So, Why Lethbridge

Written by Nathaniel Malong

Around November of last year, a friend from Hong Kong and I discussed our plans. Since we were taking up similar majors, we reviewed the classes we might take and the road after university. She was going to the Imperial College of London (ICL) for her philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major. She asked if I would accompany her to the United Kingdom and attend university there. I declined, stating that I had committed myself to study at the University of Lethbridge, and I jokingly added that I would hate the weather in the UK. She chuckled, then asked me a question that would haunt me for the next few months. 

“So, why Lethbridge?”

It is a simple question we have all probably been asked before. I couldn’t tell you how often I have heard this question from friends, family, and exes. Before I landed in Canada, I gave general explanations that I thought were genuine. However, as I pondered the question more after having lived in the city for a few months and adopting a lifestyle so different from before, I knew there was something more profound about it. I wondered why I chose a place and university so antithetical to my life back home. Why did I choose to be far away from everyone and everything I know? That’s when I decided to sit down and try to piece together the story of my past to understand my present. I want to use my first-hand experiences to help us all understand why we live the way we do. As we go into the next semester, we should reflect on how our past experiences affect us to assure ourselves that we are working for our desired future. Some of us feel lost in a world so complex and a future so elusive. The first step to being confident about the road ahead is understanding the path that got you where you are in the first place. For me, it all started in the “Pearl of the Orient,” Manila.

Growing up in one of the densest cities in the world was complicated. Fortunately, I grew up surrounded by a loving family and friends who supported me. I worked hard to qualify for one of the country’s top universities. I partied with my friends most Saturday nights in my freetime sometimes in two cities 70 miles apart. I thought I had life figured out, and it was for a time. However, I lost myself more and more. I had entangled myself in arguments and rivalries between friends and peers.  It felt like a repeating cycle of conflicting attitudes between people I knew or didn’t know. It was exhausting, and as I studied while dealing with so much conflict, I eventually lost the balance. I lost friends, some my mistake and some not. I also lost confidence, reflected in my academics and the projects I managed simultaneously.

I felt like a massive failure. I thought I was undeserving of receiving help from my family, especially my mother, who worked so hard to give me the life I had. At this point, I had failed in almost everything, and for a time, I thought I had no hope of success. I remember one time I was in my room, so stressed and filled with despair because I thought there was nowhere else to go. That’s when my mother came in and gave me a talk I would remember. She told me I could consider going abroad like I asked before and start anew. I wondered if it wouldn’t be much more complicated and improbable than my original plan. But she encouraged me by saying that this spiral into failure was a sign that the future I had planned out was not for me and that taking a chance elsewhere could show me what I was meant to do. However, she added, I would have to work harder than I ever did to prove to everyone and myself that I have what it takes to shift my entire life. 

So I did; I worked and studied harder than I ever did. I started more projects and entered competitions in the Philippines and worldwide. I took every opportunity I got and reached new heights. However, I knew that I still had not changed. I still had that fear and that lack of confidence. No amount of work and success could take that away, and I knew something needed to change. I needed to prove that I, by myself, could survive and thrive in this world. With that in mind, I started choosing the universities I would attend. I had options in Asia and North America, but I specifically wanted to live in Canada because of my family, and honestly, I prefer the snow. So, how did I choose Lethbridge? I went on Google Maps and saw this city near the US border. Initially intrigued, I looked around Lethbridge using Google Street View and visited the coulees and the university. I thought the coulees looked incredible, so I applied immediately. Initially, I chose Lethbridge because it was away from everyone and everything that defined me as a person. It could be an opportunity to prove that I am worthy of being the person I dreamed of. I knew I was just a sheltered kid living in the biggest city in the country, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to be someone I was proud of, someone I could look in the mirror and, despite all the failures and disappointments, be proud of the person I am. I yearned for an opportunity to change, so I took it by packing my bags and taking the plane and bus to Lethbridge. 

Living here for a few months has given me the time and space to think and reflect. I started focusing on my health, mentally and physically. I regained confidence and slowly moulded myself into the person I wanted to be rather than what I had to become. My outlook on life became more positive, and my fear slowly disappeared. I didn’t do all this by hiding my emotions away with work, people, or vice. I just took the time to understand my past and what needed change. Some of us can feel lost in life and be stuck in damaging cycles of self-doubt and failure. Sometimes, we fear our future simply because we don’t know our potential. Fear is like a cage built from your experiences; freedom requires reflection and total change. It may seem like I just ran away from the causes of my anxiety, but I knew deep down that those fears did not come from external factors but rather from my doubts and insecurities. I needed to know what I was capable of, and I could only find that through changing the areas within my life that restricted me from doing so. Lethbridge offered me a different outlook on life that only a place so different from where I was raised can give. However, I only saw the need for change when I stepped back, reflected on my life in the Philippines, and compared it to an idealized future more suited to who I am. While not everyone can embark on a journey of radical change and pursue extraordinary opportunities, we can still gain insight into ourselves by reflecting on our past and assessing our current circumstances. If you feel your life is not optimal to how you idealize it to be, contemplate what led you down this road, and as you piece your experiences together, find your capabilities and use them to bring necessary change. Utilize your experiences as a roadmap for how you want to live your present and plan your future.  

If the Nathan from last year were to look at me now, he wouldn’t believe it. Lethbridge lets me enjoy the moments of peace and calm just staring at the local park pond as the sun sets on the horizon, knowing that these moments were for the better rather than the worse. I came and stayed at Lethbridge to be who I am, to reach personal fulfillment, to learn from the failures that haunted me, and to give myself time to enjoy the beauty of just being alive. This current moment may be the first step in my new path in life, and I’m glad to have chosen Lethbridge for that. I didn’t realize at first what the importance and purpose of the question “Why Lethbridge” was. But as I asked myself it again, I now know it’s a springboard to help us reflect on the present and whether it will lead us to our desired future. So, as you finish reading, ask yourself the same question that birthed this article. Why Lethbridge? Or if you’re somewhere else, “Why ______?”. Give clarity to your past, meaning to your present, and foresight into your future. 

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