After immigrating to Canada, completing a diploma and working as an engineering technologist, Ash Tyagi is thriving in UBC’s civil engineering program

“I need to fully understand how things work, which is why I like engineering.”


Ash Tyagi

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program:
  • Campus: Okanagan
  • Year: 3rd year


Why did you want to study engineering?

When I was growing up in India the assumption was that if you were good in biology, you went into medicine and if you were good in math, you went into engineering. I came to Canada in 2016 and enrolled at Okanagan College in a civil engineering technology diploma program, thinking I might change majors later on. But I ended up really enjoying the program. I had initially assumed that engineering would be all math, but I quickly discovered it’s much more than that. I liked how practical and applicable it is, realized that I like the work and saw engineering as a path to a successful and stable career.

You completed a diploma in engineering technology. Why did you want to go to university?

I couldn’t afford to go to university as an international student. So after I graduated from Okanagan College I worked as a civil engineering technologist for Advance Precast where I did product testing and drafted shop drawings. After I got my permanent resident status, I applied to UBC Okanagan’s engineering program and started here in January 2022.

UBCO Engineering


What is UBC Engineering like compared to your college experience?

In college, the path of success is very clearly laid out, with weekly assignments, regular quizzes, midterms and finals. There’s a lot of guidance and support, and the classes are small. Whereas in university, it’s a lot more self-led. Each course is different too – some have a lot of assignments and others just have a midterm. You need to adapt to each course style.


How did you choose your program specialization?

I’m not someone who can just memorize things and be satisfied. I need to fully understand how things work, which is why I like engineering as a whole. I also like to see what I’m doing, so some elements of mechanical and electrical engineering weren’t as interesting to me. I like civil engineering because of the technology used in the industry and because I think it has better job opportunities.


What are some of the highlights of your education so far?

In one of my courses last year on sustainability I did a project on reducing food waste that I really enjoyed and found to be a nice break from more hardcore engineering. Weirdly enough, one of my highlights was a course on electromagnetism in first year, which was ridiculously hard. It was often frustrating because it took me a long time to learn the different electrical engineering concepts, but it was very rewarding at the end to have done it.  

You’re working part time while going to school. Tell us about your work experience.

I started at UBC in January 2022 after the application date for the co-op option. So I reached out to a bunch of companies I was interested in to see if I could get a job in my area. I was hired at D.E. Piling for a summer position and I am still working there part time during the school year. I like the work and there’s a lot to learn. It’s a consulting company, so the projects change all the time – I’ve helped out on the civil design of projects that range from grading a site to make sure water flows properly to designing a home. I love the challenging parts of the job and my co-workers are incredible.

                                                               D.E. Piling


Are you involved in any clubs?

I’m on the executive team of the club Girls Who Lift. I’d been powerlifting for several years and a friend asked me to be part of this club that is passionate about getting women into strength training. It’s been a lot of fun – we’re doing seminars and workshops and planning events for next year. We want to shift the narrative from using exercise to fit into a certain standard of beauty to using exercise to feel strong and powerful. I’ve lifted 335 pounds, and when you are training to lift that much weight you have to be focused and can’t think about engineering or anything else!

Girls Who Lift

Any advice for other students?

Figure out what works for you and your learning style. At university, unlike college or high school, no one is going to tell you what to do. Are you the sort of person who needs to prep in advance for a lecture? Do you need to write out your notes? I learned that I need to separate my school work from everything else, so I stay on campus to get all my assignments done, even if that means staying late. When I am home, I do not think about school at all, which is a nice break. My brain is in relaxing mode!

Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that you are doing so many tests and assignments that a year from now you won’t even remember your mark. As long as you’re passing, as long as you’re getting the average required to be eligible for co-op or a master’s degree if that’s what you want, achieving more than that doesn’t really get you anywhere. It’s as important to take care of your mental health, socialize with friends and get work experience. There is so much more to university than your grades.


Tell us about your favourite on-campus experiences!

Favourite class: Environmental Engineering
Favourite coffee shop on campus: Comma
Favourite lunch spot: The Well
Favourite study spot: Study rooms in The Commons
Favourite place on campus to meet up with friends: The Commons


Two students standing in an outdoor stairwell observing the project site.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers are in high demand, working for example as project managers or design consultants, across all industrial sectors and government. Focus your creativity and help build tomorrow’s world.

Civil Engineering

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