“Take everything you know about being a flight attendant and throw it out the window.”
Susan Zurawieka is a 25 year-old woman with shoulder-length brown hair and light blue eyes. She is energetic when she speaks. Today is no exception. As we’re sitting in a cramped coffee shop filled with window light on Queen Street, Susan tells me all about her new career as a flight attendant. She sips at her drink, eats her bran muffin and describes the places she’s been and things she’s done over the past year.
But Susan hasn’t always been a flight attendant.
Susan attended George Brown College to study dental technology after high school. She graduated in 2016 and found work right away. She juggled jobs as a teacher’s assistant at George Brown and a dental technician at a several dental labs. She spent long hours making dentures, retainers and molds.
By all accounts, Susan was a successful young adult and eventually moved into her own apartment in Toronto. Finding work in your field of studies right after school doesn’t happen to everyone. But something didn’t feel right for Susan. Unlikable co-workers and jobs with unreasonable working conditions weighed on her. Susan reached her breaking point.
Since Susan was a teenager, she wanted to be a flight attendant. She interviewed for the position at Air Canada when she was 18. But after feeling uncertain, she backed out. A few years later, Susan found herself interviewing for the same position. This time, things felt right.
Even though Susan would be away constantly, sometimes for days at a time, most people in her life encouraged her pursuit.
“My boyfriend asked a few times if this is what I really wanted, but he was just looking out for me. Most people I told thought it was really cool,” she says.
Quitting a job and becoming a flight attendant are both big decisions. For Susan, there were several driving factors. She’s drawn towards the different lifestyle her job provides. She likes not having to work the Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 that she grew to hate as a dental technician. And, of course, she wanted to travel more and see the world.
“I like not having to be in one place and meeting a lot of new people while exploring new cities and countries,” she says.
Although these are obvious aspects of working as a flight attendant, Susan told me that there’s a lot to the job is not what it seems.
“A lot of people just see it as someone serving drinks in the sky, but we actually have to be trained in medical emergencies, CPR, restraining passengers, preparing for a crash. We have to know a lot of safety things. Not many people think about that,” she says.
Susan gets serious when we start talking about following one’s heart instead of being funneled into a career you don’t enjoy. Susan was impressed with her ability to change her career. She feels more people should do what they’re passionate about, instead of chasing money or notoriety.
“If you have a passion – definitely follow it,” she says.
Susan has no regrets looking back. She believes that there should be less pressure on teenagers to pick a field of study or career at such a young age.
Susan has no plans on changing jobs or returning to lab work. She says that the longer she stays with Air Canada the more benefits and opportunities come your way. And when it comes to Susan’s dream of travelling more and seeing more of the world, she’s already done well for herself.
Visiting places like Budapest, Barcelona, Bogota, Havana, Lima, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Halifax are just a few of the places Susan has checked off her list, and it’s only been a year.
As we’re talking about these places and what she’s done there, Susan looks down at her watch and says she should probably get going soon. She has a flight to catch.