June 12, 2019

Class of 2019: 'Tough but fun - and I wouldn't have had it any other way'

International student Chantal Palmer graduates with two bachelor's degrees, one with distinction

Graduating from university is a big deal for Chantal Palmer. “My UCalgary experience has been tough but fun — and I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she says. 

Originally from Jamaica, she came to Calgary to study marketing and sociology. At this year’s convocation, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (with distinction) and a Bachelor of Commerce, due to her own hard work and her parents’ focus on the importance of getting a good education.

“My parents worked really hard to ensure that I take school seriously,” she says. “They are very excited that I not only graduated but graduated with two degrees, one with distinction.” 

The journey to convocation was a long one. Over the course of six years, Palmer worked 12-hour days while maintaining a full course load. Because of the high cost of travel and her focus on academics, she has been unable to make the trip home since beginning her studies. 

“In a way, this helped me grow; I went to every possible seminar on money management,” she says. “I am a more responsible spender and gained significant experience in applying for jobs and interviewing because I was pushed to constantly be employed. I was able to make friends and connect with great people in my many forms of employment.”

Spending time at UCalgary and in the city hasn’t been without its highlights. Palmer particularly enjoyed the Haskayne Leadership Weekend, making the dean’s list, becoming a more confident public speaker and participating in the Women Guiding Women (WGW) Mentorship and Leadership Training Program.

Active student life

Palmer has been active outside of work and school. She’s a member of the Jamaican Canadian Association, UChorus, the a capella group A Buncha Divas, and the student club Alliances in Marketing. She has also been a peer helper at the Women’s Resource Centre and a nursery lead with her church.

“We all know the struggle of university: trying to get good grades, balancing work, school, volunteering and self-care, figuring out how to be financially literate and healthy and just overall learning how to ‘adult’ — plus the added stress of being away from home and the isolation that can come with that,” she says.  

“But I felt supported through all of those hard times and felt I had opportunities outside of that to have fun. I appreciated all of the resources on campus that catered to the things I needed to make it through university.

“I also appreciated having the opportunity to have engaging conversations about things that interest me, by volunteering at the Women’s Resource Centre, going to seminars and workshops outside of my degree about sociological issues, and being able to go to Banff and Lake Louise with International Student Services. It’s been a fun ride, and I am looking forward to what’s to come.”

Palmer celebrated her graduation by putting together an interactive play that captures her love of creativity and music for her visiting family — as well as the Calgary friends and mentors who helped her along the way. While she doesn’t know exactly what the future has in store, she is taking some time to visit her extended family in Jamaica.