Lifelong Learning – A Spark That Became a Flame

When Amna Khaliq first moved to Calgary from Pakistan at a young age, she would walk to Tim Hortons at 3:00am for her shift. Her brother would walk with her to keep her safe, then return home to sleep. After her long shift ended, Amna would go to her second job and wouldn’t get home until close to 10:00pm.

When Amna finally arrived home, she wouldn’t crawl into bed; instead, she’d start to study so she could complete her undergraduate degree. “Getting more than four hours of sleep was a luxury in those days,” recalls Amna. “We used to have only one desktop at home, so my sister, Aysha, and I would take turns working on the computer.” Amna recalls.

Amna strived to follow in the footsteps of Aysha, who had moved to Cape Breton to take the Master of Business Administration in Community Economic Development (MBA) program at Cape Breton University and was excelling at it. Aysha was the first Asian Valedictorian at CBU and the first valedictorian from the MBA in CED program. Amna was incredibly proud of her sister and wanted to have a similar opportunity to pursue higher education.

In 2010, after Amna graduated from her undergraduate degree and Aysha graduated from CBU, the sisters’ parents took them to Europe for a graduation celebration. Amna’s eyes were open to the world around her and spending time talking to her sister about her incredible experience in Cape Breton made her want to do the same. Amna’s goal was to attend medical school and become a doctor. And her persistence and dedication ensured she would do whatever it took to follow her plan.

Amna wanted to help those in need. She volunteered in The Gambia, Africa, to prepare for medical school. There, she met many locals and witnessed the poverty in the country was while learning about perseverance and the importance of never giving up. She was inspired by how people lived with limited resources yet always had a smile, maintained a positive, forward-looking attitude no matter their struggles and valued family and friends more than anything. Going on this trip changed Amna’s life and gave her a critical outlook on the world around her, teaching her how to be grateful for the little things in life that people often take for granted.

When Amna returned to Calgary, she went back to university to study pre-medical for three years. She had a year off between the application date and her medical school program beginning in the Caribbean. In January 2014, Amna decided to use the gap year to move to Cape Breton and pursue the MBA-CED. She wanted to build her knowledge about how to help others through community economic development. The program and the faculty exceeded her expectations, and she quickly felt like she was part of the community. Amna completed her MBA degree, typically a 2.5 year program, in under a year, and she also found mentors and gained lifelong friends along the way.

One of Amna’s favorite memories at CBU was writing her first article in the local newspaper about her experience on Cape Breton Island. With her outgoing personality, Amna’s love for travelling took her all around Atlantic Canada. She remembers going to Peggy Cove, hiking on Cabot Trail, eating a lobster sandwich at the Fortress of Louisburg, feeling afraid in the dark insides of the Miner’s Museum, walking around the world’s largest Fiddle in Sydney and so many more experiences. Amna made many memories in Cape Breton, cheering for the Capers’ athletics teams and having a conversation about her courses with a stranger whom she later found out was the University’s president. Memories like these made her time at CBU unforgettable.

Upon graduation, Amna knew she had made the right choice. CBU had become home to her, and she had finally understood why her sister had enjoyed her time in Cape Breton so much. One of Amna’s most significant accomplishments was being the only Canadian selected to present their MBA research in Hiroshima, Japan, on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. The crowd was enthralled with her presentation, and she felt very proud to represent CBU.

When Amna graduated, she still felt compelled to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. However, after only a few months of medical school, she knew it was not her destiny. Talking to her mentors at CBU, Amna was encouraged to pursue academics. Amna recalls her first day as a business professor, feeling nervous with butterflies in her stomach and fear of the unknown. Although she remembers how her students were older and some more experienced than her, her desire to succeed became stronger, and she realized that teaching was indeed what she wanted to do with her life.

Today, Amna teaches in British Columbia, helping others understand the value of higher education. She firmly believes that a teacher can change a student’s life and that if one dream does not work out, the best thing you can do is make another one. She stands for hard work, not giving up and seeing hope in dark moments in life; all things she has learned from the diverse range of experiences she has taken part in throughout her life.

“Never give up on yourself,” says Amna. “Work on your strengths and make them stronger.” Amna knew her strength was studying, so she kept learning and surrounded herself with positive mentors and friends who genuinely wanted her to be successful.

Amna has travelled to more than thirty-five countries worldwide and has been to five continents. She is a regional newspaper columnist and volunteers as a board member for two NGOs, along with holiding a CBU Alumni Association director position. Currently, she is completing her doctoral degree in strategic leadership in the USA. She is a proud CBU Alumni and, along with her sister, has encouraged her brother to pursue the MBA-CED at CBU.

We’re proud of Amna, her family and the life that they have made for themselves as CBU Alumni.