UNB Alumni
Telling our #ProudlyUNB stories

Q&A: Houda El Hajjaoui, UNB Alumni Student Leadership recipient

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Feb 1, 2023

Category: Young Alumni , Engineering , UNB Fredericton , Inspiring Stories

Recipient of a 2022-23 Alumni Student Leadership Award, Houda El Hajjaoui is an international student, studying chemical engineering, who has been actively involved on campus and in the community. She is the Communications Director for Shades of Change, an organization designed to advocate for a kinder and more respectful environment for people of colour. Houda has also taken on many leadership roles such as Events Director and Councilor for the Engineering Society.

What inspired you to enroll in UNB’s faculty of engineering?

At first, it started with looking for any good chemical engineering programs in Canada. However, once I got to learn more about the characteristics of each province, New Brunswick drew me in more and more. I really liked the fact that it’s bilingual and that I could still use French if I ever wanted to. UNB had my favorite curriculum out of all the universities that I looked into. It showed signs of how close knitted the New Brunswick community is and the amount of support UNB strives to give to its students through scholarships, events, and more. I had not yet decided on what specialty I wanted to do or if I wanted to pursue graduate studies, but I liked that I could easily decide to go the medical route with biomedical engineering or focus on the environment with the energy conversion option. I think what drew me most, however, was the availability of a nuclear engineering option. I had taken nuclear physics in High School and found its application in the renewable energy sector to be an interesting subject, and that is why I hope to pursue it now as my option.

What has been the most rewarding or exciting part of your academic studies?

My favorite part of my studies at UNB is the structural resources available to support me. If I ever get stuck, there are various centers to turn to for help. I believe this has allowed me to fully submerge myself in the UNB experience and love my program no matter how hard it gets because I know that my efforts are always recognized and that makes me feel like I belong. All the students here are supportive of each other which creates a very fun learning experience no matter the cultural differences.

How do you stay involved in student life on campus and in the community?

I like to take on various team and leadership roles. In my 3 years, I have served in various leadership roles for campus organizations, such as events coordinator, engineering representative, communications director, and vice-president internal/logistics. Each of these roles gave me a new set of skills and knowledge I never had before. These not only help with my career development but also my personal development. I learned how to be an effective communicator, how to navigate differences of opinions and how to lead a team to organize an event whether big or small, and most importantly, I made a lot of good friends.

What do you enjoy most about being involved in student life?

I strive to take on all the opportunities on my way because I have never gotten the chance to go full on before. Coming from a society that doesn’t give as much importance to interpersonal development through extracurriculars, I found that I had misconceptions on what my priorities should be and what ways one can develop themselves outside of studies. I find that seeing the joy in the students’ faces at an event I helped organize makes me learn how important having an end goal is. I enjoy having the opportunity to communicate with people from various cultural backgrounds through my work with student societies. This way, I get to network, learn, and apply the skills I developed in my career and life plans.

Can you share one of your fondest or most memorable moments at UNB thus far?

One of my fondest memories was Engineering Orientation of Fall 2022. As a VP for the Engineering Undergraduate Society, I got the chance to help organize the faculty orientation this year. I never had an actual in-person orientation since I started university online. However, I can’t express in enough words how much of an impact it left, getting the chance to guide and welcome our new first years. I got to see their excitement and celebrate the start of a new stage of their lives with them. I got to share what I learned at UNB, especially with international students who tend to have a harder time adapting. I had fun organizing the merch sale and the engineering sub-societies fair and I am so glad UNB allowed me the opportunity to be part of such an important day.

How has receiving the Alumni Student Leadership Award positively impacted your UNB experience?

Receiving this award has allowed me to go pursue co-op without worrying about extending my degree. It has motivated me to pursue more leadership roles and projects that could help the students on campus. It has allowed me to feel a sense of belonging to the Canadian community knowing that I too am deserving of such honor. I am forever grateful and will strive to work harder than ever.

What makes you Proudly UNB?

I am Proudly UNB when I get to explain what our university offers to my friends in Montreal and Morocco. I am Proudly UNB because it has given me many opportunities I couldn’t imagine having before. I am Proudly UNB because that’s where I learned how to be a leader. I know I am Proudly UNB because I am getting the best education while still keeping involved in the community. I have many great professors who do not hesitate to offer up all their knowledge. I even got to gain real life work experience in two different companies working with inspiring supervising engineers.

What are your future plans once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree?

I hope that I go on to become a professional engineer working in the nuclear energy generation sector. I am particularly interested in a nuclear operating center’s long term operation improvement through advanced fuel development and corrosion resistant material research for nuclear reactors. 

How do you hope to stay connected to UNB in the future as an alum?

I would hope to stay involved in any events happening at UNB either by attending as a guest or speaker if I have knowledge to share. I would also love to contribute to awards offered by the alumni association, especially for international students in order to alleviate the financial strain and help them pursue their dream major freely. 

UNB student Houda at Pepsico in Montreal

Houda, pictured here with colleagues, is completing a co-op term at Pepsico in Montreal, QC.


Learn more about the Alumni Student Leadership Award.