Tyler B. Patles – BSC. Eng., MIT

Tyler Patles shares his story in university and offers some advise for those thinking about attending school… his story below.

I would first like to introduce myself. My name is Tyler Patles and I’m a Mig’maq from Eel Ground First Nation, New Brunswick. I attended university at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton where I was enrolled in Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. It took me five and a half years in total to obtain my Civil Engineering Degree. I began my tenure in the fall of 2003 and graduated in the winter of 2009. I did my first year at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) in Miramichi, NB where I was enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts student. The following year I took the step to fully enroll as a Civil Engineering student at UNB.

My plan out of high school was to a pursue an engineering degree, but like many students in high school I took the easy way out and took the so called bird courses. When it came time to apply for a program in June of my grade 12 year I did not have my grade 11 or 12 Chemistry’s and therefore had to return back to high school the following year to upgrade. Hence the reason I attended NBCC. I took four courses per semester at NBCC and a single chemistry course each semester at the Miramichi Valley High School (MVHS). During those five years I also completed a semester in Townsville, Australia at James Cook University (JCU). I attended JCU as an exchange student the spring of 2008 from February to June. I was pretty fortunate as all funding went through my home university (UNB) and I therefore paid tuition to UNB and not JCU. This little loop hole allowed me to access the necessary funding through the NSMDC to attend university in Australia. My tuition, books and residence were covered as if I were attending a university in Canada. Another big help was my family and community. My mother, Patricia Patles, organized a fundraiser (merchandise bingo) for me and with the help of my community I was able to raise $2,000 which was a huge help. My father, Lester Martin, was also generous enough to purchase my plane ticket to Australia. I guarantee I would not have been attending university in Australia if it wasn’t for the NSMDC, my community and most importantly my family.

I highly recommend anybody enrolled in university to look into the option of going on an exchange. The requirements are pretty minimal. UNB only requires you have a minimum GPA of 2.5, two character references and a brief essay explaining your reasons why you want to go on an exchange. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, I met so many friends from different parts of the world and got to see much of Australia. I had a short stint in Sydney where I met up with a former friend and had the opportunity to dive the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia, not to mention I went sailing in the Pacific Ocean and went 4x4ing through a secluded island with some friends I met from America. I still keep in contact with the friends I met. I recently took a trip to Boston to visit a few of them and stayed at my friends place during my visit. That is one great thing about meeting friends from all over; you always will have a place to stay.

I had many ups and downs during my time at university. In 2003, when I attended NBCC, I was unlucky enough to shatter my knee cap during recreational floor hockey. That was kind of a depressing experience. It was the first time I ever broke a bone and it greatly limited my mobility. I also broke it in December right before my fall semester exams got underway and in the peak of hockey season; there went my sports career for a few years. In light of this, my university professors were kind and gave me an extra couple weeks to prepare for my exams. Now I was on crutches for the next semester and had to organize drives to my classes, because I was no longer able to drive. Finally three months later in March 2004 I was able to walk again, so I was up visiting my father in Listuguj, QC. It must have been my unlucky year; I slipped on ice and re-shattered my knee cap, so again I was on crutches for another three months until June 2004. I pushed forward and didn’t let this prevent me from completing my studies. I earned a 4.2 GPA in my university courses and obtained A+’s in both my high school chemistry courses. Needless to say I was a pro on crutches by the end of it. I was crutching all around the reserve. Three months later in the September of 2004 I moved to Fredericton, NB to begin my studies in Civil Engineering. I must admit the first few months were tough. None of my close friends from high school went to university in Fredericton, so it was a rough start. I lived with my sister and two other girls my first year, so one can just imagine how that was. I’m never living in a place with more than fifty percent girls ever again (laughing). The friend part was tough, but also the academics were tough. My program did not ease you in; you hit the ground running. There was times where I felt like quitting and enrolling in a different program, but I told myself I’ll give it all I got this semester and see where I stand in the end. If I’m passing I’ll keep going, if I’m failing I’ll reconsider my program. At the end of the semester I pulled off 3.9 GPA and just kept the motoring running from there. It might have been a blessing in disguise that I didn’t have many friends that first semester; it taught me how to study. I did meet one friend my first semester in November. From there I just kept meeting more people, friends of friends of friends. Now I had myself a network. The majority of the friends I met were in my program, so we always studied and worked on assignments together. One thing I highly recommend to anybody attending university is to work in group; two is better than one. Assignments aren’t always easy so it’s good to have another opinion, plus the company is always good to have. We used to always take breaks, play some cards and then go back to working on our assignment. Once our assignment was done we would reward ourselves with a few beers from the local pub. It was great.

I have to honestly admit university was probably the best and most important time of my life. I met some of the greatest friends I will ever have and made so many contacts. I miss my time at university, yeah the school work is overwhelming at times, but the social life is awesome. Like I mentioned above, once you make one friend it just snowballs from there. One thing you got to keep in mind is that over time you will be meeting up with these people again, whether they work in the same industry as you or they live in a city that you happen to be visiting. It is very important to maintain those relationships. I always call or email my friends from time to time just to see how there doing or just to set up a visit. For instance, I’m flying to Vancouver for New Years Eve to meet up with up a friend I haven’t seen in over a year. In closing, my advice for Aboriginal students is to take advantage of the free university funding, because from how it’s been looking, it’s not going to be there for much longer. You cannot take this for granted! I have so many friends who are $50,000 in debt right now. Us aboriginals on the other hand, come out debt free or at least minimally in debt if you play your cards right. You got to take of advantage of this now. There are a lot of organizations that hand out scholarships and bursaries. I highly recommend applying for a bursary from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (http://www.naaf.ca/). I received two large bursaries from this organization and they even flew me to Edmonton, AB to take a part in a three day youth conference and gave us tickets to the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. I wish I would have applied sooner; I never started applying for scholarships until my third year. I should have started my last year in high school, so my advice to you is to start applying early, because it’s always nice to have some spare cash, especially in university. For those of you who have kids, don’t think because you have a kid you have to wait until there older to go back to school. Many universities have day care programs and you typically get more funding from your Post Secondary Provider. I have two friends in particular that both had a kid right after high school and still chose to attend university. They are both doing awesome and I give them plenty of credit. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Remember, this is your life, best to start early.

If you’re curious as to what I am doing. I’m currently working in Edmonton, AB for ADI Limited (engineering firm). I took a few months off after graduation and then took the long road trip out here. I had the position before I came here, so I wasn’t coming out here blindly. Like my first semester at UNB, I’m still trying to find my groove. I came out here solo and unfortunately knew no one in Edmonton, but it’s coming. It took a few months, but I’m starting to meet people. I just moved into a new spot with two other guys my age. These were random guys; I met them through an ad online. But so far everything is going good, there really nice guys and I’m starting to meet plenty of people through them. On top of everything, I’m enjoying my job. My company treats me well and I have lots of opportunities to travel. There isn’t very many highways in Alberta that I haven’t travelled. I’m also a landlord in Fredericton, NB. I and two close friends I met in University purchased a duplex on Regent St. and rent it out to university students. If were wondering how three university students purchased a property it’s quite easy. I was debt free, so I and one other friend took out student loans and our other partner worked in western Canada for the summer and saved all his money. Between the three of us we had enough for a down payment and now the property pays for itself. Real estate isn’t for everyone, but it’s an investment to consider.