While many of the students graduating this week have their sights set on fresh new horizons, Manouchka Bucktowar, who completed a BSc in Science and Aviation with a Physics specialization, has already experienced the horizon in ways few people ever will.

Bucktowar is one of approximately 15 students graduating from the University of Waterloo aviation program this year.

An international student, travelling halfway across the globe from the small island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, Bucktowar was drawn to the University of Waterloo by its strong reputation.

Homesickness, as her father dropped her off in residence in the fall of 2018, was quickly relieved as she found deep and long-lasting friendships at the Secret Science Dance, an annual Science orientation highlight.

Manouchka Bucktowar

But the pure love of flying sold Bucktowar on her academic program. Although the science and aviation program is difficult, packed with science courses and an unwavering commitment to long hours at the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, she knew after her first flight that she’d made the right choice.

“I was blown away,” she says. “I was flying to Collingwood in the autumn and was taken aback by the vibrant colours of Ontario. There are no words to describe how lucky I felt. I’m so humbled and grateful to have had this opportunity.”

The aviation program flies year-round, weather permitting, and flying routes include those to Toronto, North Bay and Niagara, giving students the extra thrill of seeing some of Ontario’s famous landmarks like the CN Tower and Niagara Falls up close. Students have three to four flying times scheduled per week, which when combined with their other academic commitments, left Bucktowar little time for extracurricular activities or time with friends.

“Time management and proper prioritizing is the only way to achieve balance and find a way to enjoy friends and Waterloo life,” she says. “My friends became my second family and they’re the ones that get you through difficult times, especially during exams. Mental health is too important not to take care of.”Manouchka Bucktowar outside plane

Despite the academic demands of her undergraduate degree, Bucktowar joined the executive team of the UW Aviation Society and helped chair the annual Aviation Gala. She enjoyed the event planning experience and knew it was a great way to network with industry leaders and possibly make important connections to advance her career. She also enjoyed her time as a teaching assistant for AVIA 100, a first-year aviation class.

Successfully graduating from her program will finally allow Bucktowar a moment to catch her breath before the next chapter of her life begins. Being multilingual in French, English, Hindi and Mauritian Creole, she hopes to stay in Canada and apply for jobs with local airlines.

As she reflects on her time at Waterloo, she says that her best moments included successful flight tests after so many long hours of flight training.

“It’s tense. You know you did well, but that moment you hear that you passed your final flight test … wow, what a sense of accomplishment,” she says. “It’s incredible to look around and think, ‘Ok. So where is the world going to take me?’ and realize that it will take me anywhere I want to go.”