Learning clicks ambassador Nick

This University of Alberta engineering student explains how he chose his program and decided to study abroad in Germany.


Learning clicks ambassador Nick

I was born and raised in Edmonton, but I always wanted to be from someplace more exotic. Growing up, I spent more time reading at home than at the gym. I did get my reps in though by carrying my various band instruments to and from school (tubas are heavy).

As a kid, I figured I wanted to become a doctor because I looked up to my brother and that was his dream. As I matured, I realized I needed my own dreams to chase. In junior high and high school, I considered many post-secondary options, teaching, psychology, social work, biology, maybe even a certificate in audio production.

I settled on engineering at the University of Alberta, I like math and science and learning how technology works. But to be honest, it wasn’t like I had a burning passion for engineering, or that I even wanted to be an engineer for the rest of my life. In fact, I hadn’t really thought to through, it just seemed like it would lead to a decent career involving science and I was okay with that.

I sort of lucked out in that I eventually developed a passion for engineering through my amazing university experience. One experience was Engineering Without Borders which helped me become more outgoing and a little more adventurous. A couple summers ago, I studied abroad at a university in Germany and got to travel Europe. It was an incredible experience that I would have never imagined I could do.

Some experiences led my friends to transfer to other programs, people might say they wasted time and money, but I don’t really think so. Life experience isn’t wasted, if you do something for a year and then realize it’s not for you, there is still value. I think figuring out what you don’t like is just as important as figuring out what you do.

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.


How I chose engineering

I chose engineering because I was good at math and science, but I haven’t always been sure of my choice. You might find that you're in a similar position when you're trying to decide what to do after high school. It’s not like there’s some magic crystal ball to predict the best option for your future. You need to do some research and self-reflection to figure out your next step. You don’t need everything figured out, just what you will study first. This isn’t what you will do for the rest of your life. Many people change career paths throughout their lives, sometimes multiple times. Once you begin post-secondary, you do have the option to transfer schools or programs check Transfer Alberta for transferability.

I looked for opportunities that would give me engineering experience to get a better sense of what it would be like to work in this field and confirm my choice. I joined an aerial robotics group on campus to gain knowledge, skills, and experience a real-life engineering design team. I also joined my school’s Engineers Without Borders chapter to see how engineers can play a role in international development. I also participated in a work experience program to sample various environments and industries. Getting involved in engineering activities outside of the classroom boosted my experience because I got to try so many new things and meet so many people. There’s no better way to learn about a profession than to talk to people who do it. Throughout my degree, I went to several networking events to talk with engineers in different stages of their career to gather real accounts of what being an engineer is like.

I also messaged a few engineers at a company I was interested in working at through LinkedIn and organized some informational interviews with them. I know from personal experience that it can be daunting to contact a stranger to ask them about their job, but I found many were willing to help a student interested in their field, so don’t be afraid to ask. Kiyo has some great advice for informational interviews.

Each course or conversation can uncover positives that will boost your motivation or negatives that might change your path. Either way, you’ll be better informed.

Student life

I got to study work and travel in Germany

Some people take a year off after high school to travel before post-secondary, but I chose to study abroad, to travel and gain credits towards my engineering co-op program.

I ended up doing research at RWTH University in Aachen, Germany for a few months and then travelling around Europe. It was cool working in Germany and being able to experience a different culture. For instance, the first time I met with my boss he treated me to a lunch beer, even student dorms had bars, something we’d rarely see in Canada. Working in Germany also made me a little more adaptable in unfamiliar environments, a skill I mention in interviews.

I spent a lot of weekends in Germany visiting nearby countries with friends from the program. We have lifelong memories, but after school ended, I spent my last month in Europe travelling solo. It’s something everyone should try at least once in their life. Solo travel encourages you to take the initiative to meet new people and get over being shy and open myself to new experiences. Another perk of solo travel is having total control over what to do, what to eat, when and where to go which can have an impact on costs. You can save a lot if you prepare your own meals (I usually just bought bread, cheese, and fruit) or if you stay at hostels, do your research.

Some programs offer a stipend or scholarship once you’re accepted in the program. My program gave me €1500 as a lump sum (it felt more like a fat stack) of cash when I arrived, which helped pay for a good amount of living expenses while I was in Germany. Some of my friends received scholarships from our school’s study abroad office as well, so search and see if there’s free money.

The University of Alberta has an office dedicated to helping students through the entire process, from finding a study abroad program to applying and funding it. They have a great list of programs on their website from Europe to Asia, South America to Australia, and other countries. Chances are, there’s a program that fits your interests. Also see study abroad programs for Albertans. If you have a preferred country, do your research, and find what programs they offer but check with an academic advisor to ensure the credits will count.


Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:

Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:

Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.