History student learns life lessons from veterans

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April 30, 2018

Aldo Gentile1a
Aldo Gentile has always had a fascination with history. Growing up in a large Italian family, Aldo’s parents felt strongly about providing him opportunities to connect with his past.

“I think my appreciation for history stemmed from having my grandparents on both sides live through the Second World War,” he said. “My dad is also a big history buff like me. When I was a kid, we were always going to the museum or historical sites. We travelled to Europe when I was 17 and visited all major historical sites. Halifax is also a great city because there is so much historical richness. If you look hard, you can see the roots of the city.”

Since beginning his Arts degree in History at the Mount in 2014, Aldo’s passion for the subject has only continued to grow. He credits his professors and fellow classmates with making the course work interactive, engaging and challenging. 

“The professors within the department [of History] are incredible people,” Aldo noted. “They are extremely approachable and have so much knowledge. Anyone thinking about completing a history degree should feel comfortable. You will know your professors on a first-name basis.”

"If we don’t learn from history, we will only repeat mistakes. Studying in this area lets you connect to people from the past. You can see and learn from incredible stories and experiences.”

-- Aldo Gentile, Mount student

From theory to practice
In the summer of 2017, Aldo put his classroom experience into action completing an internship at the Veteran’s Affairs Canada Contact Centre. The Mount’s Arts and Science Internship program, connects students studying Arts & Science with applied experiences. It’s an opportunity to both test skills gained in the classroom and build new ones.

In his role as an Analyst at Veterans Affairs, he communicated daily with veterans to help them navigate financial challenges, equipment needs, medical coverage and more. Through these conversations, Aldo learned more about Canadian history and gained a greater appreciation for those who served our country. 

He described one particular phone conversation with a veteran that really left an impression. The man revealed he was experiencing post-traumatic stress. “He was concerned about losing his family and thought his life was going to be over. I was able to talk to with him and let him know about the supports available. He thanked me and told me that I probably saved his life. The Veteran’s Affairs slogan is Care, Compassion and Respect. We embody this when people call in. I have to say that I love my job because when a veteran calls in, even for general paperwork, I can give back to someone who did a lot for our country.”

Aldo Gentile2

"Going into my internship, I thought it was going to be just a summer job, but it was so much more than that."


Aldo feels strongly that the skills he developed through his Arts degree have helped him professionally. “You get to have healthy debates over new ideas. Communication is key and being able to express yourself through speaking and writing is so important. This has directly transferred into my work life. The degree also encourages you to be a critical thinker and to problem solve. I was blown away by how helpful my arts program has been.”

And while Aldo was able to support veterans in his role as an Analyst, it is clear the experience was mutually beneficial. “I have learned so much from talking with these men and women. I have taken some important values from them. I spoke with one man who told me that as Canadians we are all here to look after one another. He said that people are so concerned about the money they make that they do not take the time to fully enjoy the life around them. This really stuck with me.”

Connecting with the past to appreciate the present  
When asked why he chose to study history, Aldo replies, “Because it is multi-disciplinary. No matter what you are studying in school, you can always bring history into the mix. It is a natural human desire to want to connect to your past. With people my age, I think there is a lack of appreciation for our past. If we don’t learn from history, we will only repeat mistakes. Studying in this area lets you connect to people from the past. You can see and learn from incredible stories and experiences.”

This spring, Aldo will graduate from the Mount with his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. He feels fortunate to have had the chance to complete an internship as part of his studies, which has led to part-time work and potentially a full-time positon after graduation. 

“There is no downside to doing an internship,” he said. “You gain valuable experience and there are so many opportunities available to you. I had support with my resume and coaching sessions on interviews. This gave me a competitive edge and helped me feel more prepared. Going into my internship, I thought it was going to be just a summer job, but it was so much more than that.”

No doubt Aldo’s history at the Mount will mean great things in his future. 













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