Nathania Roy has worked in the beauty industry as a master colourist and stylist, at world-renowned events like Tokyo Fashion Week, and as an educator, writing curriculum for Red Seal accreditation. She became a counsellor, specialising in sex and relationship therapy. And, she even ran her family’s beauty school business. All before the age of 30.
Now, she’s a nursing student at UniSC – and loving it, much to her surprise.
“I've been to nine different institutions and done two degree qualifications and five diplomas,” she said, “but I don’t feel any of it is wasted. Everything you learn helps you move forward.”
Born in Alberta and raised in British Columbia, Nathania’s formative years were “an awesome childhood of experiencing.” Nathania also spent much of her childhood in Costa Rica, thanks to her entrepreneurial parents who valued traveling.
When she was ten, her older brother was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. “He was 12, and given only a short time to live,” Nathania recalled.
“It threw our lives completely upside down. The idea that you could die at any moment, it’s not something you think about as a kid. It created this paradigm shift of living life and family priorities. I really started to appreciate being in different cultures and traveling and experiencing new things.”
Against all odds, her brother survived, and a few years later the family opened a hair and beauty school in British Columbia. At 14, Nathania began styling clients’ hair and becoming immersed in the trade.
After high school, she enrolled at Concordia University College of Alberta and studied psychology for one and half years, until a "big life event" threw her off track. She continued her studies long distance with Athabasca University, but found she missed the face-to-face interactions, and “wasn't really in love” with her topic of study. Her parents encouraged her to take the hairstyling qualification, and complete the instructors degree, so she could help run their beauty school.
Nathania's ambitious nature quickly led her to become a Red Seal hairstylist and master colourist, and paired with her trade experience she was able to complete the instructor’s degree in a four month intensive. At 19, she took over the family business, successfully developing the Red Seal program in British Colombia – a huge accomplishment for the school.
Adventure soon beckoned. “I worked at Tokyo Fashion Week, in the Dominican Republic, and other places globally,” she said.
“I travelled the world – it was amazing. But I realised I had gotten into hair and beauty because my family was into it. I love the creativity, but it wasn't cerebral enough for me, as I really like the challenge of academia.”
Still, she wanted to keep travelling, and spontaneously found an opportunity to work at a salon in Sydney... a city which didn’t endear her to it. “Once I visited the Gold Coast though, I fell completely in love with Australia. I called my parents and said, ‘I'm never coming home.’ So my mom, dad and brother came to visit me for Christmas, and they all just absolutely fell in love with the country and decided to stay.
“I still wasn't loving hair, so I thought, ‘How can I travel the world and make as much money as I want as an entrepreneur?’ I decided to become a counsellor, specifically I wanted to do sex therapy.”
Back to Canada she went to complete a diploma in counselling, specialising in sex and relationship therapy. Then, COVID-19, the great derailer of plans arrived. “Everything I planned to do with that degree was now gone,” she said.
"I'd planned to write curriculum and facilitate relationship retreats and couples’ workshops around the world... now you can't travel or have multiple people in a room together. I was sitting there, in the middle of lockdown – my life was upside down. My whole family was on the other side of the world. I now have these two polar-opposite qualifications, which are not things I want to pursue.
“I thought, ‘What can I do with my life that can encompass beauty and counselling, that allows me to use my education and curriculum writing, where I can travel the world no matter what happens, where I will always be employable, but where I can also create a business and step out on my own. What does this look like?' And it all came back to nursing.”
Studying nursing was also a great way for Nathania to be reunited with her family, with Australia’s borders opening early to international students. So she enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing at UniSC, thinking "here we go again."
"I didn’t expect to love nursing as much as I do," she said.
In her last hospital placement, Nathania worked with paediatric patients, a cohort she feared would be too triggering after spending so much time in children’s wards due to her brother’s illness.
“I didn’t realise how much paediatrics is a really strong passion for me, I am loving working with kids, which I always thought would be way too close to home,” she said.
“The best part was being with these kids and having the opportunity to make an impact, to be the strong person I needed when I was child.”
A couple years ago, Nathania was diagnosed with a disability, which makes day-to-day tasks more challenging. “Having accessibility services at UniSC meant I could access a learning plan and get that support,” she said.
“To have learning advisors I can sit down with and say, ‘Can you help me figure this out?’ has made a world of a difference, because we all learn differently. I think of the Albert Einstein quote, ‘If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it’s stupid.’
“To be in a university where everything I need for success is offered, and there are teams of people here to help if I’m falling short in any area, I love it.
“At UniSC, even though the nursing cohort is huge, classes are small. I’ve never been in a position here where I have attended my classes and lectures, done my learning, asked for help and haven't gotten it. I’m never just a number, which was something I felt at other universities. I know my tutors by name, and it's nice to have a relationship with them.
“I love how hands on it is and that there's so many opportunities for students to be involved in the university.”
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