From Virden Collegiate to London design

What and who you are in high school is by no means what you will be for the rest of your life.

I am ‘one of the Heath girls’ as everyone so often refers to us - the youngest sister to Rebecca, who worked in Home Hardware and CIBC, and to Gayle.

With the wind-down of the school year and given the current world crisis, I’m sure there are many students at the same stage I was at while attending VCI wondering, “What the heck am I going to do?’

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It’s a truly overwhelming time in life with so many options and so much internal dialogue over what is

the right move for you.

I wasn’t a terrible student, but I did have to work hard to get decent grades. Much to my dismay, I never had that bolt of lightning moment where I realised what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’.

What also added to my anxiety was, how to pay if I can’t count on scholarships. Debt is scary but student loans are a reality and mean that you’re trying to get a career that will potentially pay off. There are also opportunities for scholarships in college or university.

When I left high school, I took a year off and worked in Virden to figure out what I wanted.

I eventually applied to University of Manitoba knowing that I liked interior design but I really

only knew of that career in the form of a TV show where people redecorated in 48 hours and that

wasn’t totally what I had in mind.

I started university in September 2005. I was scared, but suddenly I was in the world of academia where I could take courses in what I found interesting. That was incredibly liberating and exciting. I wasn’t suddenly a straight A student but it felt less hard because I was actually interested in what I was learning.

To this day I am still terrible at math. Picture a toddler who stiffens their body in resistance to being strapped into a car sea. That’s what my brain does when faced with mental math. But guess what, that doesn’t matter! What and who you are in high school is by no means what you will be for the rest of your life.

At this time, I’m sure it does seem like your life is defined by the grades you get, the accomplishments of your sports teams or what level of piano you’re in; but as you grow and evolve so does your identity.

I got into the faculty of architecture at U of M and it was there that I met a ton of people who were the exact same kind of nerdy as me, it was fantastic!


After four really intense years I graduated and again had no idea where my life was going but I ended up working for an architecture firm in Winnipeg for a couple of years before realising I wasn’t quite done with school yet.

I applied for my masters at the University of Alberta and managed to swing a full scholarship. Once you find out what you actually like learning about, you end up being pretty amazing at it. Doing a post graduate degree opened up my little world even more as I learned to think critically and formulate my own ideas and theories.

A masters degree provided me with opportunities I never anticipated including teaching an undergraduate design course.

I was awarded a travel scholarship to Taiwan where I presented my goals for a design thesis to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I finished school and there wasn’t a line-up of firms wanting to hire me, so I moved in with my sister and her family. I worked in a furniture store until I found a job with an architecture firm in Edmonton for just over two years before moving to the UK to see what design in Europe is really all about.

Life was once again filled with customer service jobs until I landed a position with an architecture and interior design firm. Two years later, I am working as an interior designer in London, England and I write for a fashion and art magazine based in Germany.

The end of high school is just the start of your life. You will evolve and different opportunities will present themselves. Work hard to make sure you get in front of those opportunities.

Life is rarely a clear, straightforward path. You will have moments of ‘what have I done!’ and ‘how will I pay?’ It’s ok not to know all the answers right now. Just don’t be afraid to jump.


Submitted by Michelle Heath


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