Leaving St. John’s Newfoundland to travel to Vancouver British Columbia was a life-changing experience. I said good-bye to familiar faces, a familiar lifestyle and familiar routines. Raised in a small town, the idea of venturing outside my common parameters always intrigued me, but up to this moment, my curiosity had yet to be tested.
When I landed at the Vancouver airport, I was greeted by the staff of SHAD UBC, a Canadian leadership program. I immediately felt a sense of community. Everyone was joking around, laughing, and seemed overjoyed meeting new people from across the country. The University of British Columbia’s campus was breathtaking, with rugged mountains that hugged the scenic blue skyline.
UBC, SHAD 2016
I used to tell people that I planned to study life sciences, maybe go into medical school. But hearing all the areas and fields others were pursuing made me question my own career path. Everyday we had workshops and presentations from innovative voices, inspiring me to become more. I was surrounded by Canada’s best and brightest, pushing each other to create, collaborate and become leaders. When choosing a career path, I was never questioned on why I was choosing the avenue I’m pursuing. I had not even put much thought into it myself. If all my high school classmates were studying science in university, why shouldn’t I?
Back home, I was a leader in my classroom and in my community. At SHAD, everybody was a leader. I was challenged to become an adaptive leader in a room full of strong voices. At home, I would easily volunteer to lead a project with little competition. Here, everybody had the drive and passion to lead and delegate.
UBC, SHAD 2016
An important lesson I learned from my experience was teamwork. Working on our group project was a common ground, and we wanted to make something we were proud of. When our leadership qualities overpowered others, we came back to our common purpose, to learn and succeed together, as a unit. I realized that leadership is not characterized by one leader commanding people to do things but multiple leaders working collaboratively for the greater good of the group. I cherished this learning experience in the months to come once university applications started.
While I’ve always been afraid of rejection, SHAD challenged me to fight the fear of the word “No.” I realized that in order to succeed once, failure is needed dozens more times. In order to learn something new, a step of uncertainty must be taken.
At SHAD, I pondered whether I would run for President of my Student Council in the upcoming year. As soon as I mentioned it, everybody just blurted out, “Do it!” Never had I ever felt so many people all supporting me to succeed. When September rolled around I used my creativity as an outlet to channel any worries or fears of running for this election. Whenever I found myself questioning if I should keep going, I thought back to the people that inspired me most, my SHAD team members. Their encouragement was only a message or call away. This newfound willingness to tackle uncertainty helped me not only become President of my student council, but have the courage to rethink my career path.
Prior to SHAD, science was the only subject I was interested in pursuing. Mainly because I hadn’t been exposed to other areas. Surrounded by bright, innovative minds for a month allowed me to really question where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I then switched my career path from science to business. A group project, while working with powerful entrepreneurs who’s leadership skills I admired, made me realize that business can challenge me in a similar way that SHAD did. You have to work cohesively within a group, you have to be ambitious and most importantly you have to be fearless.
My fear of rejection could continuously be tackled through business school. I applied to numerous business schools across Canada with the same mindset of not worrying about what to lose, but what to gain. The leadership experiences I received at SHAD taught me to answer leadership questions with ease. Now, I’m delighted to say that I’ll be attending the Smith School of Business at Queens University, thanks to the D&R Sobey Atlantic Scholarship.
Without the opportunity to attend SHAD’s leadership program, I wouldn’t be going to business school. Without the opportunity to meet life-long friends and mentors that challenged me, I could not have never been president of my student council. SHAD is not just one month of summer but a life-long experience that will leave a lasting impact on me.
Written by Jane Hutchings for SHAD.