Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Bachelor of Arts (2019)
Powell River, BC
“My roots are humble. My mom graduated high school but that was it, my dad never graduated. If my story can help encourage one person who doesn’t think higher education is possible — for whatever reason — that would be a success to me.”
Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree sparks interest in law for Nicole Tomasic
NICOLE TOMASIC LOVED SCHOOL ever since she can remember. Growing up on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, Tomasic describes her childhood as unsettled, which led her to focus all of her time and energy on school.
“School was my life, I would have loved to move and begin my bachelor’s degree right away, but I didn’t have the tuition money and there wasn’t any help from family,” she says.
Instead, Tomasic used a small scholarship from her high school to enroll in some classes at Vancouver Island University’s satellite campus in her hometown of Powell River, BC. After completing some courses, she decided to take a few years off to travel and save money for her next post-secondary endeavour.
“I just felt aimless after completing those courses and the thought of taking out a loan when I didn’t really know what I wanted to do seemed like the wrong choice,” says Tomasic.
After some research, Tomasic found the Philosophy, Political Science and Economics (PPE) program at UBC Okanagan.
“When I came across the PPE program, it looked so interesting and niche,” says Tomasic. “I also loved the idea of getting to study philosophy, political science and economics because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.”
Wanting to earn a degree from a world-class institution in a more intimate environment, Tomasic packed her bags and relocated to Kelowna.
BALANCING SCHOOL AND WORK
At 24 years old, Tomasic was classified as a mature student, and worried about how she would fit in on campus.
“It was terrifying, I was worried I’d stick out like a sore thumb or struggle socially because I wasn’t fresh out of high school,” says Tomasic. “But I realized very quickly I was going to be fine — I met lots of people my age who were also working, and some who had kids,” she adds.
Tomasic worked 20 hours per week as an Insurance Broker while pursuing her degree, picking up extra shifts whenever she could. “It was a really difficult way to do school, but it ended up making me a really efficient person,” says Tomasic.
“There were days I was barely holding it together, but I always thought about how worth it all of this would be in the end. It’s easy if you just want to pass and get your degree, but if you really care about achieving high grades, and getting those GPA based scholarships along the way — it’s incredibly challenging.”
Despite her struggles to balance school and work, Tomasic excelled during her time at UBCO, winning the Roger Watts Debates in 2017, and delving into some fascinating research on the ‘sugar baby’ phenomenon that is playing out across university campuses nationwide.
Tomasic’s interest in sugaring — when female university students date older wealthier men for a fee — was sparked when a classmate shared that she was working as a sugar baby to put herself through school.
“I think I was so intrigued because I was working 20 hours a week in a stressful job while taking a full course load, and it made me think about how nice it would be to work less hours but make way more money,” says Tomasic. “I knew it was something I couldn’t do, but I struggled to articulate why, so my research delved deeper into that ambivalence.”
Tomasic says her time in the program was an incredibly diverse and positive experience. “It was awesome — I loved the degree. It was so interesting and all of us became so close,” says Tomasic. “We studied together, had social nights, and we all had close relationships with our profs. We were on a first name basis — it was such a tight-knit, supportive environment,” she adds.
LIFE IN THE OKANAGAN
Tomasic had never been to the Okanagan when she decided to make the move in 2015, but says she appreciates the beauty of the valley.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous here — the wine touring, farmers’ markets and fresh fruits and vegetables have made it so easy for me to live here.”
RESEARCH IN INDIA
During her time at UBCO, Tomasic was selected for a reading week experience in India. There, she worked with students from Punjabi University Patiala to research the region’s heritage by visiting historical sites and engaging in activities with local artists and heritage specialists.
“The trip to India was so amazing and so eye-opening, and gave me a taste of learning while travelling,” says Tomasic. “The food, the culture, the craziness in the streets — it was like another world.”
“I was really able to connect with the students who lived there, it’s amazing how much you can learn about someone by sharing a meal with them,” she says. “This trip was heavily subsidized by UBC, so I’m incredibly grateful for being given that opportunity to go to a part of the world I’d never been to before,” she adds.
A FUTURE IN LAW
Tomasic has a long road ahead of her, both literally and figuratively, as she relocates to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attend law school at Dalhousie University this fall.
Tomasic says the PPE program was an excellent stepping stone for law school. “Law came up in a lot of our classes. It was actually the philosophy of law course that made me realize that I was interested in the academic side of law — I could really see myself teaching law as a profession,” she says.
“When I think about what I want my day-to-day life to look like — I love campuses — there’s something about the learning environment that speaks to me,” she says. “I could also see myself working as the legal counsel for a non-profit organization that I’m passionate about. I’m hoping law school will help me discover what area of law I’m most suited for.”
Tomasic hopes sharing her story will encourage those who want to pursue post-secondary education, but feel there are too many barriers to overcome. “My roots are humble. My mom graduated high school but that was it, my dad never graduated. If my story can help encourage one person who doesn’t think higher education is possible — for whatever reason — that would be a success to me.”