The choice to finish a degree in four or five years can be a tough one for many students. The pressures of a heavy-work load, the costs of tuition and housing, the delay in entering the workforce can all play a role in the decision to take an additional year to complete your degree. In many countries, a five-year undergraduate degree in engineering is the standard.
For Kelowna-raised Noah Dietrich, the decision to take five years instead of four was based on several factors. Dietrich is a graduate of the School of Engineering on the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia.
Why did you choose to do your program in 5-years?
I decided to do my degree in 5-years after my first year of engineering. Taking six courses each semester did not allow me much free time to pursue other interests outside of school. In addition, I was able to work part-time, up to twelve hours a week doing lab research for Dr. Roberts as a result of having a lighter course load.
Did it feel like it flew by?
The five years I spent at UBCO definitely flew by, it seems like yesterday that I was sitting in my first year Statics course. I found that the last two years of my degree especially flew by, they were by far the most enjoyable in terms of courses.
Who should consider taking the 5-year route?
I would recommend taking the 5-year route to anyone. Many students in engineering decide to take an extra year, either for co-op, or to have a lighter course load, although I would recommend that students in any faculty consider taking an extra year. University is by far some of the best years of our lives, why not take an extra year to enjoy it more? I wish I could come back for a sixth year! Another benefit to taking an extra year is that is allows more flexibility in pursuing a Go-Global semester or course abroad. I had an excellent time in the Netherlands taking the International Transportation Planning and Design course. Go-Global was definitely a highlight of my degree at UBCO and I would strongly recommend that students look into the Go-Global program and consider taking a course, seminar, or even an entire semester abroad!
Did you find that you were able to do more (research or extra curricular activities), taking one less course a semester?
I was definitely able to do more taking two less courses per semester. Having a little bit of extra time opened up many opportunities and helped relieve some of the stress that is imposed by the intensive and rewarding engineering program. Having more time allowed for me to join clubs, participate in sports leagues both on and off campus, be involved in fascinating research, and become more active in the UBCO community.
Why did you choose to stay in the Okanagan and attend UBCO?
I chose to stay in the Okanagan and attend UBCO for a number of reasons. Having grown up in Kelowna, I really appreciate and enjoy everything the Okanagan has to offer in every season. I also liked the size of UBCO, as having smaller class sizes allowed for me to develop great relationships with many of my professors. Finally, being able to live at home and only 10 minute drive from UBCO was also very convenient.
I was very fortunate to have been able to be a part of some of the research that is being conducted at UBCO. I worked as an undergraduate laboratory associate for Dr. Deborah Roberts for almost four years, full-time during the summer months and then part-time during the school year. This opportunity was truly an entire degree's worth of knowledge in itself and I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in research and learn so much in addition to my engineering courses. The research I was involved with focussed on the protection of natural watersheds used for drinking water and involved both environmental engineering and microbiology. I helped with source tracking of Cryptosporidium, a micro-pathogen, in natural watersheds and many laboratory experiments involving Cryptosporidium. I was able to work with Master's and Ph.D. students and help them with their research experiments, gaining valuable insight into what is involved both at the graduate level of university education and the publishing of research in the scientific community. The research I helped with involved both lab and field work, both of which were enjoyable, although I always looked forward to going out collecting samples in the forest. After working for Dr. Roberts for a few years, gaining more experience and knowledge, I was able to pass it on and help train some of the new undergraduate students, which was very rewarding and also made me realize and appreciate how much I had learned through this experience. I would strongly recommend that students look into the many interesting research projects and try to participate as undergraduate researchers, the experience is invaluable, looks excellent on a resume, and can be very beneficial in applying for a Master's program.
How did you land your job? What is the role?
For my undergraduate research assistant position, I found the position through UBC's job postings website, a fantastic resource for anyone looking to become involved in undergraduate research or find a summer job.
For more information about the job board visit http://students.ok.ubc.ca/careers/services/jobsearchjobboard.html
After finishing my degree, I was able to land a job upon completion of my last semester. I started applying to jobs in February of my last semester; which was very time consuming. Therefore it was definitely beneficial to have a little extra time with my reduced course load to spend the many hours necessary to properly apply for jobs. After interviewing with four different companies, I decided to stay in Kelowna and accepted a job with Tetra Tech Canada. One thing that all the companies who interviewed me mentioned, including my current employer, was that my four years working as an undergraduate research associate stood out in comparison to many of the other applicants. I currently work as a project engineer, in the Tetra Tech Canada airports group, planning and designing projects for airports across British Columbia. My role encompasses a wide variety of civil engineering disciplines such as transportation, environmental, geotechnical, materials, and hydrological engineering, as well as project and construction management. I do not know what the future holds, but I hope to be able to work with this company for a few years and then return to academics and pursue my Master's degree.
Overall how would you describe your time at UBCO?
My experience at UBCO was definitely a very enjoyable and exciting chapter in my life. I am very thankful for all the good friends I made and all the opportunities and the many things I learned in my five years at UBCO. I would go back in time and do it all again in a heartbeat if I could!