Minds We Meet—Josh Dela Peña Galarido

Who are your fellow students?  It can feel like you are all alone in your studies, but across the nation, around the globe, students like you are also pursuing their AU education, and The Voice Magazine wants to bring their stories to you.  If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!

The Voice Magazine recently had the chance to chat with Josh Dela Peña Galarido from Edmonton, Alberta, located on Treaty 6 territory and a traditional meeting ground and home for many Indigenous Peoples, including the Cree, Saulteaux, Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, and Nakota Sioux Peoples.

Josh is a 24-year old AU student currently enrolled in his third year of the Bachelor of Professional Arts in Human Services (BPA HSRV) program.  Before coming to AU, Josh completed a Therapy Assistant Diploma with a focus on four areas of rehabilitation, including Occupational, Physical, Speech-Language and Recreation Therapy.  He stated, “After finishing my diploma program, I got a chance to work in a long-term care facility as an Occupational/Physical Therapy Assistant.  I worked there for two years, and during my first year working as a Therapy Assistant I fell in loved in the field of Occupational Therapy and how impactful it is, how it empowers people, and how promotes inclusivity.  From that moment I decided to continue my study.”  He continued, “Luckily, I found Athabasca University, which is a perfect school for me since I am working full time.  My initial plan was to use this degree as a stepping-stone to get into Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.  But as I progress with this degree, I am starting to fall in loved in the field of Human Service.  One of the core courses of the program is HSRV 201: Social Work and Human Services.  The course is an eye opener as it details what a social and human services worker does: empowering people and making a difference in individuals’ lives, which resonates so much to my personal values.  The program opened my eyes to see other future careers that I see myself doing, [a] career that is very impactful and uplifting.  Social Worker, Mental Health Therapist and Emotional/Behavioural Specialist are my three other options that I see myself working other than being an Occupational Therapist.  Overall, the flexibility of the program helps students curate and plan what suits to their chosen career in the future which is the best part of BPA HSRV program and what makes this program so unique amongst all.”

Josh was born and raised in Manila, the Philippines before moving “to Canada to seek better life opportunities” with his family.  He stated, “I was 16 when I moved to Edmonton along with my four siblings (yes, you read it right! There are five of us living in a one household, actually six, including my mom, so imagine how chaotic and fun is that).  I am the third child, middle child, odd child; name it.  I have two older brothers and two younger sisters.  Most people describe me as people person, friendly and warm but also, I am very stubborn, loves to sleep, read, plants and most importantly his coffee (that’s because I’m a Taurus).  I enjoy strolling around downtown and take pictures, look for new coffee shops and brunch places.  I’m not the sportiest guy, but I enjoy going for jog, or brisk walking (during winter or summer time).  Other than English, I speak two different languages, Tagalog and Español.”

Josh continued, “This year I started a new job as Therapeutic Assistant Behavioural Therapy at Edmonton Catholic Schools District where I work with kids with learning disabilities, challenging behaviours, and exceptionalities.  A big jump from where I was but change is good, as older folks would say.  I was working as an Occupational/Physical Therapy Assistant on a long-term care facility for two years before landing in my new job, working there and being introduced in the field of Occupational Therapy interest me to pursue Master of Science in Occupational Therapy once I finished my undergrad and become an Occupational Therapist in the future.”

When he is not studying, Josh stated that while it may sound a bit boring, above all, he is an “avid fan of reading.”   He continued, “I am not most sporty person you will ever meet but I’m always down to try things (as long as it’s safe and within my realm of interest).  I also enjoy researching for ways how to level up my coffee (just so you know I looooove coffee).   I love hanging out with my friends and family and having that sense of ‘bonding’ soothes my soul because I’m a people person.  In a nutshell, I am boring and crazy at the same time.  Lastly, I love to cook!  It is honestly the best way to get into everyone’s hearts (besides my lovely smile and dimples, yes with an ‘s’ because I have two).”

As for the one person that has had the greatest influence on his desire to learn, Josh chose his mother, stating that “her life was never easy when she was [his] age.”  He explained, “She used to tell me that she had to work for eight hours during the day and do night classes as her family didn’t have enough money to support her studying and her three other siblings.  Therefore, her and her older brother worked so hard to support their younger siblings’ education.  She always emphasized that hardship, perseverance, and taking risks are the formula for great success and learning in life.  Also, learning doesn’t always happen inside the classroom, the outside world will teach you more life learning experiences.  And with this, it pushes me to strive harder and do well in learning and pursue higher education.”  He continued, “By the way, my mom finished a degree in Accounting (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting) and her older brother finished Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and their two other siblings finished Bachelor of Science in Midwifery and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management.”

