Introducing Pooja Misra. A recent BCOM Marketing graduate, Pooja has generously taken the time to have an interview with The Cavalier to speak about her educational experiences that have extended outside of the walls of Henry Angus, through her travels and involvement in extracurricular activities.

Staff Writer: Jacqueline Yan

What propelled you to travel to Southeast Asia for three months after graduation?

Travel for me is not a way to get cultured or have some exotic other-worldly experience; it’s simply been my way of life since I was a baby. When I moved to Canada for my undergrad, it was the eighth country I would be living in. Crazily, by the time I got close to graduating I’d spent more time in Vancouver than I had anywhere else in the world, so I kind of just had this itch to get out! Yes, I could have dived right into full-time employment after finishing all of my class requirements. If I had, I’d probably be somewhat ahead in my career at this stage, but I really have no regrets.

For students that are also thinking of travelling before launching into their careers, what advice would you give them?

Just do it! You will not regret it. I think it’s pretty easy to start university and get stuck in a bubble of achieving good grades, getting involved and applying for internships, all with the end goal of getting a job. But that’s really not all that university is about. Don’t develop tunnel vision and get so wrapped up in your career that you forget about living your life and enjoying it too. After all, you have your entire life to work. Whatever it is that’s important to you – it could be travelling, volunteering, dancing, whatever – make it a priority in your life.

It’s okay to go against the status quo, and in fact, it takes a hell of a lot more courage to do just that. In my case, I passed up two very good career opportunities in order to travel, because it was important to me. Was it scary? Definitely. But looking back, I know I would have regretted not travelling a whole lot more than simply starting my career a bit later.

What was the most memorable part of your three month trip?  

In terms of countries, Indonesia was phenomenal as I’d never been there before. I had two very cool new life experiences in Indonesia – climbing active volcanoes and scuba diving! In Lombok and Java, I climbed a total of three volcanoes, one of which was Mount Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia, standing at a towering 3,726 metres tall. And while we were on Gili Air we got our PADI open water certifications. Diving in the Gilis was magical – it was like being underwater with the characters of Finding Nemo!

In the past, you were heavily involved with the Sauder community. How have these experiences benefited you in the “real world,” outside of UBC?

The connections that I’ve made over the years have definitely benefited me outside of school. Through residence, academics and extracurriculars, I’ve gained a solid network of friends, mentors and professors. These are the people that I can always rely on for advice, insider tips, references, you name it. Reputations and networks are everything in the real world.

I’ve also learned that university is the safest place in the world to take risks. While you’re in university, everything feels like a make-it-or-break-it situation and everyone’s so scared of failing. In reality, university is the most sheltered place to experiment with ideas and think outside of the box. In my third year, I co-founded the Imprint Conference, which involved rebranding and reintroducing the existing Style and the City Conference. This was a bold move to make, and we faced our share of skepticism. But you’ve got to remember that in university, your job isn’t on the line, you won’t get “fired” if things don’t go according to plan! Co-founding Imprint was the most innovative thing I’ve done at university and it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

If you could go back in time and tell your first-year self something, what would it be?  

Take advantage of this incredibly sheltered environment to take risks, and have the courage to simply think differently. This could be anything from coming up with an out-of-the-box solution to a case assignment, to starting your own business venture through e@UBC, to exploring an unconventional career path. Either way, there’s a lot to gain from these types of experiences and this type of mentality.

Also, learn to embrace failure and recognize that we all face it, even if most of us don’t talk about it. I remember looking up to senior students as a first year. Maybe it was the CUS President, a COMM 101 TA, or a JDC West competitor – it was easy to idolize these individuals. They seemed perfect! Through my own experiences, however, I’ve learned that success never comes without failure and those people that seemed super-human to me at the time were no different than myself. Just like me, they’d seen their share of failures along the way to their success. So don’t put people up on a pedestal! Just chill out, and know that with time, experience and motivation, you’ll get to the place that you deserve to be too.
The Cavalier would like to thank Pooja for the interview, and wishes her all the best in her future endeavours!