By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications
Nearly four years ago, Julia Smith ‘23 was at a crossroads in life when she had to decide which college she would attend. The Canadian Fire Science student was already an established hockey player when she was recruited by Anna Maria College, but she had another prospective college that wanted her as well. In the end, Smith’s career goals and emotional connection to Anna Maria College were the deciding factors.
“I chose Anna Maria College because I wanted to be a firefighter since I was four years old. And the name of the college is actually the same name as my grandma who passed away. Before she died, I promised her that I would continue playing hockey and that I would become a firefighter,” Smith explained, “The college was created the same year she was born, and she was a practicing Roman Catholic. Anna Maria has Fire Science and hockey, plus I had also wanted to always go to school in the Boston area. So, I decided that Anna Maria College was the best bet for my future.”
Smith’s passion for Fire Science first began when she was a child touring the fire station in her neighborhood. From that moment, Smith knew she was meant to be on a big, red fire engine saving lives.
Smith had never heard about a Fire Science degree before applying to Anna Maria College. Once she realized that the degree was an option, she eagerly jumped into her studies and took advantage of all the different opportunities that Anna Maria’s Fire Science department had to offer.
“Most of the people who are in this major become firefighters, but it also has other career aspects. You can go into fire investigation, emergency planning, and even fire code oversight. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, but it also expands on a lot of other things as well,” Smith said about the various career options in Fire Science, “I also picked Anna Maria because it’s on the East Coast and I always wanted to go to Boston. The Massachusetts/New England area is definitely one of the starting points for fire safety in America. So, I knew I would benefit from my Anna Maria education as well as the region’s history of firefighting.”
As an international student from Vancouver, Smith appreciated the campus’ tight-knit feel. Instead of feeling lost in a big school, Smith was happy that she was been able to form close bonds with her professors, her fire science classmates, and her hockey teammates, some of whom are also international students.
Smith is a first-generation student who is making her family proud with her major in Fire Science, her minor in Emergency Management, and her EMT certification.
“People do not realize how complex the fire industry is. I feel like a lot of people think, ‘Oh, the fire department is just there to put out fires or go help get the cat out of the tree or something like that. But it’s a lot more in depth in the firefighter industry. We have a lot of fires that still happen around the United States and Canada, but they’re more transitioning into almost medical roles too,” Smith said about the evolving Fire Science industry, “Applying to the fire science program is really cool and it prepares me for the future. When I go back to my town and I go to the fire stations, I tell them that I have a degree in fire science and a minor in emergency management and they tell me that I will get hired on the spot. So, you definitely have many more career opportunities by having a Fire Science degree. I’m really happy that I pursued my degree because it just gives me that level up on the competition and will help me move on quickly in the fire departments as well.”
Whether on the ice playing hockey or in a fire engine racing to the scene of a fire, Smith is proud that she upheld her promise to her grandmother as she continues her journey with Anna Maria College.