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Student Success Week Spotlight: Gabrielle Oprea

As part of Student Success Week, we are featuring UM students who have a story to tell about their experiences navigating the challenges of student life.

February 26, 2024 — 

Student Affairs provides programming, supports, services and resources for UM students, and employs over 100 student staff during the academic year. These students, who gain familiarity with initiatives in the division, have valuable insights to offer their peers about overcoming challenges, getting unstuck, and gaining momentum. Over the course of Student Success Week, we’ll profile five exceptional student staff and ask them to share their top tips and tricks for success at the University of Manitoba.

Our first interview is with Gabrielle Oprea:

Gabrielle Oprea was born in Winnipeg, MB. She recently completed a Bachelor of Arts with an advanced major in Labour Studies and minor in philosophy. Gabrielle works at the Academic Learning Centre as the Academic Integrity Research Assistant.

Gabrielle Oprea | Academic Integrity Reseach Assistant, Academic Learning Centre

Gabrielle Oprea | Academic Integrity Reseach Assistant, Academic Learning Centre

Has anything unplanned or unexpected happened during your studies? How did you handle it?

Having just recently completed my Advanced Bachelor of Arts in Labour Studies, I look back on my university experience and can’t help but feel immense gratitude for the unplanned experiences that brought me to where I am today. When I started as a University 1 student I thought I would take a full course load, work part-time to pay my way through school, and still find time to socialize and explore new passions. As it turned out, my plan was far from realistic. I remember feeling unmotivated after my first year. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, and my grades didn’t meet my expectations. I was also ignorant to the many supports that exist for students. In short: I had it in my head that I wasn’t cut out for university.

In my third semester, I had an unexpected death in my family right before Finals. I was gutted. My motivation to persevere to the end of the semester was gone. I was stuck in a freeze response. I reached out for support from the Student Advocacy office to request an authorized withdrawal from my classes. Dejected, I took a year off to work and quickly realized that there are a lot of injustices that can occur in the workplace. These experiences helped me realize that I wanted to learn more about how work works. The Labour Studies program was a perfect fit for me.

I returned to study at UM amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The transition from in-person learning to Zoom classes was a challenge in and of itself. I was determined to make the best of a hard situation. Being stuck at home for more than a year forced me to learn how to manage my time, how to prioritize my workload, and how to connect with my peers during a long period of isolation. I would have to relearn these skills again when the restrictions imposed by the pandemic were scaled back and classes returned to campus. Looking back on my studies, every unexpected experience taught me resiliency.

We all have uncertainties about our future. What is your tip or trick for handling the unknown?

Feeling anxious about what the future holds is thankfully a normal part of life. When I felt anxious about my degree trajectory, I made sure to connect with an Academic Advisor to see if I was on-track (thank you UM Achieve for spelling it all out for me!). When I have felt anxious about what career opportunities might exist once I finish my degree, I’ve had my worries cleared up by meeting with a Career Consultant. In my experience, when life gets overwhelming it is best to remember that going through it will get you through it.

What helps you balance all the aspects of your life as a student?

  1. Having everything I might need on my phone: having my Outlook and U of M apps set up, using calendars, and making daily to-do-lists.
  2. Finding time to exercise is essential. It is the only time I can turn off my worrying brain and completely focus on being in the moment.

What message do you have for new or returning sudents when it comes to being successful at the University and in life?

In University: Ask for help. Go and see a writing tutor even if you think you don’t need it. If your schedule allows for it, apply for jobs on campus!

In Life: Expect the unexpected. Challenges will arise that will make you question if you’re on the right path and it’s okay to ask for help or revaluate. Sometimes things won’t always go according to plan and that’s fine, you just might be redirected to experiences that are better than you ever imagined.

What do you find most exciting when you think of the future?

Thinking of the opportunities that are out there waiting for me! I am excited to see where all the skills and experiences I gained throughout my education take me into the future.

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