Fun fact: I’ve been to the University of Waterloo campus twice – once to buy a textbook and once for my graduation. So, no, I’m not your ordinary Waterloo alumnus, but I never really wanted to be an ordinary anything.

After high school, I did what everyone else was doing and started university, majoring in psychology at York. I realized after my first year that this wasn’t the path for me, so I changed majors and in second year started a degree in Italian cultural studies. To be totally honest, I never actually wanted to go to university because deep down I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to move to Rome and never look back, so after second year I decided to drop out of university and move halfway across the world.

I was 20 years old and didn’t speak Italian very well, but I was determined to be independent and prove to everyone that I had made the right decision. Fast forward three years later: I had spent most of my time in Rome working as an English teacher, but I realized that this was not what I wanted to do forever. I wanted something more, but I also knew that writing “university drop out” on my resume wasn’t going to get me anywhere. So, after months of research I found Waterloo had some degree programs that could be done completely online. I enrolled and the rest is basically history. Naturally, there are pros and cons to doing a degree at a distance — trying to find specific editions of specific books was always a challenge, but I managed.

Taylor in Rome

After getting my degree, I got promoted at the English school I was working at from teacher to director of studies. This was a big deal for me because I had just turned 25 and I was more or less managing one of the locations of this school. Two years later I ended up getting a job at LUISS Business School, the most prestigious university in the country, as a program coordinator in their Master’s department. I know that if I had not chosen to go back to school, I would have never had these opportunities available to me.

Italian sunset

Working at the Business School and being in constant contact with the students actually pushed me to become a volunteer at Waterloo, because I began to really appreciate what Waterloo gave me. It gave me the chance to get my degree while living my dream in the Eternal City, and it opened up doors for me that I would not have had access to otherwise. If I hadn’t been able to complete my degree online and had moved back home to do it, I would have never had the experiences I did or met the love of my life. Although I can’t say I’ve made lifelong friends at university like most people, I can still say it was a life-changing experience.

Taylor Imrie (BA ’16) is an Arts alumnus and a global ambassador for Waterloo alumni in Rome. While she loves being surrounded by the history of the city, she also tries to bring a bit of Canada with her wherever she goes.