Mercy Trinh's uncertainty in choosing a university major led her to switch majors several times, influenced by the prevailing notion that arts degrees lacked job prospects. However, she ultimately realized that success hinges not on a specific degree but on her work ethic and perseverance. Finding her passion in English, a subject she always loved, she defied the detractors and pursued it at the University of Lethbridge, recognizing that her commitment and dedication would shape her achievements.

Finally, I found my path in English. It was always my favourite subject in high school and an area of study I enjoyed — it just took me a bit of extra time to be able to ignore all of the voices minimizing the significance of a BA.

Meet Mercy | Determined. Thoughtful. Energetic.
Program: Bachelor of Arts | Major: English

Why did you choose ULethbridge?

I wasn't planning on attending the University of Lethbridge, but when the pandemic hit in 2020, staying in my hometown for university made the most sense. I was planning on transferring after my first year, but ultimately decided after my first year to complete my bachelor's degree at ULethbridge. Staying in Lethbridge for university has allowed me to have the support of my family so that I can build a base to fully pursue my goals.

Did you know what you wanted to study before you came to ULethbridge? Has your academic plan changed since you began your studies?

I had no idea what I wanted to study going into university. However, I did have it drilled into my head that I had to do something in STEM because "you can't get a job with an arts degree." I have changed my major around six times and have tried everything from neuroscience to archaeology. I finally realized that a certain degree isn't what's going to make me successful: it is my work ethic and persistence. Finally, I found my path in English. It was always my favourite subject in high school and an area of study I enjoyed — it just took me a bit of extra time to be able to ignore all of the voices minimizing the significance of a BA.

Have you participated in experiential or work-integrated learning?

Currently (spring 2023), I am completing a semester in Liège, Belgium, as a part of my minor in International Management. Simultaneously, I am working on an independent study under Dr. David Kootnikoff, studying romantic nationalism in Belgium through English literature. I also took part in the 2021 archaeological field school at HSI.

So far, the three biggest things I have learned from these experiences are:

  1. Sometimes people are annoying, but doing life with others is so much better than doing it alone. Despite strong communication, even the best people can get on your nerves or have quirky tendencies. Life is meant to be shared between people, and everyone gets so much more out of it that way.
  2. People want to feel important, and they want to feel appreciated. Take the time, if you can, to give this feeling to people. Mostly, you just have to be polite and listen.
  3. My family is everything to me. This point seems less focused on school, but without my parents' support, I would have never been able to take advantage of all of these opportunities. They have been there through my highest highs and my lowest lows and have been foundational in shaping me into the person I am today. I know they will always be there for me, no matter what the rest of the world thinks of me.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience so far?

My most memorable ULethbridge experience thus far has to have been the 2021 archaeological field school at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This was my first experience doing university in-person — mind you, all of us students lived together in a camp with our professors, so it was as "in-person" as it gets! I finally met other university students after my entire first year online. The actual academics were also fascinating: I learned so much about the Peoples (Blackfoot) from the places where I had grown up.

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

Coach Larry Stienke of the Track & Field team has greatly impacted my experience at ULethbridge. He helped build my confidence back up, not only in an athletic setting but in general, as I entered the track program after a two-year running injury. He has always been very patient with me and sees everyone he coaches as people first, not just athletes.

Jesse McArthur, the Strength & Conditioning coach for the ULethbridge teams, has also notably influenced my experience here. He has programmed strength training for me this past year simply because I asked him to help me get stronger and improve my performance in the pool. He even created a program for me abroad since I don't have access to a gym. This is above and beyond anything in his job description.

Have you received any scholarships and awards?

I have received a variety of scholarships that I am so thankful for! Having scholarships has greatly increased the amount of time I can focus on school, volunteering, and training instead of working to pay my tuition. It always feels like Christmas when I get an email about receiving a scholarship — and who doesn't love Christmas?! So thank donors immensely for everything and all the donations for myself and all the other students.

Are you participating in any extracurricular activities like sports or the arts? If so, how are these experiences enhancing or complimenting what you are doing in the classroom?

For my first two years at the University, I was on the Pronghorns' Track & Field team but was also splitting my time between training for high-performance triathlon. This last year I made the decision to fully focus on triathlon, so I stepped away from the track program. The training schedule for triathlon is quite demanding as it is seven days a week with around two sessions a day. The rigour and discipline of training push me to be more present within the classroom to optimize my time since I don't have as much time to study.

In your free time, what do you like to do?

In my free time, I like to hang out with friends. We like to play badminton at the gym on Sundays, even though we're mostly all pretty bad!

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I plan to take an extra year to finish my degree and participate in the University's co-op program. I think it's a great opportunity to gain an advantage in both the classroom and the workforce. Once I graduate, I want to continue my education, most likely at law school. I also want to pursue triathlon more seriously and give the sport an honest shot where I can put my everything into it.

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

The hardest part about university is everything but the schoolwork itself. University is about learning how to take up space and not feel embarrassed about it. It's about learning to advocate for yourself and believing in the value behind doing so. It's about figuring out who you want to be and unapologetically living it out. These changes happen in little moments and habits; take a look at what you do every day and how that affects your future. Remember, being at university is a privilege. You don't "have to be here"; you get to be here.


What are three awesome things about yourself?

I have visited 15 countries, and counting. I love to make up the most convoluted stories about any subject, and I can speak 2.5 languages (English, French, and German in progress)!

Favourite place on campus?

The Science Commons building

Favourite activities to do in southern Alberta?

Anything in Waterton; hiking

Favourite place to study?

Markin study rooms

About Shining Students

Shining Students engage inside and outside of the classroom. What makes a student shine may differ from person to person, but they all share a passion for learning. They may be top students, involved in an innovative project, participating in ground-breaking research, playing Pronghorn athletics, fighting for social issues or all of the above! When students find something they enjoy and combine it with what they are good at, they shine.

Each year, the Faculty of Arts & Science's faculty and staff nominate students who exemplify the ULethbridge student spirit. Congratulations Mercy!

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