Nicola Alvarez's time at the University of Lethbridge reflects a commitment to continuous growth and a desire to make a meaningful impact. She has been challenged — and not necessarily in terms of content — by her professors, who believed that her best work at any given time could be bettered and honed further. Nicola credits these professors for pushing her toward a level of success she had never dreamed of and a path that includes research and work in the realm of emerging Filipino literature and Filipino diasporic literature.

There is a plethora of rich, diverse literature out there, and there are not enough academics, especially academics of colour, that have had the opportunities and resources that have been given to me by professor David Hobbs in the Department of English. Thank you for pushing me towards success, day in and day out.

Meet Nicola | Engaged. Passionate. Resilient.
Program: Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education | Major: English/Language Arts Education
Hometown: Lethbridge, AB

Why did you choose ULethbridge?

I chose ULethbridge not only because of the convenience of studying in my hometown, but also because of its education program. I had known that I was taking English, but it was the ease of adding education to my list of choices that truly hammered it in for me.

Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge?

My heart had always been set on English education, though my family had wanted me to pursue a career in STEM. Despite this, I followed my passion to the general humanities and education program before fully transferring to English, as I had realized this was the stream that I wanted to devote my time to. I also am planning to finish with a minor in Women & Gender Studies.

Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning.

I had the wonderful opportunity to design for the Support Network for Academics of Colour+. I design graphics and illustrations as a hobby and I was honoured to have been asked to be the designer for their logo, some event posters and banners and a map infographic. It was a wonderful opportunity wherein I met like-minded individuals and I was able to exercise my skills as a designer through commissioned projects. I really enjoyed the team aspect of it — we all worked very closely to ensure that we were able to get the desired results.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?

I think it would be the first time I ever had classes on campus. I started university in the midst of the pandemic and was not required to be in person until the fall of my second year. On top of the sheer wonder and excitement about my new predicament, I vaguely remember wandering into the depths of the professors' offices on the eighth floor of the fine arts building and getting hopelessly lost. I understand it is a straight hallway, but as a fairly new student, it was like a maze to me! On top of that, the cellphone reception in those hallways is spotty at best. I remember pausing whatever I was listening to in order to focus on getting out of those hallways. Eventually, I did get out, but that was the first and last time I was ever lost at the University. I remember that day the most as it was quite humbling - it was a reminder that there will always be much to learn and that I really did have to focus and give it my all.

How have your professors impacted your education?

My University professors have been the first educators that I have had in my life who truly challenged me — and not necessarily in terms of content. These are educators who believed that my best work at any given time could be bettered and honed further. They did not settle for complacency, especially when I found myself getting comfortable. Instead, they pushed me further and further toward a level of success that I would not even have dreamed of. Sessional professor Margaret Kress was one of my professors in the Department of Women & Gender Studies who introduced me to new concepts and led me to meet some really phenomenal Indigenous figures, advocates, and activists. Dr. Glenda Bonifacio, who had pushed me to become more involved with the Department and even offered me opportunities I would not have even thought of, if not for her. And lastly, professor David B. Hobbs, my English professor who had shown me that there is more to literature than I had initially thought. I was in English education specifically to learn how to teach English as a second language, but taking professor Hobbs's classes revealed other opportunities and avenues for me. There is a plethora of rich, diverse literature out there, and there are not enough academics, especially academics of colour, that have had the opportunities and resources that have been given to me by professor Hobbs. Thank you for pushing me towards success, day in and day out.

Nicola is fiercely intelligent and a remarkably hard worker and practices her gifts with tremendous generosity and good cheer. She is a literary star in the making. – David B Hobbs, Department of English

Is there anyone else who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

I have always found it difficult to make friends in general and university has been a wonderful experience for me to meet new and like-minded people in my life. I have made a handful of unexpected friends in my classes and I really do appreciate them a lot. I also am beyond grateful to ULethbridge's Counselling Services for being the support that I need in trying times.

Have you received any scholarships and awards?

The scholarships and awards I received have helped me immensely in my university career by covering some of my tuition expenses. I will always be so unbelievably grateful, as these scholarships and awards have eased some of my financial worries of going through school.

Are you participating in any extracurricular activities?

I am currently a substitute teacher and choreographer at Danceworks Academy in Lethbridge! It is such a rewarding experience to be around a wonderful group of women and girls sharing their love of dance and expression. Dance has always been a creative and self-expression outlet for me, even when I was growing up. I think knowing that I have that outlet has made me comfortable in exploring my individuality, warts and all. This, in turn, has made me incredibly comfortable with expressing myself through writing. I am truest to myself, at least at the time, in what I write. This is highly important in my English classes, as I find myself writing about who I am and what I know with an unwavering and steady voice.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Funny enough, I don't do a lot of traditional reading in my free time! I listen to a lot of audiobooks while I do crafty activities like crocheting, digital art, illustration, and graphic design! I also play a lot of video games with my friends and build keyboards while watching shows. If not cooped up inside with a cozy blanket, I am at the dance studio, trying new choreography to new music and chatting with my peers at the studio!

Photo submitted by Nicola

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

Though I originally planned to take up the English as a second language stream in the education program, I am now interested in pursuing more education through graduate studies and if permitting, a PhD! There is so much research and work to be done in the realm of emerging Filipino literature and Filipino diasporic literature, and I feel as though this is the path for me. In this regard, I do have a fallback with my education degree, but I really do hope to be in lecture halls one day.

In the immediate future, I am hoping to take a three to four-month-long trip back home to the Philippines. Hopefully, I can amass a ridiculous amount of books and literature for me to haul back here and finally be able to do the independent study I have been planning for ages!

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

Most of the professors at ULethbridge are so incredibly helpful. Go. To. Their. Office. Hours. They are there to help you, and as I have mentioned, it was my professors at this university who helped me become the student I am today! On top of that, the university offers so many resources that often go unused. Get to know these resources and use them! They are there for you! Lastly, breathe. University is extremely fast-paced. It is okay to take time for yourself and breathe. Your learning will vastly improve if you take the time for yourself!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your decision to pursue a university degree?

Coming from a first-generation immigrant household, I am so incredibly grateful and humbled by having the opportunity to enrol in university and pursue studies that I would not have dreamed of as a little girl. Though it is not without its own obstacles, I know I am in the right discipline. I have had many bouts of self-doubt, and I still do. This is something I am continually working on, but I know that there is a lot that I can offer to the world around me.

Quick Answers

Favourite class: Frameworks
Favourite social activity at ULethbridge: I love being able to see my friends and discuss classes and lectures that we just attended!
Favourite place to study: It would be at my own personal desk at home, but if I had to pick at the university, it would be at the Curr Lab or a study room in the Science Commons!
What are three awesome things about you? I am resilient, hardworking, and extremely empathetic!