Arlene Casta Rafael chose to pursue her passion with Continuing Education.

Following through on a decision to change your future is no easy task, but Arlene Casta Rafael made it happen. Today, a graduate of Continuing Education's Certificate in Visual Design specializing in Interior Design, Arlene says she is grateful for the educational opportunity that helped her realize her dreams.

Arlene's journey began in the Philippines where she was a showroom designer. When she moved to Canada, she was hoping to find a similar position, but lacked the necessary qualifications and credentials.

I'm ready and I'm sure of what I'm doing. My education gives me an edge. I feel I can go out there as a professional now.

After embarking on her educational journey with Continuing Education, Arlene has seen her dreams become a reality.

"I am working in the field that I love," she says. "I'm ready and I'm sure of what I'm doing. My education gives me an edge. I feel I can go out there as a professional now."

Arlene says she had been working in retail her whole life and wanted to do something to elevate herself. The opportunity to go back to school and educate herself was something she did not pass on. She was going to pursue what she truly loved.

At first, in order to get settled and support herself and her two amazing children, Arlene settled for other work. She usually worked two retail jobs at once taking varied shifts. But, managing work and life was a constant struggle, overwhelming and frustrating. She couldn't help but worry about her new life in Canada. Then, one day, she'd had enough. She began looking for a way to upgrade her skills.

"I wanted to do something for myself! To better myself. I decided to take on a new journey that will give me a platform to grow and develop myself not just as a mother but as a woman through education," she says. So, in 2018, Arlene enrolled in her first UCalgary Continuing Education course.

"I turned to UCalgary because I knew it was a prominent academic institution that could give someone like me a chance to learn new things," she says. "Continuing Education can empower students to become the best versions of themselves."

Despite a busy family and work schedule, Arlene was able to complete her school work on her own terms.

She appreciated the flexibility and balance of in-class and online. Getting input from instructors and access to course materials at any time of day was crucial to her journey. D2L, the online learning platform, made everything possible. It was easy for her to chat with classmates, watch webinar lectures, find course material, and submit assignments.

Arlene can't help but inspire others with her passion. Her advice to anyone in a similar situation: "Just go for it! You will love it! When you really love what you're doing, you will always find the time.

Continuing Education can empower students to become the best versions of themselves.

"Life gives us many crossroads, the choices we make dictate the lives we live. I think choosing education is always a good decision. Having a certificate and the essential knowledge you need to work in your field are impactful. People will treat you like a professional."

"And when you're enrolled in classes, remember to engage with your classmates. Everyone is coming from different experiences. It's a great environment to make important connections... to network. You never know when your next opportunity will present itself."

"I'm so glad that I finished," she says, elated to have reached her goal. "Education can do some amazing things. My program gave me motivation and confidence."

Along the way, she was faced with many challenges; among them, the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, when she looks back, she sees that it actually strengthened her resolve to complete her certificate.

"I think of learning as my outlet... a release that helps me a lot. I wish I could go back right now. I'm looking forward to taking more classes, specifically the drawing and photography programs. My drawing instructor is fantastic!"

"If there's one thing that I want to get across to others, it would be the empowerment you can feel by pursuing a career in a field you love."

Now that Arlene's felt the satisfaction of applying for positions in her field and has the credentials that make it possible, she says she feels validated.

"Finally! I did it ... despite everything I've gone through! Graduating with this certificate is a real accomplishment for me. I think it is for everyone who does it."

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