Keeping up with MHC alumni
Students from around the world choose to study in Canada, to improve their skills and expand their opportunity. We followed up with some of our international student graduates to see what their lives have been like since graduating from MHC.
For Ashish Chopra, a passion for architecture runs in the family.
Originally from Jalandhar, Punjab, he grew up watching his uncle design large buildings and residential homes in the growing city, and seeing the designs come to life. His exposure to the career path inspired him and when the time came to attend postsecondary, he packed his bags and moved to Alberta to attend the Built Environment Engineering Technology (BEET) program at Medicine Hat College (MHC).
The BEET program is a 2-year diploma, which studies the built environment through three core disciplines: mechanical design technology, civil design technology, and building design technology. Unlike programs that focus on a singular topic, the variety of concepts learned throughout the BEET program appealed to Ashish, and he was accepted in 2019.
“I was seeing programs at other colleges, but those were specifically for architecture. I didn’t just want to limit myself to specifically to one stream. Built Environment Engineering Technology gave me the option to grow in the architecture, engineering and design fields, and I like that I have a bunch of options,” says Ashish.
The program’s variety, hands-on learning opportunities and exposure to industry allowed Ashish to grow a unique skillset, helping him stand out when applying for jobs. After graduating in 2021 and with his instructors as his references, it took only one month to become employed in his field.
“In my last year, we were designing the master plan of the college and architectural and engineering firms came together to present to us. One of the firms was FWBA Architects, who designed the Medicine Hat College Health, Wellness & Athletics expansion. They showed us how they designed it and which software they used, and that gave me the passion to want to work there. I sent in my résumé, and got a job there, which was exciting for me.”
For the beginning of his career, Ashish worked as a Junior Technologist for FWBA Architects in a contract position. At the end of his contract, he decided to look for positions in smaller firms, where he could assume more responsibility. Within just five days of applying for work, Ashish received two offer letters out of the three jobs he applied for. He now works as a Technical Project Designer at Holland Design, an interior design firm located in Calgary, Alberta. His role is involved in every phase of a project from schematic/design development to contract administration. He often coordinates with consultants including engineers, architects and city representatives, gaining the confidence to ask relevant questions and maintain relationships.
Reflecting on his time at MHC, the Technical Project Designer expresses his gratitude for the support he received as a student from staff, mental health resources and his instructors in the School of Trades & Technology.
As Ashish continues to gain experience in his current role, he has future plans to further his education. He plans to complete his degree and pursue a Master of Architecture from the University of Calgary.
Chronic disease nurse, Hamama Obansa, helps patients cope with complex conditions every day. Just two years since graduating from the Bachelor of Nursing program at Medicine Hat College (MHC), she believes she has found her calling in primary care.
Shortly after graduating high school in Nigeria, Hamama was on the search for opportunities outside her country and began researching postsecondary institutions. After weighing her options and receiving acceptances from institutions across Canada, the advantages of living in a smaller community led her to MHC.
“The tuition made more sense for an international student compared to most colleges and the cost of living in Medicine Hat compared to larger centers, like Toronto, was much, much better. I just thought if I could get my education for less money, I would take that.”
The Bachelor of Nursing program at MHC is a 4-year degree program, in collaboration with the University of Calgary. Students are exposed a variety of experiences in diverse healthcare settings to help prepare them for nursing jobs available in the community.
“I'm glad I had a diverse number of experiences like acute and long-term care. I determined that I wanted something that would involve more of more of a holistic perspective of care, so I was looking mostly at primary care jobs. There's only one primary care facility in Medicine Hat, but luckily, I applied once, and usually they require five years of experience, but they were happy to take me as a new graduate and provide the orientation that I needed.”
Hamama now works for the Palliser Primary Care Network in Medicine Hat. As a chronic disease nurse, she helps patients deal with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic heart conditions. Unlike acute care in the hospital setting, where patient relationships are short-lived, Hamama values the relationships she can build with her patients in her current role.
“I like being able to follow up with my patients every week or every two weeks, you just build that solid foundation. I have patients that I've seen for two years, so they're comfortable with you, they get to know you, you get to know them. It's an easy, smooth sailing relationship,” explains Hamama. “I would say that's the part I like most, developing that familiarity and seeing their progress over time.”
As she continues to enjoy her role in primary care, Hamama says she does plan to eventually continue her education to advance her career.
“You can't keep a Nigerian down, so I do have plans to further my education and get a masters degree. I would hope to teach in my future but for now I would say within the next three years I like primary care and then I'll go from there after that.”
Of her experience, Hamama says she would recommend MHC to anyone interested in studying in Canada.
“I tell everybody in Nigeria who wants to come, like, I love Medicine Hat College, I love my experience. There was a lot of like growing and shaping that accord through my life, and I would not change it for anything.”
With a talent for numbers and an interest in business, Aimee Yee travelled from Philippines to attend the Business Administration program at MHC. Now, employed as an Accounting Technician for Chartered Professional Accountants, she credits her schooling and community involvement as a dual force to helping her become employed right after graduation.
Aimee heard about MHC from her cousin, an alumnus who appreciated the ‘helpful’ and ‘approachable’ support she received as a student. A desire to study abroad and the encouragement from her family, brought her to Medicine Hat to begin her studies.
As an international student, Yee says that initially, moving to a new country was challenging, but she felt supported, making the transition easier.
“Whenever you need help, you could go to international education, you could go to the library for help with your research or you could reach out to your instructors and they are willing to help you,” says Aimee. “They would even ask you how you’re doing, which was helpful. That made me feel like it's not just about school. They look at the whole wellness of their students.”
