Before I knew what university was, my parents planned that I would go, that was reason enough for me to not want to attend. When I rebelled in junior high, I told my parents I was moving to the mountains to become a ski bum after high school. My plan was to work at a hotel or on the hill and spend my free time snowboarding. Snowboarding isn’t my passion, but it was an option that that didn’t involve more school and my parents weren’t happy about that (bonus).
When I was in high school, my parents ignored the ski bum plan and encouraged me to study engineering or accounting in university because I was good at math and physics. I was attracted to the salary of both professions, but I wasn’t sure it was a perfect fit. I had little interest in attending university right out of high school.
I never ended up in the mountains, but I found another adventure. I’m not certain how, but I got it in my head that I'd travel to Australia and New Zealand after high school. I found a travel companion who hung out with the same group of people I did. Neither of us wanted to pursue post-secondary education, we didn’t have a life plan, or our careers picked out. Our friends and every adult around us seemed like they had everything sorted out and always had. If you’re struggling to decide what to do after high school, maybe take a break or a gap year to figure out what‘s next, not what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.
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.
Pursuing your passion
You’ve probably heard “pursue your passion”, or “if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life”, but that is easier said than done. This obsession with turning one’s passion into a career can be a source of stress and real inner struggle for some people. Finding your passion can be difficult. Can the passion become a career or what if you can’t narrow your passions to just one? Trying things can help and is one approach your career development. You can also try finding a career that matches your interests and strengths that may eventually feed your passion.
Multi-talented people or people with many passions might be referred to as a “jack of all trades”, “Renaissance (wo)men”, or multipotentialites. If you have multiple interests, you shouldn’t feel the need to deny some of them to pursue just one. Multipotentialites pursue many interests at the same time or spend focused time on one interest before moving to the next. They usually have a long list of things they want to do next. If the idea of having to give up some of your interests to pursue and master just one thing is devastating to you, then there’s a good chance you’re a multipotentialite. I believe I am one and I would be lying to myself if I tried to settle on just one thing.
The following TED talks can help you explore your future:
- Why some don’t have one true calling
- Talks to help you find your purpose
- How we make choices
- Talks on how to love work again
- How to Make Hard Choices (Ruth Chang)
The perks of being an exchange student
In the last year of my degree, I did a semester abroad at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Being an exchange student meant I could move away for a few months to study somewhere completely different. Studying abroad has all sorts of perks:
- meeting new people
- learning from new professors
- gaining an international perspective
- traveling and exploring when you’re not in class, all while earning credits
Something to keep in mind about studying abroad is that it’s usually way more affordable than completing an entire degree in another country. If you want to go abroad for a semester, there are many opportunities that allow you to pay Alberta student fees rather than international student tuition, which can be pricey.
My semester abroad was by far one of my most favorite semesters, I took a couple of Sociology courses, a Women’s Studies course and an old-school analog photography course. In the 7 months I was there I was able to travel to Los Angeles (twice), San Francisco (for the Treasure Island Music Festival), Chicago, Las Vegas (where I ran my first half marathon), and the Grand Canyon. I even got to spend 2 weeks in Puerto Escondido, Mexico trying to surf and learn Spanish. In January, while all my friends in Alberta were commuting in sub-zero temperatures, I was cruising around on my bike in nothing but a t-shirt.
Being an exchange student, I found myself surrounded by other exchange students. Funny thing is, I think I made more lasting friendships with European exchange students than the local Americans. Last summer I got to visit a few of my old friends while travelling in Europe and recently I visited my old roommate who now lives in Tucson, Arizona.
To find out what’s available see:
- Study abroad programs for Albertans.
- Contact your institute’s education abroad office or international education department.
- The University of Alberta (U of A) offers the Go Abroad website. I used the Program Finder to pull up a list of over 100 schools with the courses I wanted. Keep in mind that study abroad opportunities are more common within 4-year degree programs.
- Search for money to fund your trip through the Killam Fellowships program, EduCanada or Scholarships Canada. Your institute might also offer awards, like the U of A’s Education Abroad Awards.
Getting the opportunity to study abroad is an incredible, life-changing experience that adds so much to your education. Just knowing that opportunities all over the world exist, and that funding might be available to make your plans a reality, makes studying abroad seem that much more possible, so check it out.
Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:
Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:
Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.
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