Written by: Tait Seguin
My name is Tait Seguin, I am 26 years old and I am proud to have finally completed a long term personal goal of earning a university degree.
I am now an official graduate of Carleton University’s Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering (SREE) program. I often reflect on my journey making it to this point, especially considering the amount of time that has passed since I enrolled in my first university class at Nipissing University in 2013. It has been a long road to obtain a university degree, but I have much to be thankful for in my experiences, as well as the people and organizations who have helped me achieve my goals along the way. AEE Canada East was one such organization who provided financial aid to myself in my final year at Carleton which alleviated financial stress at a critical time.
When I think of how important education is to me, it cannot be overlooked how much of an investment it really is in terms of time, dedication, hard work, and financially. I have always felt that the latter is the most complicated aspect because I can personally control the remaining variables. With that in mind, to be a recipient of AEE Canada East Founders Scholarship is an honour. No matter what life path one may be on, catching a break or a good bounce is essential for reaching end goals. Receiving financial support from the AEECE was personally one of those breaks that assisted me in closing out my educational journey in the midst of a global pandemic.
At this point you may have noticed and may asking yourself why obtaining a university degree took over eight years given most programs are typically completed in four? I had even managed to skip a grade in elementary school to graduate from high school a year early. However, this is where my story begins to diverge from the typical post high school sequence of events of diving headfirst into post secondary education as many of my friends had done.
Ultimately, I hope my story can provide inspiration to anyone who feels they too could take a chance going down different avenues that differ from societal expectations which place a heavy emphasis on high school graduates to immediately pursue post secondary education. While I believe in the value of obtaining a degree or training in any field to be fundamental in leading a rewarding life, I also think there is equal value in taking time early on in life to learn about yourself and what really sparks your interests. I personally have a better sense of what interests me now, but narrowing all the different possibilities at 17 or 18 years old was a daunting task to say the least. So, here we go…
After I graduated from high school I decided to pursue my passion for hockey and spent the next four years of my life playing at the junior level. Growing up in Astorville, a small town in Northern Ontario, playing hockey was one of the most common things that united many families and kids within the community. My passion for the sport was immediate, and I spent most of my free hours outside of school playing hockey or skating by myself on the frozen pond in my backyard. Since I was homeschooled as a kid until going to high school, I was able to spend a lot of my time on that outdoor rink with one major exception enforced by my parents. School comes first. This was a very influential lesson to learn as a young kid, the harder I worked at school and took care of business on that front the more time I would have to spend outside skating.
My parents taught me that education is ultimately the most important priority after family. They always pushed the importance of school, along with absolute support for my passion for hockey. My parents taught me that I could pursue hockey in a way that would result in getting a university education. Like any hockey player my dream was to play in the National Hockey League, however, I added on to that dream that no matter what way I would get to playing the highest level of hockey, I would do it in a manner that would provide me with a university degree along the way.
Following graduation from high school, I entered the junior hockey ranks playing for my hometown junior A team, the North Bay Trappers. I spent the first half of that season studying and preparing to write the SAT test, which is a mandatory entrance test for a majority of the big universities in the States. At this time, I entertained the option of pursuing a US NCAA scholarship as my talent in the classroom and on the ice had caught the attention of notable ivy league schools such as Harvard and Cornell University. As the year progressed, I enrolled in my first part time studies taking a biology course at Nipissing University over the winter term. Despite not being enrolled in a full-time program I was determined to learn at the next level of education while I focused on pursuing my hockey goals.
After a very successful year on the ice and getting a taste of what university classes are all about, the summer of 2013 became a major turning point for my future. Alternative to pursuing an NCAA scholarship in the States to get school taken care of, I was able to crack the roster of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, who provided an educational package that met my needs and academic goals. Additionally, I was able to continue part time studies through the University of Western Ontario. I had worked tirelessly to get to this point, and it was all finally beginning to pay off as I was in a very conducive environment to accelerate in hockey playing for one of the most reputable major junior hockey teams in Canada, and more importantly continue part time education at one of Canada’s most reputable universities.
The next few years were very important to me as I got to play with and against some of the best hockey players in the world while balancing a couple university courses on the side. I loved every minute of the hockey experience I got to be a part of in London as we often played in front of a sold-out home crowd of up to 10,000 people. It was truly like playing in a mini-NHL environment and I will forever be fond of the memories I have of playing there.