His initial impressions of online learning were “pretty overwhelming,” stating that the “hardest part of it is how would you manage your time because you basically have all the control whether you choose to slack off” or complete “smaller steps (tasks) each day.”   However, he quickly became confident.  “My experience was definitely a rollercoaster ride, but what I realized when this pandemic hit us was … oh, maybe God put me on this training ground, because he knows something is coming that will shake the entire learning experience.  Fast forward to now where everything is doing online.  I learned to manage my time, do smaller tasks, appreciate small achievements, and have study breaks versus when I started where I literally crammed 5-6 chapters in one sitting.  Do I like it?  Hmm, yes and no.”  While online learning makes Josh accountable for his failures and successes, he also misses interacting with “classmates and having that physical sense of connectedness.”

Josh did waver about continuing his school once, stating, that when he obtained his first job he was excited about his quite professional career and slowly became comfortable in the role.  He explained, “This feeling of being comfortable makes me second-guess if I should pursue or continue my studies.  The person who really helped me realized my full potential was my acting supervisor, the occupational therapist.  She would tell me and asked me every day, ‘Are you satisfied with this position?  I’m saying this with all love; you’re very young, and I could see you becoming a therapist one day.  I see a strong potential in you Josh.  You should go for it.’  Besides my mom, she is one of the people that influenced me to continue my schooling.  She guided me and saw a potential in me, she shared lots of ways and skills needed to become one and that’s why I fell in love with the profession so much, because of her and its purpose.”

Choosing one memorable course was difficult, as “all of them are very impactful,” however, he chose HSRV201 discussed earlier, stating, “It helped see how I could help people beyond the philosophical meaning of  ‘helping.’  It instilled skills that I could use in everyday life and not just for professional use.  I’m also looking forward taking [Educational Psychology] EDPY courses because it aligns to where I am at right now career wise.  I am working as Therapeutic Assistant Behavioural Therapy in school, so those courses are very beneficial.”

As for communication with his course tutors, Josh stated that they are “superb and very helpful.”  He continued, “I want to emphasize how beneficial it is to communicate with a tutor as they will guide you toward success.  It would not make you less of a person or student if you ask things you solely don’t know or even if you’re just uncertain about it.  If the situation tickles your stomach, ask for help.  As Professor Dumbledore once said, ‘Help is given to those who ask.’ I cannot emphasize that enough.”

If he were the new president of AU, Josh would focus of three areas, mainly developing “more internship programs as it promotes networking skills and strengthen students’ skills in their chosen field or future careers,” adding “more courses focusing on mental health,” and developing “an integrated Indigenous focused course or possibly make it a part of each programs’ core course to advocate people about the Indigenous People of Canada.”

If he were to meet a famous person, past or present, to have lunch with Josh chose Vice President Kamala Harris.  And the lunch would probably be “probably a mixture of my culture’s food (Filipino-Spanish) and hers (Indian-Black).  Why?  Simply because of her personality, her values, her stance aligns to mine and the way she sees good in every people.”  Specifically, the lunch would be “Tandoori Chicken, Dosa and potato curry, Caldereta and Paella.”

Although Josh admits that at only 24-years old, he has “not experienced life fully,” he has “learned that life will never be easy.”  He has also learned to “face challenges, take risks, put God in your centre, [and] accept failures because it’s necessary.”

As for his proudest moment?  He stated, “I’m very proud of myself how I recognize, reflect, and learn from my mistakes.  Also, mastering my time management skills as I juggle life, school, and my full-time work.  Those two are my proudest moment in my life.”

The one thing that distinguishes Josh from other people is that he is a “multi-faceted person,” who enjoys “learning new skills, discovering new things, and [using] these skills.”  He continued, “Also, people would describe me as very warm-hearted and hardworking person.”

As for a non-AU book that he is currently reading, Josh chose three in the field of neuroscience and neuropsychology, including “My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neurobiologist who experienced a rare type of stroke.”  He stated that it is “truly fascinating and inspiring.”  In addition, he is also reading “Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist,” stating that “this is not your typical book about sleeping; it details about how lack of sleep correlates with developing Alzheimer’s Disease.”  Finally, Josh is also reading “Kids These Days by Jody Carrington, a clinical psychologist who believes that the main cause of child’s challenging behaviours is how disconnected everyone is.”  Best of luck Josh!