Minds We Meet—Usman Gill

Interviewing Students Like You!

The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Usman Gill (he/him), a Post Diploma, Bachelor of Commence in Accounting student, currently in his final semester, from Calgary, Alberta.  Usman hopes to continue on to the CPA program following graduation.

Usman let us know a bit about himself stating, “Well my professional name is Manny Gill but my friends and family call me Usman.  I work for the Federal Government full time and also work part time with Apple.  I currently live in Calgary.  I came to Canada back in 2013 from Pakistan for education and fell in love with the mountains and decided to stay here.”

He had some great study tips for fellow AU students.  “I register for 3 or 4 courses at the same time and then take approximately 1 month for each course.  I focus on one course to keep track of my progress easily and to make sure I can absorb all the same information at once.  It helps me understand the subject better.  In the beginning of my degree, I tried to divide my day or week for all 4 courses but by the time I would get back to my first course in a week, I would forget what I had studied before.”

He also had some great advice for new and prospective students.  “I wish I had started to use all the tools available online for better essay writing such as Grammarly.  You can write a great essay with amazing ideas and reference but then lose marks on grammatical mistakes and spelling errors.  When you write a 2500-word essay, mistakes can be made which then affect your mark.  I wish I had known about the Athabasca App as well.  The app helps connect with students from same courses and programs.  Since this is an online study, consulting with other students through the app helped me a lot.”

When he is not studying, you can find Usman working or spending time in the mountains.  He continued, “We are so lucky in Calgary that we have mountains an hour away from us.  I make full use of this opportunity to go skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.”

Usman also recounted his most memorable vacation was to “Dubai in February 2020.”  He reminisced, “The biggest reason it was memorable was because I did not have to deal with -30 temperatures in Calgary.  The weather there was amazing.  I love dune bashing and we did so much of it there.  I used to watch videos of it before and then I was there doing it myself.  Amazing!”

Usman also finds time to read in his busy schedule.  He shared that The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Corporation by Joel Bekan have been influential books in his life.  “They both are different books, but they really make you think about the things around you,” he explained.

He credits his brother-in-law with having the greatest influence on his desire to learn.  “My brother-in-law is an accountant and happens to be tax lawyer as well.  He started his career as an accountant but later found that so many of his clients had tax challenges.  He then went back to school to earn his law degree.  He is a true inspiration when to comes to learning new things.”

Usman’s experience with online learning has been positive so far.  “I think all universities should offer all of their courses online for students like myself, that do not have the time to go to university in person.  It just helps: study on your own pace, and cuts the cost of living close to university and commuting there.  The only thing I do not like about online studies is when I have a question, I must wait for someone to get back to me.  I can’t just raise my hand to ask a question or go see my professor.”

His most memorable AU course has been TAXX 301: Taxation I, in which he “learnt everything there is about personal taxes.”  He continued, “It helped me with my careers as well.  Most Canadians deal with taxes every year but lack the basic knowledge on how credits work.  I wish everyone can take that course.”

As for communication with AU course tutors?  “Communication with tutors is time consuming but it has always been easy.  They are always clear about their instructions.”

When asked about his first project if he were the new president of AU, Usman would reduce the communication gap between students and AU.  “I see every day on the AU App that students repeatedly have the same questions like course end dates, exams, supplemental exams and etc.   Either university doesn’t have enough and clear instructions about it or it takes a long time to get in touch with someone like a tutor,” he explained.

The Voice Magazine also asked Usman which famous person, past or present, he would like to have lunch with, and why.  He chose “Chicken parmesan with Steve Jobs.”  He continued, “All the articles and stories I have read about him just make me wish I was able to meet him.  Steve Jobs has truly been, in my opinion, the inventor of something that has changed the world for better.  His ideas may have been fueled by business mindset but apart from that he came up with a product that challenges the status quo.”

As for his most valuable lesson learned in life?  “When you compare yourself to someone, see what they don’t have.  We live in an age of internet.  We see people with nice big houses, money, cars, vacation and so much more and then compare our life with them and get depressed.  What we should focus on is what we have today.  Someone on Instagram with a mansion may be fighting for his/her life right now but we don’t see that.”

And his proudest moment?  “My proudest moment in life was when I earned my first pay-cheque and I handed it to my parents as a ‘thank you’ to them for everything they have done for me.”  Best of luck Usman!

At times, in an online learning environment, it can feel like you are all alone, but across the nation and around the globe, students just like you are also pursuing their Athabasca University (AU) studies!  Each week, The Voice Magazine will be bringing you some of these stories.  If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!