Competing with myself to become a better engineer

"Focus and curiosity will serve you well. Focus on what you want to accomplish and reach out to those who are ahead of you to learn about what it will take for you to reach your goals"

Samuel, smiling at his work office
Focus time at my workstation, Vancouver Airport (YVR)

Samuel Thiak

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program: Civil Engineering
  • Campus: Okanagan

Year: 4th Year

Chat with Samuel


I am a fourth-year civil engineering student specializing in resilient infrastructure management. When I joined the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus, I wanted to pursue civil engineering. However, when I finished my first year that decision changed and I applied to electrical engineering. In the first term of my second year, I was an electrical engineering student but my passion for civil insisted, and I switched back to civil toward the end of the term. So far, I have been involved with Engineering Society moving up from an active member to the position of civil rep and Students' Union Okanagan of UBC (UBCSOU) where I am the currently president. I am looking forward to renewing the World University of Canada at UBC Okanagan, and conducting the campaign next year to increase the number of refugee students that will be arriving yearly here at UBCO. In addition to these, I have been involved outside the campus with Pathways Abilities Society in Kelowna, having worked and volunteered with them at their Community Bottle recycling Center. I received UBC Okanagan Award for Outstanding Engagement in the 2021/2022 academic year for my commendable contributions to campus and the broader community.

How did you decide your current UBC Engineering discipline, or why did you choose UBC Engineering?

Growing up, I had a keen interest in sustainability, engineering, and community engagement. The combination of these interests led me to choose engineering as my field of study. Specifically, I chose civil engineering because it addresses topics such as wastewater management, waste disposal, climate change, green construction, urban planning, and the implementation of resilient infrastructure. I came to Canada through World University Services of Canada’s (WUSC) student refugees program. Through this program, WUSC selects students from different refugee camps and the universities select the students from this list. I was lucky enough to be chosen by UBCO in 2019. Looking back now, UBCO Engineering is memorable because of the friendships that I have made in the last few years, and the Okanagan Valley reminds me a lot of the Rift Valley in Kenya where I grew up.

What has made your time at UBC Engineering memorable?

The most memorable part of my UBC engineering is the friends that I have made along the way. I have friends that have pushed me to work hard toward my dreams. Second to this will be my coop work term. Coop has made me appreciate the quality of education that I'm getting and applying knowledge to real-world engineering projects is something that I have enjoyed about UBC Engineering.

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable?

Civil engineering is a broad discipline that offers solutions to most of our current problems. I wanted a program that would provide me with a wide range of options to engage in instead of being trapped in one lifelong career with limited options. The most valuable part of my program is that I can apply my knowledge in any field be it is transportation, water, environment, consulting, government, mining, geology, or construction.

What resources or events organized by UBC Engineering have helped you in your academic, professional or entrepreneurial journey thus far?

At UBC engineering we have excess to a lot of useful resources. I have benefited the most from my professors and academic advising. I have attended industry (Civil Engineer) events where I got an opportunity to learn, network, and connect with most construction consultants/contractors organized by School of Engineering. These experiences help me in securing my first coop work term with the Vancouver Airport Airside Engineering department.

What is one piece of advice you would share to a student entering UBC Engineering?

Being involved on campus, making connections, and using all available resources. Your network will be significantly important when you're looking for jobs, coops, or internships. All leadership and volunteer positions can make a huge difference in your resume.

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