Minds We Meet—Alek Golijanin

Interviewing Students Like You!

Alek Golijanin is currently in his fourth-year of the Bachelor of Commerce program at Athabasca University.  Alek shares his humanitarian initiative called AlekGo and his experience with online learning so far.  This is his story.

Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Who are you? Where do you live, where do you come from?

My name is Alek Golijanin and I am a first-generation Canadian.  My family and I emigrated to Canada when I was three years old, after civil war erupted across Former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina).  I live in Ottawa, Ontario.

What program are you in? Are you enjoying your program?

I am in the final year of completing my Bachelor of Commerce.  I absolutely love my program.

Could you please describe the path that led you to AU? What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the Bachelor of Commerce program?

Algonquin College and Athabasca University have a degree pathway/articulation agreement which allows graduates to continue their education, and I obtained my Advanced Diploma in Business Administration (Human Resources) from Algonquin College.  I had intended to enroll shortly after my graduation, but unexpected circumstances came about which delayed my studies.  Things do not always go as planned in life, but I am here now, and I mean business.

Any advice for people who are on the fence about going back to school?

For anyone on the fence about continuing their education, be bold.  I can assure you that the faculty at Athabasca University are very accommodating and they are with you every step of the way.  Athabasca University has been offering distance learning since the 1970’s, they have mastered the delivery of online learning, and they are the best in the business.  Enroll at Athabasca University, it will be one of the best decisions you have ever made.

What do you do like to do when you’re not studying? Any hobbies?

My main hobbies/interests revolve around giving back and that is what led me to kickstart my humanitarian initiative AlekGo.

Could you describe AlekGo?

AlekGo focuses on marginalized populations, from youth to the elderly, here at home but also abroad.  At one point I spent some time at an orphanage in Bogota for adolescent boys that had been removed from some of the most extreme environments.  Out of all things, it was my neon green shoes with a shiny silver Jordan logo that acted as an icebreaker and helped me bond with the little fellas, “Amigo, amigo, es Jordan”.  They were then showing me their shoes and how they could dribble between the legs with a soccer ball, it was a great experience.

What have you accomplished with AlekGo?

Initiatives for helping people and children that involved lots of advocating, and they led to collaborations with embassies, national police forces, pro sports teams, major organizations, and other difference makers that were acting on change.  I meet some of the coolest and most inspiring difference makers, Ottawa is full of movers and shakers, and I am proud to call many of them friends.  I am passionate about creating sustainable change across communities and fostering innovation through community building and international development.

If you are interested in learning more about AlekGo, visit the website.

What are your plans for your Bachelor in Commerce degree? What would be your dream job?

I want to take the knowledge and skills that I learn at Athabasca University and apply them in a tangible way, to continue making real-world impacts.  My dream job would be a role where I am able to do meaningful and impactful work, from a distance or directly hands-on.

Has anyone influenced your desire to learn?

My parents and grandparents have been the greatest influence, from learning to many other things.  I am super grateful that my parents and grandparents were so involved in my life because without them I would not be the person I am today.

Could you describe your experience with online learning?

I love online learning.  It gives me the flexibility to schedule my learning around my commitments and responsibilities.

What’s your favorite AU course that you have taken so far, and why?

ECON 401 (The Changing Global Economy) has been my favorite course so far, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I aced it.  When it comes to economics, this course takes a pragmatic approach and does a great job in explaining the true workings of free markets.

Would you recommend the course to others?

Given the fact that there is so much misinformation/activism regarding economics, I would label this course a must.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?

Communication with course tutors has been great, they are very responsive.  From my experience, I would say course tutors truly want to help you understand the material and to see you do well in the course.

What’s your biggest pet peeve, if you have one?

I get annoyed when things are disorganized, but apart from that I do not really have any peeves.  If I was to label my philosophy, I would call it the “Hawaiian laidback way”.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?

I would choose to have lunch with Nikola Tesla.  Tesla is a fascinating person; he was light years ahead of his peers when it came to thinking ahead and innovating.  We are just beginning to understand the complexities of his theories now.  The workings of his mind are enigmatic, and being able to chat with Tesla over lunch would be special.

Could you describe the proudest moment in your life?

My proudest moment was seeing the culmination of my AlekGo humanitarian initiatives.  Working with elderly women in Colombia that were abandoned because they had mental/physical disabilities and doing simple things like painting their nails, showing them that there were people who cared about them.  It puts things into perspective.  Providing sporting equipment to adolescent boys in the Dominican that were playing baseball with sticks/plastic bottles and are often groomed by criminals toward a life of crime, giving them some positive childhood memories to look back on.  It puts things into perspective.  Organizing a VIP sporting experience for recently landed Syrian youth enrolled at a local elementary school and having them on field inches away from professional athletes, helping ease the memories of war and transitioning them to look forward to a better future.  It puts things into perspective.

Could you please tell us something that few people know about you?

I used to watch The Crocodile Hunter growing up, Steve Irwin went around catching (and releasing) some of the most dangerous animals on the planet.  One summer during my preteen years, using my bare hands (The Crocodile Hunter inspired) I caught three hummingbirds, one fly, some frogs, and a small viper snake I mistook for a frog.  All the animals were released unharmed, and I was lucky not to get bitten by the viper.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?

In life nothing is guaranteed, everything is earned, and hard work pays off.  Keep a good attitude and always make an effort to be kind to others.

Have you traveled? Where has life taken you so far?

I have been privileged enough to travel quite a bit, for humanitarian projects and on vacation.  I think travelling the world and seeing it for what it is, that is very important, and it is has definitely opened my eyes.

Out of the places you have been to, which was your favorite, and why?

My favorite trip so far has been Hawaii, and I would love to call The Aloha State home one day (sorry Ottawa).

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?

I am currently reading Relentless by Tim Grover.

Could you describe the book?

Grover is a legendary sports trainer who has trained elite athletes including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and he is also considered the master of mental toughness.  This book does a great job of breaking down the science and art of mental/physical dominance to achieve excellence.  It is about having a certain mindset; being prepared and doing – cleaner mindset.  It is an intense read and his advice doesn’t exactly promote a balanced lifestyle, but it is does tell you to take responsibility, clean up the mess, and move on.

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