As a team we were heavily involved within the community which quickly became one of my favourite aspects of the experience. Through our community involvement we would frequently do different events that allowed us to engage with all our fans and give back to the local people to demonstrate our appreciation of their support. One of my personal favourite community involvement activities was getting to visit various local elementary schools and give motivational speeches to the entire student body. This was important to me as I began to realize I had a platform where I could positively influence the young minds of kids who looked up to us. I always strived to make a lasting impression on how important it was for these youngsters to set goals for themselves, focus on doing well at school, and to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
On my own personal school front, I was able to amass a years worth of credits from my part time studies. I took a variety of classes from micro and macro economics to calculus and linear algebra, and even dabbled in geography and disability studies. Playing a major junior hockey schedule is very time consuming as there are hardly any days totally free from the rink, so balancing one or two classes a semester on top of that seemed to be a sweet spot. I was able to gain exposure and experience in handling and meeting the expectations of university classes and learned how much more personal accountability it required to be successful at the university level. Furthermore, I was able to start narrowing down the different academic areas I was really interested in.
In 2016, at age 21, my eligibility to continue playing junior hockey expired and it was time to start thinking of what I should do next. After extensive consideration I came to realize that it was a good time for me to hang up the skates, collect on my OHL university package, and enroll in a full-time university program. As much as it broke my heart to step away from the sport I loved playing nearly every single day for as long as I could remember, I knew deep down that I had taken my shot and it was time to focus on school and embrace the challenges of obtaining a university degree. It happened to work out at the time that my younger brother was planning to go to Algonquin College and my long-time best friend was going to Carleton. I looked into some of Carleton’s programs and was intrigued by the Photonics and Laser Technology program which I kind of went out on a limb and ended up applying for and getting accepted to. I had done well in the university math courses I had taken at Western, and I always had a knack for physics in high school so this seemed like a unique field to study in. Before I knew it, I was living in Ottawa with my brother and my best friend and starting my full-time university chapter at Carleton.
Initially, it was a really hard transition going from spending most of my time at the rink between practices and games to being idle in lecture halls all day and putting in overtime at the library. I struggled with the aspect of feeling like I failed in reaching my dreams of playing in the NHL as I watched many of my former teammates make that jump. I know I was talented enough to play at the major junior level but swallowing that bittersweet pill of realizing you are coming up short of your ultimate goal is tough. However, my journey through hockey had taught me countless invaluable lessons that had built a resiliency within me that I could draw upon and apply to my new academic chapter. Practices became long shifts at the library solving example problems and studying, and game days became midterm and exam season. I was determined to not let my academic goals get the better of me, and I was hungry to have something to strive for again with all of my energy and devotion.
During my first year at Carleton I really enjoyed studying in the PLT program, however, I also became gradually aware that the progression of the program wasn’t as inline with my interests as I had initially thought. I started to spend time reflecting on what was important to me and things I was learning about that were interesting as I explored some of the different programs Carleton offered. I recalled how much I had valued being a part of and giving back to the community in my London days. I was also learning in some capacity about solar and wind power through my courses and on my own time. So when I came across Carleton’s unique SREE program it seemed exactly like what I had been looking for. An engineering degree focused on sustainability and renewable power generation. This finally seemed like the ultimate ticket to pursue my passion and interests simultaneously.
Before the 2017 academic year rolled around I had applied to and was accepted by the SREE program. Focusing on sustainability personally felt right to me as it provided a means of being educated on how to give back to the community in a way that allows future generations to live better off than the world we live in today. This is particularly important to me as there are many northern rural or remote areas both in Ontario and across Canada that could benefit at large from implementation of sustainable and renewable energy infrastructure. This hits close to home having grown up myself in a small northern Ontario town and realizing how much potential can be realized by applying the concepts sustainability, and capitalising on renewable energy sources that can achieve energy independence at a community level.
When I started the SREE program in 2017 it felt like I was starting my third year of university still at square one as I was starting a new program again despite having accumulated two years worth of various course credits. However, I was finally confident that I had found an academic fit that was right for me and that was a comforting feeling. The following four years were a blur of hard work and sacrifices but it was easy to justify every bit of effort. It felt like the path I was now following was the right way to go, and I had a much better sense of the new goals I was working so hard for to accomplish.
It is now 2021, and I am finally a proud graduate of the SREE program. The sensation of having completed this long journey to receive a university degree was worth all the sacrifices I had to make along the way, as well as enduring all the ups and downs and accompanying moments of self-doubt. Reflecting on the experiences and decisions that led me to where I am today have inspired me to share this story through the AEECE community. In a roundabout way the support that I received from the AEECE community has graciously reminded me of the core values and reasons as to why I pursued the path that I did.
I hope that by sharing my story through their network I might have the opportunity to inspire anyone who can relate to my experiences in any way. I hope that ultimately I have expressed how learning is a process that takes time and isn’t always a clear cut path, especially for those people who haven’t dialed in what defines their interests and passions. In the same breath, I would encourage people in that position to be always willing to pursue their passions relentlessly but to not forget about out seeking new things to learn along the way. As I previously mentioned, sometimes jumping into new things and learning that it isn’t the right fit can be a valuable lesson in itself. My final bits of advice would be to trust your own instincts and to reassess and update personal interests and goals to stay motivated to continue on your path, wherever it may take you.