Gabriel Tan believes university is about more than getting good grades
April 11, 2023
International Community Achievement Award recipient
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
“My on-campus experiences have allowed me to build my problem solving and communication skills and, perhaps more importantly, to learn about my likes and dislikes.”
Why did you choose to study management, with a minor in computer science?
I believe business management studies are always relevant. New businesses are being set up and existing businesses are constantly expanding, especially online. Our increasing reliance on technology also means computer science is essential for students to gain technical skills for programming, human-computer interaction and software engineering. The knowledge I’ve gained from both subjects—including communication, problem solving, teamwork, organization and leadership—has given me a good balance of technical and soft skills that will allow me to excel in the future.
Tell us a little about the management research you were able to conduct as an undergraduate student.
In the summer of 2020, I discovered the Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award (IURA). I wanted more experience in data analysis, and the program was a wonderful opportunity to conduct research and work on projects that an undergraduate student typically wouldn’t be involved with.
Between March 2020 and July 2022, I was a research assistant on a project with Dr. David Walker that looked at whether the audio characteristics of customer voices in service interactions predict whether the customer will mistreat the employee later in the interaction. Since the conclusion of my IURA journey, I continued working as a research assistant for a substantial portion of my undergraduate degree on different aspects of the same project.
As an international student, how did you approach your new campus setting?
When I arrived at UBCO, I wanted to acquire as much Canadian work and volunteer experience as I could. The first step was to explore employment opportunities at UBCO and get involved with student clubs. I’m deeply passionate about the things I choose to get involved with and know I can play a significant role in supporting the community through my work and volunteer experience.
Why is it important to get involved on campus?
Being involved exposes students to many different experiences and teaches them life skills they may not necessarily learn in the classroom. For me, it was important to get involved with on-campus activities so I could experience how to organize events, give presentations, create budgets and send professional-sounding emails. My on-campus experiences have allowed me to build my problem solving and communication skills, and perhaps more importantly, to learn about my likes and dislikes.
You’re the recipient of an International Community Achievement Award (ICAA), which recognizes international students who contribute to the UBCO campus and community while maintaining an excellent academic standing. What does it mean to you to be an ICAA recipient?
I’m extremely humbled and honoured to be an ICAA recipient. Looking back at the previous winners and their biographies, there have been many students who did amazing work within the UBCO community and beyond, and it’s truly an honour to be recognized as one of a handful of ICAA recipients.
Sometimes it can be difficult for students to balance their studies, work and extra-curriculars, especially if they face financial distress or another disadvantage. I’m thankful I was fortunate enough to be able to find a balance, which allowed me to make a larger impression on the campus community and succeed in my ICAA application.
What do you think makes UBCO unique?
When I first stepped onto UBCO’s campus, I was in awe of the diversity of the student population and the considerable number of nationalities represented. I knew UBCO has an extraordinary reputation among Canadian universities, but I didn’t realize how popular it was among international students as well.
UBCO is also a smaller university, making it much easier for students to connect with one another and their professors on a deeper level. The campus has a highly favourable student-to-faculty ratio, meaning professors are more accessible and students can engage with them more easily.
What’s the best advice you have for fellow undergraduate students?
Explore your interests and actively participate in student clubs and associations, or pursue employment opportunities. University isn’t just about getting good grades; it’s also about learning new skills for future careers and building resumes, so you can one day achieve your dream job.
I recommend connecting with the UBCO Career Development team to know about upcoming networking events and explore your interests. Also consider joining the UBCO Co-op program, as it provides practical job experience while getting paid, and is a potential stepping stone toward a future career.
Lastly, if you want to go abroad, get connected to great opportunities either on campus or beyond the Okanagan, or if you want to take part in intercultural activities, connect with the UBCO Global Engagement Office.