• InstituteUniversity of Alberta
  • ProgramEngineering
  • RegionEdmonton

I thought going to post-secondary was as good as it gets. Turns out it was just the start of all the exciting things I could do.

I was born in New Delhi, India and moved to Edmonton at the age of 6 with my family. I didn’t have many close friends growing up as it was hard for me to fit in due to social and language barriers. In elementary I was in an ESL program for students learning English as their second language, and we spent a lot of time reading and discussing our favorite books. I fell in love with reading and my favourite place was the library.

In school I struggled a lot with social studies, English, and biology but I LOVED physics and math. When my physics teacher suggested I look into Engineering, I was in shock: “Engineering? Isn’t that what smart people do? I can’t possibly get into Engineering!”

Having my teacher see such potential in me was life changing. I rushed home and started researching how to become an engineer.

Moving away from home wasn't an option for me, so I looked into the requirements to get into the University of Alberta (U of A). I then changed my grade 12 schedule to fit the courses I needed including Math 30-1 and Calculus. I made sure to do my homework and study everyday - even if that meant not going out to a movie after school once in a while. 

I struggled a lot with applying to university, and my family didn’t know how to help me because I was the first person to attend post-secondary in Canada. I wasn’t aware it would cost $200 to apply, and that was a lot of money for my family. Despite having met the entrance requirements, I didn’t plan my actual application accordingly. This resulted in me not being admitted right after high school and having to take a gap year.

I saw my accidental gap year as a barrier for a long time; but it turned into such a growth experience for me. Even though academically I was able to attend university, mentally I was not prepared.

During that year I upgraded at Centre High, got a job, saved money, attended networking events, and volunteered. Feeling much more prepared and confident, I enrolled in MacEwan University for my first year and then transferred to the U of A for the rest of my degree. I did this to minimize the culture shock of attending such a large institute after high school and also because commuting from home was easier. My first year was tough and if it weren’t for my gap year, I probably wouldn’t have excelled like I did.

When I got my Engineering acceptance letter in the mail I was on Cloud 9. I honestly thought that I’d reached the peak of my entire life, and nothing would top it. Little did I know that was just the beginning of all the amazing opportunities waiting for me.

I’m now a full-time Chemical Engineering student at the U of A, completing the fifth and final year of my degree. I got to work in Australia for four months, start my own student organization on campus, and travel to conferences across Canada (for free!). I wish I could look back and tell my socially excluded, insecure, and depressed 12-year-old self that it gets so much better.