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Marissa Harley: What GBDA Means to Me: My Lightbulb Moment

Group project: Game Design for SapientNitro
Group project: Game Design for SapientNitro

If I could be anything in the world, what would I like to be? Easy. A User Experience Designer.

Now, if you had asked me that question 5 years ago, my answer would simply be "I don't know yet." The 'yet' part of that statement is important, because what I did know is that I wanted to continue my education and go to University. I yearned for more, more knowledge and more experience. I just didn't know what my "more" was.

Flashback to Christmas break of my senior year of high school.

I was sitting on my couch in the living room, with a collection of University look-books in hand and the OUAC website open on my laptop. The procrastination had gone on far too long, I had decided, and it was time to get serious about the next 4-5 years of my life. My biggest problem though, was that I had no clue where to start. Nothing in these books appealed to me! I did come to the conclusion that I enjoyed Business studies, seeing as my course load that year included 3 courses on the subject, and that it would be a viable career path. But even so, I started to feel the hopelessness creep in as I flipped through the pages. The highlighter in my left hand was uncapped and unused. All I saw were programs in Business Administration or Accounting - none of which had enough creative stimulation for me.  "I'm doomed to a life of boring office jobs!" I thought. Paper pushing, cubicle walls, mundane mouse-clicking - the works!

Then, I had what I like to refer to as my 'lightbulb moment'.

I was paging through the University of Waterloo look-book as my eyes skimmed through the Faculty of Arts pages. I skipped over the degrees that required a background of 4U math or Art courses (none of which I had). Suddenly, one section jumped out at me as if the letters were shimmering in gold; Global Business and Digital Arts. I read the program description and butterflies started to form in my stomach. "This is exactly what I've been looking for" I thought to myself. It was described as a forward-thinking program that explored Digital Media and Business, and combined a range of disciplines to produce a well-rounded, job-ready individual. I couldn't believe what I had stumbled upon!

At that time, I had no idea that my decision to apply to GBDA would present me with the opportunities, education, and experiences that I hold now. But I knew that it was a step in the right direction. My gut was urging me forward and I could not resist the pull.

*Flash-forward to present day. *

I will say that pursuing a degree in GBDA was the best decision that I have ever made. There are many life decisions that come in at a close second, including the one I made to complete an international exchange at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. But choosing GBDA will always top the list.

You may scoff or roll your eyes, but I mean every word when I say that GBDA changed my life. To begin with, GBDA provided me with the opportunity to learn in a unique environment, offered me unlimited access to incredible tools, and presented our class with brilliant mentors. Additionally, it gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams. I have always been a shy and quiet individual, preferring to keep to myself and holding onto a small circle of very close friends. However, as soon as I started University, that all changed for me. I stepped - or, rather, was pushed - out of my comfort zone too many times to count, and probably more often than my poor, introverted self could have ever dreamed. One of my first classes in GBDA was a course entitled "User Experience Design". Many of us had no clue what it was about, but we quickly learned that it was a vital component to the business world. By the end of the week, I had decided that UX Design was my dream job. Throughout my 4 years of studies I collaborated with many of my extremely talented peers, dreamed up of solutions for industry-leading companies, created and expanded my portfolio, became a part of a unique student community in Stratford, volunteered my time to student groups, and made memories to last a lifetime.

GBDA Exchange: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
GBDA Exchange: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

You see, my lightbulb moment lead to even bigger, brighter lightbulb moments. Moments when I discovered that 'yes, I can travel the world', 'no, I should not limit myself', and 'yes, I will pursue my passions'. I learned that I could become a UX Designer, that I could make the world a better place by using my passion for Design, Technology, and Business. I was going to make a name for myself and it was entirely up to me.

It has taken a lot of work to get to where I am today, and by no means is my journey complete. I currently work as a freelance designer and digital marketer. I have yet to fulfill my goal of becoming a UX Designer, but again, 'yet' is the key word here. I still yearn for more, more job experience and more opportunities. I have yet to become a UX Designer, but every day I am one step closer and I have GBDA to thank for that.

If you or someone you know is thinking of pursuing an education in GBDA, then please feel free to reach out to me! You can leave a comment below, visit my website, or send me an email. I'm always up for a chat and I love reading your comments.

Spread happiness today. - Marissa


Marissa Harley GBDA '17

I'm a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo with an Honours Bachelor's Degree in Global Business and Digital Arts. 

I'm a passionate and experienced Digital Marketer, Visual Artist, and UX Designer. In my spare time I enjoy taking photographs, experimenting with illustration & typography, and creating handmade greeting cards. I also love to write about my everyday adventures and share life experiences on my blog.

If you have any questions or would like to collaborate, then please get in touch with me!

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