“I'm excited to see where new opportunities take me”

Spring Convocation Q&A with MSc OT graduate Elise Belanger

24 June 2021

What is your previous degree?
I completed my Bachelor of Arts from Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta.

Why did you choose the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine?
I chose the U of A because of its reputation and proximity to home and family.

What is the most remarkable thing you learned as a student?
The most notable thing I learned as a student was that self-reflection seems easy enough, but is actually a skill that takes hard work and lots of practice. Also, pool noodles and nurses' tape go a very long way. They can be used to pad sharp areas on wheelchairs or build up handles on utensils. Since pool noodles can be cut to size they are a very cost-effective alternative and were extra handy when proper products were not accessible. 

What is one of your fondest memories of the program? 
My fondest memory is the spirit activities during the second year of my program. Spirit activities were organized by fellow OT classmates. We had OT-month video competitions, Halloween costume competitions, paint night and so many more. It was wonderful to be in a room full of people who genuinely enjoyed being together I'm super grateful and proud of my classmates who made our class a community. 

What was your favourite work placement and why?
My favourite placement was a community placement at Ambrose Place. Ambrose Place is a housing and support facility developed by NiGiNan Housing Ventures, a registered non-profit charity formed to address particular housing needs and requirements of Indigenous people living in Edmonton. Ambrose Place provides housing and support services within a culturally sensitive environment to homeless Indigenous individuals and couples who have not been successfully housed in existing facilities. I learned the most about who I am and how incredibly important it is to be genuine in every moment. No relationship – personal or therapeutic – can exist without it. Developing these relationships is definitely easier said than done. 

Did you face any significant challenges, and if so, how did you deal with them?
Because of my non-kinesiology background, I felt behind a lot of the time. What helped was acknowledging it, accepting it and studying! Study groups really helped me learn and also helped remind me that I was not alone in my struggle.

How did you manage the challenges of navigating student life under COVID-19 restrictions and remote learning?
Being on a screen all day was not fun, but the faculty were great! Very adaptive, understanding and accommodating.

What are you doing now? 
I am working as an occupational therapist in restorative care in Peace River, AB.

What are your long-term goals and aspirations?
I hope to keep exploring all the different areas of occupational therapy. Maybe I’ll settle into one area, but right now I'm just very excited to see where new opportunities take me.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you started your degree?
Remember: don't compare yourself to others. Just being you equips you with an invaluable perspective.