Here lies the unsolicited advice from a woman trapped in Vancouver, Canada

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Flight path to Vancouver, Canada for the layover
I was supposed to have a two hour layover in Vancouver, Canada from Dallas before starting an 11-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea. Instead, my flight out of Dallas was delayed by at least two hours before we were able to fly out. By the time we got out of Dallas, I missed the  connecting flight to Seoul. Everyone who missed their flight had to spend the night in Vancouver and leave the next morning.

I know this sounds like a huge hassle but the experience was amazing.

Air Canada paid for me to stay in a nice hotel near the airport and provided a meal voucher as well. What was originally supposed to be a two hour layover in Vancouver turned into a free vacation night in Vancouver, Canada.

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Air Canada employees waiting for us at the airport to help us get to the hotel
Making the most of opportunities and hardships has a lot to do with attitude and perspective. There were many passengers who were understandably upset that their plans were interrupted. At the same time, when ample resources are provided to make your stay pleasant, then staying in a bad mood is a choice. The airline went out of its way to print new boarding passes for all the passengers who missed their flight. A free room was provided in a 4-star hotel with food included. In addition, there was a complimentary shuttle service to commute from the airport to the hotel. Furthermore, the airport is in the city and the public transportation system is self-explanatory. There are more than enough resources to make the most of the situation. Fortunately, the same mentality can be applied in an academic or professional setting.

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Air Canada hooked me up with a really nice room!
By no means do I mean to dismiss or belittle the challenges that people face. Those challenges are real. I am simply suggesting that they are not insurmountable and a part of overcoming those challenges include shifting perspectives and changing attitudes. However, it goes beyond simply having a good attitude. You have to look, actively look, for a reason to be happy despite the situation. That means looking for opportunities that can serve you.

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I made a friend during the layover! We were did an escape room together! It was fun!
For example, there are many international students at the University of Houston who are ineligible to work legally in the United States. This can make finding an internship very difficult. Most students, for good reason, are discouraged. What is important to remember in this situation is why you want that internship or job opportunity. It goes further than just getting a paycheck (even though paychecks are important).  An internship is about acquiring relevant experience in the field  or desired industry to jump start your career. A traditional internship with an oil and gas company, one of the big 4 accounting firms, or a tech company may not be feasible or realistic so it is important to broaden your horizons.

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We learned that we are not that good at puzzles but we had fun!
Ask yourself, what can I do to  develop myself as a professional? There are many opportunities to do just that on college campuses. For instance, taking a leadership position in student government or taking an unpaid or stipend-based internship with a nonprofit can give you valuable work experience and build your network.

If you need to supplement your income, look into campus jobs or freelance work for special skills on sites like Fiverr. If all else fails, take the initiative to create work for yourself. Show tenacity by creating your own programming language, or building a game or becoming a certified translator or any other activity that shows your skills and talents. The point is to find ways to develop yourself and gain relevant work experience  to show potential recruiters that you are adaptable, creative and persistent.

Things did not work out exactly as I planned and there was some inconveniences involved, but on the other hand I had a chance to explore a city I probably would have never visited otherwise on someone else’s dime. I also made friendships that would not have existed without this inconvenience. I’m not saying it’s easy shifting perspective and finding or flat out making opportunities for yourself but it is definitely worth it.

I will admit that changing perspectives and finding new opportunities in unexpected places is not always intuitive. Luckily for you, I have a knack for that type of work. If you need help finding those type of opportunities, do not hesitate to reach out!

Nnenna Umelloh

Redefining access to higher education and professional achievement

Achievement Consultant

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We never would have met if we did not get laid over in Vancouver, Canada!

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