New Master of Science in Management policy and strategy graduate Abrar Bin Darda (MSc (Mgt) '22) speaks on his research, pursuing a master's during the pandemic and his experience with ULethbridge staff and faculty. Receiving a University of Lethbridge Graduate Research Award enabled Abrar to come to Lethbridge to pursue this degree. His thankfulness for this opportunity is exemplified by his community involvement and work with the Graduate Students' Association.

The university has really great resources for all your academic, personal and professional needs. ULethbridge staff are very friendly and proactively helpful. So, do not feel shy to reach out. Furthermore, there are many on-campus opportunities which will help you grow professionally. Make use of them extensively.

From the connections he made and the opportunities had, here are Abrar's reflections on his time at ULethbridge.

What was your research based on?

My research was based on how individuals perceive various dimensions of an organization based on where the organization is from, i.e. the country of origin. The research also looked at how the internal ideologies of individuals influence these perceptions.

What unique opportunities did you get by taking part in this research?

Taking a deep dive into academic literature where I learned about how individuals formulate opinions based on subtle environmental cues was fascinating. I come from a finance background, so, this was a departure from my comfort zone and I willingly waded into uncharted waters. However, I am really glad that I made that decision as I really enjoyed every step of it, especially setting up the experiment in the data gathering process.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

Sadly, I spent almost the entirety of the program during the pandemic. So, I did not have much opportunity for on-campus experience. I would say the most surprising experience happened this past March. I was scheduled to defend and complete my program, but my defense was postponed indefinitely due to the job action. I was able to schedule my defense within a week after the strike was over, at 6:00 p.m., and it was a very heartening experience to see how much the faculty was accommodating me by showing such immense flexibility.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at ULethbridge?

There were two lessons I learned that I consider extremely important. First, time management, and second, how to ask for help.

As an international student, who was stuck at home in a foreign country during the pandemic, I wanted to get as much out of the university and Canadian experience as possible by soaking up as much as I could. I undertook various leadership and volunteer roles (both on-campus and off-campus), participated in various cultural and social events, took part in competitions, went hiking with locals, etc. I did all of these on top of making sure that I did well in my research and the many courses that I had, by proper time management. Initially, it was a struggle, however, I did not want to compromise. So, by putting myself in situations where I was forced to evolve, I was able to master the time management skills that worked for me.

The other thing I learned to do was how to ask for help. The country I am from is significantly different, culturally, structurally and economically. This combined with the fact that my educational institute back home doesn't have so many of the resources compared to that of universities here, meant that asking for help was the very last thing that I would do when it should be the first. I have personally seen this issue to be quite prevalent among international students. As I tried to be involved with Lethbridge and the University community as much as possible, I guess I was able to get out of this shell quite fast.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

That person would be my supervisor, Dr. Luis Escobar. He is an amazing and kind person and helped me out a lot with both academic and personal-related issues. Furthermore, as he is an immigrant himself, he could personally relate to my situation and so, whenever I had a chat with him, it was a very comforting experience.

Did you receive scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.

I received two awards: the University of Lethbridge Graduate Research Award (ULGRA) and the GSA Student Service awards. The former was immensely helpful and went a long way towards making the program affordable. This award along with the two guaranteed full graduate assistantships ensured that I could afford to come to Canada and attend this program.

The latter was awarded at the end of my studies in April 2022. So, although it did not 'help' me throughout my studies per se, however, it was extremely satisfying. I really wanted to give back to the university community and was involved in various student activities throughout my program. Thus, when I was awarded by the GSA for my contribution, it was very rewarding.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

My hope is to get into a position which will allow me to work for the people on a global scale. Towards that goal, I have changed my career track and have joined the BC Public Service as an analyst. However, I plan on going to a position where the arena would be global. On a personal level, I am an immigrant. So, I hope to get my permanent residency and citizenship in this wonderful country as soon as I can.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

The university has really great resources for all your academic, personal, and professional needs. Furthermore, ULethbridge staff are very friendly and proactively helpful. So, do not feel shy to reach out. Furthermore, there are many on-campus opportunities which will help you grow professionally. Make use of them extensively.

Congratulations, Abrar!

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