Hello! My name is Lukas and I am a Discover Year alumnus and current Ambassador.
I am so happy to say that I was part of a one-of-a-kind post-secondary program that caters to students looking to explore themselves and develop their career and leadership skills. Discover Year is comprised of five different components that come together to help students accelerate their growth and independence.
These five components include:
1) Weekly skills workshops to teach students relevant and practical life and career skills that employers are actively looking for when hiring;
2) Two work terms that enable students to work full-time, save money, and apply the skills they learned from workshops to their job;
3) A travel period in February where students get to travel wherever they want, gain new experiences, and really step outside of their comfort zone;
4) Two community service projects that students work on in small groups to give back to their community; and
5) Ongoing mentorship throughout the year to support students and help them learn more about themselves and different career and life paths.
Looking back on my last year of high school, I vividly remember hearing my friends talk about the universities they would attend after graduation and feeling insecure about the fact that I had no concrete post-secondary plan. Although my older sister had taken a gap year too, I still felt inferior to my peers because they seemed to have everything figured out. They seemed to believe that by going off to university they were “getting ahead," which indirectly reinforced the idea that if I took a gap year, I would be "falling behind."
All I knew at that time was that I wasn’t sure what I truly wanted to do, and the social pressures I was feeling certainly didn’t make me feel any better about it. When I was asked about my future, I would tell others that I was going to work and take time off to travel through Europe. However, in reality, I wasn’t sure how I would manage to get a job and make it all happen – or what would I do after that.
Then, one day in the fall of my last year of high school, I stumbled on Discover Year after hearing about it from a friend. At first I was a little skeptical, but after hearing about the programming and opportunities Discover Year offered – like learning how to find a job, travel the world, and take on projects in the community – my family and I knew that this was as good as it was going to get. It seemed like the perfect mix of structure and freedom to explore for an uncertain 18-year-old.
And in the end, we were right! My Discover Year was not only exciting and insightful but also healing, for it gave me a tremendous amount of self-confidence. Some of the top highlights and takeaways from my Discover Year included a volunteer project making milk bag mattresses for impoverished communities in various developing countries, a travel period through Vietnam by motorbike for 6 weeks, and various workshops and coaching sessions that really gave me more perspective about my future career options. One of my favourite workshops was the hands-on website-building session as it was super relevant to my interest in entrepreneurship.
My journey through Discover Year ultimately led me to where I am today. I am now in my final year at the University of Ottawa studying Commerce with a specialization in International Management. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to use my newfound skills and connections to find jobs with the university – first as a Student Ambassador and then as a Regional Mentor. This past summer I also worked for the Federal Government and now I’m back working at Discover Year! It all came full circle.
I can confidently say that Discover Year made me a more confident and resilient person. Through my travels and other experiential learning, I developed stronger self-awareness and a better understanding of my interests and talents before going into my first year of university. My level of independence also significantly increased and I adopted a very open mind to new experiences. This ultimately resulted in an improved self-image and gave me the confidence I needed to thrive in university and in my career. I'm so grateful that I decided to take a Discover Year and I know I will carry the lessons with me for years to come.