University of the Fraser Valley

Former flight attendant soars in UFV Kinesiology program

Former flight attendant soars in UFV Kinesiology program

The COVID pandemic and life circumstances led Audrey Tan to leave a high flying flight attendant job behind to pursue kinesiology at UFV.

When a flight attendant was grounded by COVID and unexpected life circumstances, she turned to UFV for a new career. Four years later, Audrey Tan is graduating with a Bachelor of Kinesiology, ready to soar in a whole new way.

“That’s the SparkNotes version of it,” Tan says with a laugh. “And it all started when I applied as a joke to an airline.”

When Tan saw an online posting in 2018, she thought there was no way she’d even get an interview. Even when she got the interview, she remained dubious. Not until they sent her to get fitted for a uniform did she finally think, ‘Oh wow, this is real!’

The 19-year-old embraced the opportunity and moved to Toronto. Soon, she found herself flying around the world, visiting places like Rome, Venice, and Paris. It was an amazing life for a young person, travelling to places that many people can only dream of.

But then, COVID hit.

As the pandemic took hold and travel restrictions came into effect, Tan was caught in a difficult position and decided to return home to her family in Vancouver.

“In about 12 hours I flew to Toronto, packed up my life in four suitcases and flew back to B.C.,” she recalls. “It was a shock. It was traumatic. I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone. I had a fight with my roommates because they didn’t want me maybe having COVID and coming into the apartment. And leaving Toronto was sad because it’s where I became an adult, discovered a whole new world, and really found myself.”

Tan had just become a flight director and felt like she was thriving. To have her flying days end so abruptly was jarring.

Back home in B.C., she had no idea what she was going to do next. Not one to sit still and do nothing, she was angry and frustrated while stuck in a holding pattern for several months.

“I was really, really upset,” she says. “I was angry at the world, and I was resentful. People would ask me about my previous job, and I’d burst into tears.”

Tan applied at UFV in the spring of 2020, purely because she needed something to do. When she started with a couple anatomy classes in the fall, she wasn’t sure if she’d even like kinesiology, and she wasn’t certain she’d ever finish what she was starting.

“It felt like a good fit but I didn’t know what a kinesiologist does or what kind of job you can get,” she says. “I just thought learning about the human body would be interesting and cool and something I could relate to.”

From day one she was impressed by her professors and the environment at UFV, and she soon discovered the versatility of kinesiology and the many doors it opens. Her love of kinesiology was cemented when she discovered prosthetics. Tan is someone who doesn’t like following the crowd, so when all her classmates were talking about medical school and physio and chiropractics, she looked for something else.

Prosthetics allows her to work with her hands, which she loves, and lets her be creative producing something people can see and use.

“It’s a perfect blend of health care and creativity and being able to deal with people,” she says. “It feels like something that will be fulfilling.”

Tan says being a flight director taught her many transferable skills that have helped her at UFV. She is currently serving as president of the Kinesiology Student Association and leads/conducts research studies and community-based programs like MYSelf Club (promoting self-regulation in neurodiverse children) and the Chilliwack Junior Boccia Program (for youth athletes with physical disabilities).

“It feels full circle when I reflect on how many of my experiences before UFV have influenced my accomplishments as a student,” she says.

As Tan looks back on the last four years, she says UFV entered her life at a tumultuous time and made her feel comfortable and safe. She’s enjoyed getting involved in extra-curricular activities and helping build a campus community, and she’s enjoyed all the people she’s met.

UFV was the right place at the right time, and Tan wouldn’t change a thing about her university experience.

“I like that each professor I’ve met genuinely cares and wants us to succeed,” she says. “If I’m having a bad day I can go up to Alison’s office (Alison Pritchard Orr, associate professor of kinesiology) and just sit there for a while. Having that relationship with our professors, I know that’s not normal, but it’s special.”

Pritchard-Orr says it’s been a privilege to teach Tan, and act as her guide as one of the lead coordinators and research assistants in the MYSelf Club study.

“Audrey is one of those students who you know will accomplish great things wherever her path takes her,” Pritchard-Orr says. “We are so fortunate in the School of Kinesiology to have students like Audrey. We can provide the tools to watch them soar and also take the time to be there for them.”