Perhaps it comes as no surprise where Javier Gomez Ospina is today, since his father is a civil engineer and his mother is an architect. Construction is in his blood.
“I grew up next to my father, next to the project sites, around the equipment, around the hard hats and all that kind of stuff, around the math. It was inevitable,” he said.
Gomez has worked in construction and project management for 13 years. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, he has completed projects in Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Miami.
He and his wife moved to Canada four years ago because they wanted better opportunities for their children. “I love Colombia, but we have certain limitations there, economic limitations sometimes. For that reason, we thought it was a good idea to apply to a place like Canada.”
They chose London specifically because Gomez wanted to go to Western.
With his master’s degree in Structural Engineering, he hopes to establish himself in the Canadian job market.
Gomez has studied around the Americas, having completed an undergraduate degree in Colombia, then obtaining a certificate in project management at Chicago’s Loyola University. Learning at Western, though, has surpassed them all, he said.
“I expected to receive the best quality of information and I got it, let me tell you. Amazing. Without a doubt,” he said.
Gomez speaks highly of his professors and how they kept him looking forward to class. In particular, he gives credit to Engineering professor Ahmed Hamada, who managed to make even a three-hour lecture on a Friday afternoon enjoyable.
“He was the best teacher I have had in all my years of academic life.”
Gomez was also appreciative of Engineering professor Ayman El Ansary, who taught finite elements. “It is mathematics for crazy people. It’s very complex, very tricky, and how Dr. El Ansary presented the subject for us to understand was amazing, incredible.”
Despite positive experiences in Canada, Gomez said there have been difficulties, too.
“It’s a very tough experience to leave your home and start from zero again. It has been like a balance – good things, amazing things, and other ones very hard, very tough circumstances not just for myself but also for my family, for my children and my wife. In general, good, but hard, very hard.”
Getting a degree in another language came with its own challenges. English is one of three languages Gomez speaks, and he had to write the International English Language Testing System exam three times before he earned a score high enough to apply to Western.
“For me, if my colleagues have to study two hours, I have to study six,” he said.
The 43-year-old said that even though he is older than most of his peers, the diversity of ages and life experiences created a positive dynamic.
“The cultural mix was very interesting, and it allowed us to learn about other problems, other circumstances, other challenges in other places around the world.”
Gomez and his classmates drew upon their own international experiences to share with each other different regional engineering standards and circumstances, whether it was dealing with earthquakes or accounting for permafrost.
Despite the workload, family has always come first. Before campus shutdown due to COVID-19, Gomez studied all day at the library when he wasn’t in class, so when he did head home he could focus on his kids.
Now, he is available all day to help with his kids’ homework or play, while his wife studies English at Fanshawe College and prepares to apply for her medical practice license.