Dear friends, graduation time seems closer and closer! I can feel the excitement that an unknown-full-of-hope student feels. The daily life of my at home-office has its ups and downs and is a rush from morning to night. Get everything ready, take the girls to school, come back to work, pick up the girls, evening activities and start all over again. After all, students come to pursue a degree but also for good care and development for their family members too.

When I first arrived, I was (and still am) so excited about this opportunity of studying abroad and pursuing my graduate degree. I came to learn, to grow, to absorb everything around me, but the first year I felt so frustrated. I worked in an office where silence is important. I had to complete a lot of work in the lab and tried to grow relationships and assist with events offered by the University. I was so amazed to see the opportunities students had for growth and development. There are so many resources available on a daily basis, however, I unfortunately, was not able to participate in most of them! My location was remote, and I did not have a car to travel to and from Campus for a 1 hr talk. What is worst, I still was feeling the anxiety of asking too many permissions from my supervisor, after all, I did not want my leaders to think that I was not engaged and happy with my project.

After almost two years, I found myself with my head low, happy with my project and studies but hopeless with my desire of benefiting from all those opportunities flying around.

Sometimes it is difficult to grow even your speaking skills when you spend most of time in a remote lab, with few people, with everyone in their office. I was only learning from my research at that time, and an experience abroad is much more than the main thing you are pursuing! It’s about people, culture, and sharing.

But not long after, I found the spot to immerse in the delicious world of engagement. I started with various opportunities to share my project; symposiums, seminars, poster competitions, newsletters, and later in business plan programs, start ups, entrepreneurship, and marketing! I have not won all competitions or joined all programs but I learned from the process. I have felt the downs of losing and been hit by disappointment. I failed to win two of those projects in which I was very optimistic. It took a while to clear my head and stand up again. A couple of weeks ago I participated in a Pitch competition, and I thought differently: I went into it not for the prize, but for the tremendous enrichment of feedback, and the self analysis of my own performance. I used to really dislike presentations, public speaking, and conferences. I have always loved to assist, but terrified to be the presenter and be questioned. I had terrible panic to not knowing the answer, and to fail in the research of all aspects of my subject. Now, after all this learning, I see that we do not have to have all the answers, that is what we are looking for!! And anyone who can lead us to a new question, out of our scope, will just help to fill the gaps and increase our understanding of the situation, we will know better how and where we want to move.

I went to this pitch with nervousness, still carrying a degree of imposter symptom, procrastination, and lack of confidence. My survival mode wanted me to leave and save myself from the possible ridicule, but I tried to focus my mind on learning. I went to the pitch ready to learn from my fail to speak, my fail to convince, my gaps in my research, and to thank and show gratefulness to the judges. I showed my weaknesses with honesty, thinking that they may be able to suggest how to develop those areas. I felt very satisfied of my positive attitude and the people I have encountered on this journey.

I received nothing but helping hands. I encourage anyone with similar desires, to go for it. There are countless resources in this beautiful University and Province. It is amazing how we can benefit and grow. If you want to know more about the programs I mentioned, I will be happy to share. You can find me through LinkedIn (Isabel-Cuenca), just mention this blog.

I would love to share my experiences with you! I am so full of gratitude,