choices, and we all change our minds. Cheers to the unknown!

Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.


Advice on how to pay for school

I have 3 big recommendations:

  1. Scholarships grants and bursaries – apply for as many as you can. Ask your parents if their union, workplace, or volunteer organizations offer any. Check out Jade’s scholarship list.
  2. Use government student loans, check out Alberta Student Aid. Figuring out how much your post-secondary will cost (ALIS) is a great way to set your budget.
  3. If your parents or guardians are prepared to help you, don’t be stubborn and accept their help. A smaller student loan means less to pay back. See if your parents have a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for you and if it can be used at your school.

My summer job scholarship

I had a summer student position cutting grass at my dad’s work. I was able to apply for a scholarship through his company and I ended up getting a $2,500 scholarship, I just had to submit a letter of recommendation, write a 400-word essay about myself and fill out the application form. Getting the scholarship was super easy and opened my eyes to how much free money is out there for students.

Benefits of a government student loan

My mom helped me discover the benefits of a government student loan:

  • Not accumulating interest while attending school (so you don’t end up with debt that keeps growing and growing as you study).
  • A grace period after completing your studies – Alberta student aid repayment begins 12 months after you graduate.
  • Student aid flags any low-income grants and bursaries you maybe eligible for (these do not have to be repaid).

My parents agreed to pay off my student loan once I completed my degree, but since I applied to student aid, I was eligible to receive low-income grants each year along with other grants and bursaries. I saved some costs and over the years I decided I wanted to be financially independent from my parents. I took full responsibility for paying back my loans. Do the research and find every little bit of free money!


Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:

Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:

Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.