• InstituteMount Royal University
  • ProgramEcotourism and Outdoor Leadership
  • RegionCalgary

It wasn’t 'til I went cliff jumping in the UK that I realized my passion for outdoor adventure and found a program that suited me.

I was born and raised in sunny Edmonton. Growing up my days mainly consisted of playing soccer and video games. When high school came along I could usually be found either hanging out with my friends, playing on school sports teams, or working a part-time job so I could make some cash. I was allowed to make my own schedule—I even took early morning optional classes. I enjoyed school but it wasn’t exactly “my thing.”

My mom never pressured me to decide what I wanted to do after graduation, so when high school ended I still no idea what I wanted to do next. I ended up working for a flooring company and lifeguarding on the weekends when all my friends started post-secondary the following September. At the time I thought I was ahead of the game since I was making money and they all had to pay tuition. I kept working for the next few years, still played soccer, and became a member of the Edmonton Eskimo Cheer team. That’s where I picked up the travel bug.

A friend of mine had just graduated from university, and landed a job teaching in London, England—but she wasn’t too stoked about moving there alone. At the time all I was doing was delivering furniture, so I decided on a whim that I’d go with her. Little did I know that this singular decision would set me on a path to Mount Royal University.

Living in the UK is a soccer lover’s dream: they live and breathe the sport. I played a lot of soccer while I was there, and seriously improved my skill. I also had some pretty stellar outdoor adventure experiences, like the time I paid an outdoor guide to take me on a coasteering trip: basically a mixture of rock climbing, cliff jumping, and caving into the ocean.

In the midst of this crazy adventure I had a realization: I was literally paying my guide to do back-flips into the ocean. I thought she had the coolest job ever, the sort of job I’d love to have.

I got to chatting with her about how she’d gotten into this line of work, and discovered that with my life-guarding background I could also do this job. By the end of the day I managed to land a job with her and spent the next two years getting paid to jump into the ocean too!

Those two years were awesome, but eventually I realized that I wanted to build a career for myself in the ecotourism field, instead of just having a sweet summer job. That would mean I’d need some sort of post-secondary education under my belt. That’s when I started researching universities back in Canada, and stumbled across Mount Royal University’s degree in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership. I was sold.

I’m now in the final year of my program and post-high school Shaun never would’ve imagined that I’d be where I am today! My time in post-secondary has been incredible and full of opportunities to partake in things I love: I played for the university soccer team; travelled to the United States to do an exhibition; did a field school in Norway; and went on an international exchange to Japan for a year where I also played soccer for the university there. All of this was part of my degree and counted towards school credits!

I’d say the best part about post-secondary is the freedom you get to explore your interests whether through school clubs, sports, or classes—there’s something out there for everyone.