Along with the support she received for her studies, she was guided by her instructors to learn about Canadian culture and help her become more employable after she graduates.
“For example, in my country, volunteering isn’t as important for finding work. In our culture, if you're good with your studies, then you are more employable. Here, it’s not just your school that is important, so volunteering helped me to leverage myself from all the other candidates for the job.”
Motivated to find work after college, Aimee took the time to volunteer with The Connection, an intercultural association in Medicine Hat, who host events and programs to help international students build relationships. She also took on a leadership role with the Student’s Association, working as a student representative.
Upon graduating in 2021, Aimee believes that the skills she learned in and outside of the classroom helped her to stand out from other candidates applying for similar roles.
“Work and school are really different cultures, but I would say Medicine Hat College really prepared me both technically and professionally,” explains Yee. “I was competing with students who are bachelor’s degree holders or who have five years of experience, but the soft skills that I learned from the college, I think are what really helped me in securing the job.”
Since working in her role for over a year, Aimee has found what she loves most about her role as an Accounting Technician is problem solving.
“It’s like a big puzzle and I feel like I'm a detective almost, putting all the pieces together just to complete financial reports. It’s challenging, but it's a good challenge because you need to sum it all up and make rational judgments.”
She also appreciates the company she works for its role in helping her become comfortable and grow through their mentorship program.
From contracts to catering, Anushka Sharma is an expert in event planning. As the events manager for Enactus Canada, a nonprofit organization that supports postsecondary students in using entrepreneurship to make a difference, Anushka plans four large events per year, travelling across Canada to ensure they run smoothly.
Originally from New Delhi, India, Anushka heard about the faculty in MHC’s Business Administration program from a friend. After receiving an acceptance to the winter intake in 2018, she travelled to Medicine Hat to experience it for herself.
“It wasn't a very difficult transition from India to Canada, but the first semester with the weather and the culture, it was a little difficult. It was made much easier by the International Department. They put out different events and you can be a part of the organizing committee to make friends. Also, the instructors are amazing. They encourage people to interact with each other, not just groups that know each other already so second semester was much better.”
In the classroom, Anushka found her passion for working with non-profits, as they were the center of many of the projects she worked on. The real preparation for her event management role, however, was learned through planning campus events.
“I was part of the Student’s Association as the Vice President External and a big part of my job there was event planning. It was a smaller scale, but that kind of prepared me for this role here.”
Anushka also believes that her marketing courses helped her to improve her writing style, helping her to obtain her job.
“One of the classes that I would like to point out was a communications class, taught by Linda Tooth. She taught us how to make the tiniest little edits in our resumes, which make a big difference, so that was helpful.”
Anushka joined Enactus while she was a student at MHC, allowing her to find her passion for her work early on in her career. Knowing the impact the organization had on her as a student, she knew she wanted to get involved in a deeper level once she graduated. Now, she believes she will be with them long-term.
“I see myself working with Enactus for a long while just because I believe in the cause. I love what we do. I love what the students do, and I thoroughly love my job. Now that I've found that I want to do events. Nothing is more rewarding than coming home and knowing that you love your job, and you want to wake up and do more work.”
Based on her experience at MHC, Anushka encourages all current and future international students to get involved on campus.
“I would encourage all the international students, all students in general, but especially since international students are from different countries, we might not have the job experience that some students here do because we didn't do jobs as teenagers. So, get involved. Get involved in Enactus and if it doesn't exist anymore, try and start it up. I can get resources for them, because it changed my life for like so many in so many ways.”
Leo Gayle has dedicated his life to helping others.
Formerly a counsellor in Jamaica, he knew he needed to find a way to provide greater opportunity for his family. As he researched programs that would allow him to enter a similar industry, he discovered the Addictions Counsellor diploma at MHC and in 2015, he and his family moved to Canada.
While attending college as an international student was not easy, as a mature learner, Leo believes he had the tools necessary to overcome any adversity.
“I had a certain level of maturity and was not averse to working hard. Failure was not an option for me. Having a wife, a two-year-old and a three-year-old, depending on me only made me work harder.”
He quickly learned that despite their age difference, working in groups with other students, allowed him to better understand Canadian culture.
“Sometimes I had particular expectations of how I think something should go. But I realized that I am working with younger people who are born here and know the culture better than me and so I had to adjust and tweak some of the things I did. I had to take a step back and realize that hey, this person is probably seeing something that you are not seeing, so be willing to learn. And that wasn't easy, but it helped.”
Learning to relate to people of all ages not only helped him succeed in his program but allowed him to excel in his practicum at the Medicine Hat Recovery Center. His success led him to graduation and also to a job at the same location. Leo is now immersed in his work, spending his days working closely with patients overcoming addiction and taking pride in seeing their recovery.
“What I enjoy most about my current job is that I'm directly involved with patients on a day-to-day basis. We do group counselling and have the ability to present on different topics in a classroom setting. There's also a program that I'm a part of where we either go to the library, or go for walks, and we see a client come in day one of the 28 day program and to see them on the final week with a different mindset, looking healthier, sounding healthier, feeling healthier, that success is not something that I take to say I did that, but that I was a part of that journey is a huge, huge, beautiful feeling.”
Passionate about his current role, Leo says he plans to remain in his current position long-term, while pursuing other interests on the side. As he continues to lead a life he is proud of, he is grateful for his education.
“I just wanted to say that I will forever be grateful to Medicine Hat College. It provided me and continues to provide me with an opportunity where I'm able to help myself, help my family and help others.”
Interested in learning more about what Medicine Hat College has to offer? Visit www.mhc.ab.ca/InternationalStudents/Beforeyouarrive for more information.