As May came to an end, the University of Lethbridge celebrated the achievements of 1,402 students who graduated at the Spring 2015 Convocation and set out to begin the next chapter of their lives.
International student Maaike van Gogh (BMgt ’15) was one of those students. Although Calgary – and the U of L's Calgary campus – has been her home recently, the journey to her management degree began almost 10 years ago in her hometown of Utrecht, Netherlands.
It was there, at her local university, where she discovered the University of Lethbridge. Wanting to participate in a student exchange program, her options varied, but thanks to a recommendation from a friend who had previously attended the U of L through an exchange, van Gogh was on her way to southern Alberta.
Coming to the Lethbridge campus for the spring 2008 semester, van Gogh discovered a campus environment that was friendly and inviting.
“I felt very welcome when I arrived at the Lethbridge campus in ’08 – the international office had someone pick me up at the bus depot and take me to go get some groceries," she says. "The U of L really understood that when you’re new to a country it’s those basic things, like knowing where the grocery store is, that are your most pressing needs. Everything else can be figured out once you’re fed!”
When she completed her exchange program she headed back to Holland, but in 2009 van Gogh took a few years off from school to work and discover more of Canada. In 2012 she decided it was time to get back to school and finish her degree.
van Gogh was now living and working in Calgary, so when searching for a school to attend, the University of Lethbridge's Calgary campus was the right fit for her. She was already familiar with the U of L and liked that the Calgary campus offered night classes.
“The Calgary campus is a professional and convenient campus. The night classes allowed me to put in my eight hours a day without having to miss a class,” she says.
What van Gogh enjoyed most about her Calgary experience was the co-op program. She successfully completed co-op terms with two companies (TransCanada Pipelines and Nexen), which provided her with varied experiences within the human resources field.
“The co-op program allowed me to not only get real work experience, but helped me pay for university without having to take out a personal loan,” she says. “I was able to finish my degree completely debt free. That’s a huge accomplishment!”
Currently, van Gogh works for Nexen as a human resources benefits analyst, a career she was able to obtain thanks to the co-op program. Realizing the success she’s had due to the co-op program, a goal she has for the future is wanting to stay connected with the University and the Calgary campus by helping out future co-op students.
“When I first started the co-op program I was finding it hard get to a job in the competitive Calgary market, so I volunteered with the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Alberta, which then allowed me to finally get a job. I want to help other students in the co-op program who are having a difficult time finding a job by showing them what I did through volunteering and how it helped me,” says van Gogh.
When returning to school, van Gogh's goal was clear - to finish her degree. Now that she has, how does she feel?
“To be honest, completing my degree and graduating this spring is a huge relief for myself. It’s been a long time coming and I’m relieved it is finally here!”
Find out more about the University of Lethbridge's Calgary campus.