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A goose on Fort Garry campus, surrounded by snow. // Image from Melyssa Ward

Student Success Week Spotlight: Kayla Barnabé

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.

March 1, 2024 — 

Kayla Barnabé is a first-generation university student, born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, completing her final year in the Bachelor of Social Work program on UM Fort Garry Campus. Currently, she is the Health and Wellness Program Assistant at UM, while also completing her final social work field placement as an Accessibility Coordinator with Student Accessibility Services.

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

Starting university was a daunting challenge. As a first-generation university student, the range of paths and choices to make were both invigorating and overwhelming. When I first started, I didn’t have a solid degree plan in mind, so I decided to take a variety of courses offered by different faculties in hopes that it would help highlight my true interests and values.

It was halfway through my second year of University 1 when I found myself feeling stuck and still wasn’t completely sure what degree path I wanted to explore. I decided reached out for support from Career Services and met with a Career Consultant. I would have never thought that this one meeting would change my life… But it did! We explored the topics I enjoy studying, what I liked learning about, what kind of environment and people I’d like to work with in the future, what my core values are, and more. That’s when we started exploring the Bachelor of Social Work program, and next thing you know I was submitting my application to the faculty. The following Fall, I began my social work journey!

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

The unknown can seem nerve-wracking and intimidating – but it can also be very exciting! Keep your head high, keep working towards your goals, be flexible, and trust your gut. I like to think about past uncertainties I’ve experienced and how those situations turned out. That way, I can remind myself how I am both capable of overcoming obstacles and adapting when things do go to plan. Also, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for support – vocalizing your thoughts to people you feel safe with or recording thoughts in a journal are helpful ways to manage these big emotions.

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

As a busy student who is always on the move and always tempted to fill my schedule, taking the time to slow down and reflect on my capacity and priorities helps me maintain balance in my life. I will admit, this hasn’t always been easy, and you’re not alone if this is an obstacle you face as well! I found that when I started to be more realistic about how I can properly balance all important aspects of my life, I felt like everything I set out to do was much more intentional and impactful.

Implementing acts of self-care into my daily life has also become growingly important. I consider it a priority that helps balance my whole system, helping me slow down and avoid burnout. Some of my favorite self-care activities at the moment include going for a walk in nature, listening to some good music, and immersing myself in a good book. Taking time for yourself is an important piece to living a balanced life!

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

Don’t be afraid to take chances and put yourself out there! Take time to explore all campus has to offer, from student support units, student groups, study areas, libraries, workshops, social events, outdoor space. Be courageous and don’t be afraid to ask questions – you never know what opportunities will come from it, and what connections you might build! Creating and building a network of connections will provide countless benefits in the present and in the future. Keep an open mind, and stay flexible and adaptable. This is also very applicable to life beyond university!

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

In terms of near future, I’m most excited to graduate with my BSW in the spring! I’m really looking forward to applying my valuable learnings and experiences to a field that I’m so passionate about. I look forward to a career that will be both challenging and rewarding where I will have the opportunity to support and work with great people from a variety of backgrounds.

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