Carla Aquino sits on the floor and stretches while surrounded by workout equipment include weights and a yoga mat.

It was the best time of Carla Aquino’s life after she arrived in Canada to study in Humber College’s Fitness and Health Promotion program.

Aquino moved to the GTA from the Dominican Republic to enrol at Humber – she was very interested in the experiential learning that the college and program offered after having previously received her personal trainer certification through an online course.

Being certified as a personal trainer didn’t quench her thirst for knowledge – in fact, it fueled it. Still, she craved an in-person learning experience.

“I was looking for something hands-on and then I saw the Humber program and fell in love with it,” said Aquino. “It was exactly what I was looking for.”

Her time at Humber had been going swimmingly – she was enjoying her courses immensely and had made a bunch of new friends while living in residence.

“Seriously, I had the best three months of my life,” she said. “I called my family and told them how I was adapting really well and how I loved Humber and I loved my classes. Everything was going perfect.”

Pandemic complications

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. She was far away from her family in a new country and many of her friends had returned to their home cities or countries. What made it even more difficult for Aquino was when her courses shifted online.

She called the experience of working on her post-secondary education while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and living in a new country one of the biggest challenges she’s faced. She credits her Humber instructors for being helpful and supportive, saying they went above and beyond when lockdowns hit to try and make the transition to online learning as seamless as possible.

“I feel like a superhero, to be honest, and I feel like everybody that graduated during the pandemic is a superhero. I’m really proud that I did it and I'm really proud of my classmates.”

Certification and circus arts

Aquino is now certified by the Ontario Fitness Council as a registered health and fitness practitioner along with being a certified personal trainer. She’s back home in the Dominican Republic working as a circus arts instructor and says she’s taking what she learned at Humber and using it in the day-to-day duties of her job.

“I’ve taken my personal training knowledge and combined it with everything I learned at Humber,” said Aquino. “I feel like I’ve been able to bring something to the country that we didn’t have before.”

Her educational journey hasn’t ended as Aquino is interested in returning to Canada – and she has been eyeing a few programs at Humber and the University of Guelph-Humber. She’s also considering attending the National Circus School in Montreal.

More information on what Humber offers for international students can be found by visiting the International Centre website.