For several weeks I have been anticipating the day I travel to Ottawa to finally meet in person an alumnus whom I have spent the last four months corresponding with over email. Together, we will attend the Quantum Symphony Alumni event so that he can share an inspirational message with his fellow alumni. As a recent addition to the Office of Advancement at Waterloo, I have been to just a couple of other alumni events, but up until now, I have always been in the company of teammates. This was my first solo trip.
Travelling alone, traffic, and a delayed flight gave me a lot of time by myself to think about life, my work, and my recent conversations with alumni. Each of my chats feels vaguely familiar. There are key similarities in the way that alumni speak about their experience at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo alumni are incredibly proud; proud of their education and proud of the institution. Graduates are also very grateful for the educational experience they received at Waterloo. It makes it increasingly hard to admit that I didn't go to Waterloo.
When I look back at my own university experience, I think about the lifelong relationships I made, the beauty of the campus, and the old (but charming) house I lived in throughout my undergrad. All are very positive thoughts, but what I learned in school is definitely not top of mind. My experience, both in and out of the classroom, did not prepare me for the working world. Those skills I learned on my own through summer jobs, and after graduation.
This is not the case with Waterloo grads I have had the chance to talk to. An outstanding co-op program makes it so that students have the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience while earning their degree, and therefore graduate more prepared to start their career, possibly even with a company they've already built a relationship with. With the job market as tough as it is today, that really IS something to be grateful for.
On this Sunday afternoon, I have gathered with nearly 300 Waterloo alumni in Ottawa for a performance by the KW Symphony Orchestra. It is following the performance, at a small reception that I once again witness this overwhelming sense of pride and gratefulness. As University staff and alumni stand in front of the group to speak about the many great things happening across campus, and the important role that alumni play in making Waterloo what it is, I look around the room and see the onlookers smiling from ear to ear, and nodding in total agreement. Waterloo is a pretty great place.
Although I may not be a graduate, I am proud to be part of the Waterloo family now.