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Henna Pahal

SFU Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

Someone walking along a railway track towards the horizon
"What I know now is that you are the only person who is going to have to live with your career for the rest of your life, and nobody else"

As struggling students, we face many hurdles throughout our university careers. From achieving high grades, to searching for jobs in competitive job markets, to maintaining our mental health in the face of school stress, the challenges seem never-ending. These things can become even more challenging when we factor in the pressures placed on us by our families and cultures to make certain choices regarding what we decide to pursue in our studies and careers. In particular, students with immigrant families or international students may tend to feel this pressure more than others.

Growing up in a Punjabi family, it was expected that I would take a very traditional approach to finding a career: go to school and get a secure job that pays more than enough to live comfortably. I can’t blame my parents for instilling this in me, since they struggled immensely as immigrants and only wanted the best for me. However, they could only advise me based on their personal experiences and what the cultural norm had become. There is so much more to finding a career than they know, and it is changing more and more with time.

Taking their advice, I left high school with the notion that I wanted to be an accountant. I decided that I was going to earn my business degree and then pursue the Chartered Professional Accountant designation. It seemed like the perfect path to success, but I had no idea that I would come to realize how unhappy this pursuit made me and how completely wrong it was for me.

After completing my first accounting class, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to pursue, but I felt the pressure to continue on. I felt optimistic during the first few classes, but as time went on I lost more and more interest in the topics that were covered and I struggled with studying because I just had no interest in what I was learning. I had re-do the course and struggled through the following accounting courses until the end of my third year when I could not go through with it anymore. Even after struggling so much, I could not bear to tell my family about it. I had told everyone I was going to be an accountant and I did not want to cause any stress or disappointment.

After three years of continuous disinterest in countless electives, I finally found something I loved. During my second semester of my third year, I was browsing through electives when I stumbled across the subject of publishing. At the time, I had no idea SFU had even offered undergraduate publishing courses, but something sparked an interest and so I signed myself up. I took Publishing 101 and fell in love with the subject. From this, I not only decided to pursue a minor in publishing, but I also learned a great deal more about marketing in the publishing industry. A concentration in marketing kind of just fell into my lap. To some, the timing may seem late, but I was finally ready to pursue a concentration. I was excited about something after so many years of anxiety and uncertainty.

My parents were a lot more understanding than I thought they would be once I carefully explained everything to them. They weren’t too pleased, but they accepted it. At the end of the day, they were only concerned about my wellbeing and they just wanted me to be financially secure for the rest of my life. I realize my career could go in many directions after I finish my degree, but the point is that I found something I like and feel like I could find myself pursuing at some level after I graduate.

From this whole experience, I learned that it is okay to explore your options and find something you’re interested in. What I know now is that you are the only person who is going to have to live with your career for the rest of your life, and nobody else. Take chances, get involved with school, and explore your interests because you never know when something will fall into place for you. Once you discover your interests and some of the possible directions those interests can take you in, you’ll gain a better sense of what you want do with your life. 

Beyond the Blog

  • Still feeling career-related pressures? Totally okay! Check out this Psychology Today article by Brad Waters.

  • Feeling overwhelmed? Take the Wellness Quiz to see how you can better balance your life and allocate your time.

  • Check out SFU's list of clubs to see what might interest you. 

About the Author

Henna Pahal

SFU Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

Posts by Author

Three SFU students standing in front of a laptop.
Six Tips to Make the Most of Your Undergraduate Degree at SFU

The undergraduate experience is what you make of it – whether you volunteer, do research, join Co-op, or just go to class. Read on for more tips on how to make the most of your time at SFU.

Building blocks with the letters A D H D on them
“You Have So Much Potential. You Just Need to Pay Attention.”: My Journey with ADHD

TW has been hearing this line over and over for a large part of her life. For the most part, she didn't know how to manage her ADHD symptoms, mostly because she didn't know she had ADHD. Read on to learn more about TW's journey and why going to SFU Health & Counselling was life-changing.

Laptop on a table neatly places next to a cup of coffee and a notepad
Digital Flourishing: How to Support Your Well-being in a Digital World

Digital technology has become a staple in all aspects of our daily lives. As a result, it is necessary to embed practices and boundaries that promote mindful usages of technology. Check out Health & Counselling Services’ tips on how to support your well-being in this digital world.

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Know Thyself

So you have graduated from university and are hanging your well-earned degree on your bedroom wall, and all of  a sudden, a tiny, yet unavoidable voice in the back of your head is quietly screaming “No time to celebrate, you need to find a job!” or “I’ve got my degree…what do I do with it?!’.

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Indigenous Stories: Mike, SFU Alumni

"I have no solid plans for the future and I love it...I know that every experience that I have had, every failed plan, was really an excellent mistake that gave me the skills I need to handle any situation that gets thrown my way in the future."  Read Mike's story of career exploration, and how to handle constant change.

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Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.


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Overcoming Cultural Pressures in University: A Personal Journey
Life Experience, Culture, Intercultural Communication, Personal Development, Community Engagement

Read Henna's story on how she overcame career pressure and her journey of career and interest exploration!

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Life in Botswana: Jumping in With Both Feet

For four months Jessica Kehler traveled across the world to Botswana, working with Holy Cross Hospice, a non-profit organization that uses a holistic approach to treating terminal HIV/AIDS patients. Upon her return, the OLC sat down to learn about a country known for its diamond mining, tourism, and sadly, HIV/AIDS.

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Isabel's Bolivia Adventure: An Irreplaceable International Experience | Part Two

The second installment of Isabel's international co-op adventure working with ICO (Instituto de Capacitacion del Oriente) in Bolivia. 

word no handwritten on brown paper
Learning To Say No To Opportunities

Scouring the internet for volunteer opportunities, I realize there are a lot out there. I make a possible schedule, trying to fit in existing commitments with new opportunities. Eventually, I conclude that if I get so much as stuck in traffic my tightrope of a schedule will fall apart. With so much out there, how do you choose? When do you say no?