Following a Dream
Inspired student channelled her love of learning into building a new career in Canada
Marievee Abad was so inspired by learning that she completed her first George Brown College course while on vacation. That was 2005, and she was here visiting family when she saw an advertisement for George Brown College's Continuing Education courses.
Back then, Marievee lived and worked in the Philippines. She had finished her degree in 2003, but the course she took here – Writing and Producing a Short Documentary Film – encouraged her to keep feeding her love of learning.
"Even when I was working, I kept taking courses," she says. "I didn't have a break from school, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Learning makes me feel alive."
Not surprisingly, then, when she decided to move to Canada in 2008, she also decided to go back to school to follow a dream.
"I worked in advertising in the Philippines, but I always wanted to be a food stylist," she explains. "When I moved here, I looked up George Brown again and found what I was looking for – the food and photography courses."
As soon as she arrived in Canada, Marievee started working toward her goal to be a food stylist (a specialized role in commercial photography). In addition to securing a job at a portrait studio, she started taking George Brown courses. Those have included Digital Photography I, Food Writing and Food and Product Photography as well as a number of culinary courses. They provided Marievee with not only the skills she needed but a community of people who shared her interest and supported her dream.
"I would check out restaurants and events by myself even before taking Food Writing. But, as soon as I started going with people from class, things opened up for me," she remembers. "Even now, we still get together to review a restaurant even if we're not writing for anything specific. It's great practice."
The courses also reinforced Marievee's faith in herself.
"The teacher in Food and Product Photography helped build my confidence by pushing me hard in the class," she says. "He told me that my portfolio didn't need any revisions technically but that I needed to be more confident. Knowing my work was good was a huge boost."
Most importantly, though, the courses led to connections with people who were already working in the industry. At the urging of that same teacher, she even contacted some of the top food stylists in the city to inquire about an apprenticeship or part-time work.
It paid off. Debbi Moses, a top food stylist, gave Marievee the opportunity to work as an assistant junior food stylist on some of her shoots – an experience Marievee describes as "absolutely amazing." Marievee also apprenticed with celebrity chef, Food Network host and George Brown graduate Roger Mooking. Among other things, she was responsible for social media and articles on his website (including taking photos and co-ordinating with chefs for his 'The Chef Series' blog).
Since then, she has had a variety of opportunities, including designing and illustrating the menus for a number of restaurants and doing the commercial ad photography for a client that produces preserves and other products. Marievee is also currently working at a downtown restaurant where part of her duties involves assisting with the media and planning for the seasonal menus and weekly specials.
And, not surprisingly, she continues to take courses – her most recent one being Food Styling. But her George Brown experiences seem to have provided her with more than just new knowledge.
"Taking courses at George Brown helped build my confidence in Canada, in Toronto and in myself. And, when I was looking for work, they were looking for Canadian experience … and I had it."