Nov. 3, 2021

Embracing the unexpected: Fall Class of 2021 grads share the most surprising thing they learned during their UCalgary studies 

Seeing science holistically, finding a passion for robots, and experiencing both the challenges and opportunities of studying health care during a pandemic surprised and delighted our grads
Convocation surprise

Curiosity and being open to opportunities are just two common ingredients in the secret sauce for a fulfilling university experience. That openness inevitably leads to a few surprises along the way.  

We asked fall 2021 graduates about the most unexpected or surprising thing they learned while studying at the University of Calgary. Did they have a lightbulb moment about the world, their field of study, or their career path? 

For some, their curiosity led them down a different path than the one they started on. Others homed in on something specific in their field of study that they hadn’t even considered when they began.   

These are a few of their answers. 

Matt Walker, MEDes’21

“The most unexpected thing that I encountered while in the program was how I got involved with robotic programming. At the beginning of my architectural education, it was not something I imagined I would become involved with. Now, while I am not explicitly working with robots directly, the techniques and processes lend themselves to helpful ways of thinking about design. I believe such experiences will invigorate my career in the coming years.” 

Vitus Ngaanuma, LLM’21 

"My light bulb moment was when my first manuscript was accepted in a highly rated journal. At that moment, I felt my career in research and legal scholarship generally will be a great one.” 

Andrea Loria, MN/NP’21 

“Completing this degree during a global pandemic, especially in the health-care field, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Despite the ever-changing academic and clinical environments, the resiliency and strength of the university community remained constant. Taking every day as it comes, adapting accordingly and leaning on each other has been so important.  

“Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us about the significance of maintaining a good state of physical and mental health. As devastating as the pandemic has been, I am excited to be starting in a career during a vulnerable time. It is an opportunity to create valuable change.” 

Rachel Mclean, MSc’21

“All through high school and my university application process, I was certain I wanted to study English or history. But, after two years of mixed arts courses I realized that, as much as I enjoyed those courses, I didn't want to base a degree around them. Then my sister — who is right most of the time, and this is no exception — suggested that computer programming would be a good fit. I took a quick look at some intro programming courses on Khan Academy and enrolled in the university's foundational computer science courses. I've been hooked ever since.” 

Joel Wong, BSc (Eng)’21 and BSc’21

“The most important lesson I learned during university was the value that science, technology, engineering and mathematics can bring to our society and my passion for using technology for social good. By getting involved in different organizations, I also developed better leadership, problem-solving and public speaking skills, strengthened my work ethic, and gained a better understanding of business and economics, amongst many other lessons.” 

Jacob Varghese, BSc’21

“I experienced a paradigm shift in my approach to learning during my experience at the University of Calgary that I felt really elevated my critical thinking and reasoning skills.  

“My undergraduate degree was focused on science in the context of details, whereas the graduate program forced me to recontextualize this learning into the fundamentals of how things work. I became fascinated with seeing science holistically rather than in separate subdomains of chemistry, physics and biology. I was able to critically evaluate observations, make new interpretations and, most importantly, more effectively troubleshoot by having a genuine understanding of the theory behind the steps of a procedure.

"I realized science was more about an integration of different domains and their interplay with one another. Some of my favourite experiences were successfully troubleshooting protocols or fixing pieces of equipment like incubators, pH meters and osmometers by applying basic science principles to these issues.” 

Dr. Lisa Gamsjaeger, DVM’21

“If someone would have told me five years ago I would say this, I would have not believed it, but: I started loving epidemiology. Being supervised by an epidemiologist with a lot of passion for the topic and living through a global pandemic completely changed my perspective, and really highlighted to me how important and also how challenging this area of study is. Kudos to all the epidemiologists out there!” 


Congratulations, Class of 2021

Hear more from our fall graduates.