When the acceptance letter came in for Alicia Giang to study at Coast Mountain College’s (CMTN) Prince Rupert campus, her entire family celebrated.
Growing up in a single-parent household, she felt a sense of responsibility as the eldest to take care of her two younger brothers while her mom juggled jobs to support them all. Giang couldn’t imagine leaving them behind — she was thrilled to attend college in her hometown.
“It was just a really good idea for me to be at home so I could take care of my brothers and help with anything that needed to be done around the house,” Giang says.
“Plus being with family, I was able to also get the mental support I needed going through post-secondary.”
With the campus only a short walk away from her home, Giang says staying home to pursue her first two years of an arts associate degree was the best decision she ever made.
But being close to home wasn’t Coast Mountain College’s only appeal. She says attending a smaller college made the transition into post-secondary easy, where she grew more confident in her abilities and place in the world.
From the first day on, Giang was taken aback by how small and interactive all her classes were. Some courses only had a handful of other students, making it feel more like a gathering of friends. She knew everyone by name and always felt supported by her peers.
“Whenever you saw someone in the hallway, you always had a little conversation with them,” she says. “There was a feeling of being connected, cared for and looked after.”
Oftentimes after class, Giang would stick around to chat with her professors about life. She says her professors were all down to earth and it showed they cared about the well-being of their students. These interactions, she says, taught her valuable perspective that could never be liberated through a textbook.
“A lot of professors were there emotionally, they understood that college is stressful... and that I'm not just the only one that's struggling,” she says.
Looking back, Giang says her most memorable times at Coast Mountain College were all the different field trips she went on throughout her courses. From biology to psychology, she experienced her studies hands-on and even years later, still remembers those lessons vividly.
Through these school trips, Giang saw Prince Rupert differently. Her classmates who came from afar were enchanted by her hometown, especially when discovering how diverse both its community and ecosystems are. She gained an immense sense of pride for having grown up in such a unique beautiful place and shared her findings of appreciation with her family.
"Being able to learn and explore more of the city that I was born in was absolutely amazing... it made me feel really proud of being born in Prince Rupert, that people from other cities came to enjoy our nature, our ocean and came here to get an education out of it as well.”
Giang is now a psychology student at UBC, a passion she stumbled upon through college, and was supposed to be living in Vancouver before the pandemic hit. She says doing all her studies online has taken a lot of self-discipline and motivation but says she already honed in on these skills during her time at CMTN.
She’s also glad to spend another year with her family, especially now that one of her brothers has enrolled into his first year at the CMTN’s Prince Rupert campus. Their youngest sibling is curious about the college as well and Giang laughs that she might have influenced them.
“I would tell them all about it,” Giang says. “That it’s a great place where you really learn so much not only as a student, but about yourself as well.”