Campus Dispatch
Faces of ’14: Graduation!

What happens after life at U of T?


We first met them before they even started at U of T. Now, this June, many of the “Faces of ‘14” will proudly cross the stage at Convocation Hall to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. As they think about their future, we asked them to choose some highlights from their time at U of T, offer some advice to their first-year selves and tell us how U of T prepared them for the next stage of their life.

 

Sophie Summer Qu

Degree: Honours Bachelor of Arts, with high distinction, major in criminology, double minor in sociology and education and society
Victoria College
Hometown: Toronto


You did a student exchange to Seoul last year and visited again since. You must like South Korea!
When I visited Seoul last year on exchange, I knew that it wouldn’t be my last time there. I really enjoy learning about Korean culture; the language is so pleasant to listen to and Korean food is absolutely delicious.



Which of your U of T experiences stands out most in your mind?
Other than my exchanges in Asia, probably studying (and sometimes not studying) at Robarts. That library is really special to me; I’ve a lot of memories there. Trips to Hart House Farm were memorable as well. There are a lot of opportunities available at U of T, but you have to look for them.

What was your favourite course?
I’ve taken quite a few amazing courses. I really enjoyed Mandarin this year because the professor was such a great teacher; she was fun and engaging. You can tell when a professor is both passionate about their subject and also really cares about their students. I also enjoyed International Migration which included some interesting and relevant topics such as Canadian immigration policy and human trafficking.

In first year you said you wanted to study French because “French is a very sexy language.” How is your French now?
Haha, that’s embarrassing. My French is still far from a sexy level of fluency, but my travels abroad in the past year and meeting numerous polyglots have really encouraged me to work harder. Unfortunately, I’ve neglected French as I’ve been focusing on Mandarin.

Do you still enjoy the Zumba classes at Hart House?
Yes! I went more often this year. My favourite instructor also does classes at the
 Athletic Centre.

What would you say is the most common misperception about U of T among people who have never been a student here?
I think people believe that most U of T students are snobby or pretentious.

What’s the reality?
There are some really talented and hardworking students at U of T.

You’ve received a number of grades from U of T. How would you grade U of T in terms of your undergrad experience overall?
B+


If you had the power to change anything about U of T with a snap of your fingers what, if anything, would you change?
It would be awesome to add beds, a stationery store and more food options to Robarts.

The university is raising money through the Boundless campaign. If you had some say in where the money was directed, what would be your number one priority?
Establishing more scholarships and bursaries for students who need them, or funding for more internship and co-op opportunities.



How has U of T prepared you for what comes next in your life?
My U of T experience wasn’t perfect; I made a few mistakes and poor decisions, but ultimately I think it made me a stronger and better person. I’m more willing to take risks now and do things that I’m afraid of than I was four years ago. And although this is scary, I’ve also learned that it’s very rewarding.

What does your immediate future hold?
This fall, I’ll be at OISE doing my BEd.

And where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully abroad in Asia with a potential hubby in my life, doing something that helps me gain academic work and/or personal experience.


Photo courtesy of Hormuz Dadabhoy
Hormuz Dadabhoy
Degree: Honours Bachelor of Arts with high distinction, major in Contemporary Asian Studies, minors in political science and environmental studies
Victoria College
Hometown: Mumbai, India

How are you feeling about graduating?
On one hand, I’m kind of dreading it. I feel I’ve learned how to navigate this microcosm quite well. On the other hand I am also excited to see what the working world has to offer.

If you could give your first-year self some advice, what would it be?
Learn how to write a resume and cover letter. Marketing yourself is harder than you can imagine. 

Which of your U of T experiences stands out most in your mind?
So many to mention! Conversations on the stoop of Caven House at Victoria, some incredible international experiences to East Asia and South America, and taking more responsibility for large projects like the Global Ideas Institute and the International Course Module to Yanbian [China] and Seoul.   

What would you say is the most common misperception about the university among people who have never been a student here?
I came thinking that it would be a big institutional impersonal experience. My experience has been anything but that.

You’ve gotten really involved at the Munk School this year with the Global Ideas Institute. What role have extracurriculars played in your university experience?
I was involved with the program for the past three years as a mentor and administrator, and it has provided me with invaluable technical skills and has honed my ability to teach and solve complex problems. Most importantly, however, the program provides a crucial service to the wider community. By exposing young minds to complex real-world problems, and the experts working to solve them, it makes the often impervious walls of academia more porous.

What’s the best course you’ve taken at U of T?
The most formative was probably the second-year Asia-Pacific Studies gateway course. Unlike other courses, the professors rotate on a biweekly basis, which allows students to explore different aspects of Asia and to “sample” every professor who teaches upper-year courses as part of the major. I was able to pick courses based on professors that I had heard teach, which led me to classes with professors Alana Boland and Andre Schmid. They both made me a better writer and thinker.

You also did some independent study…?
Yes — on slum redevelopment in Mumbai, my home city, with Prof. Joseph Wong. It was by far the most fulfilling academic experience I had. The project was motivated by a conversation I had with a taxi driver while in Mumbai. After learning that slum redevelopment schemes often left residents worse off than before by not accurately accounting for all the costs associated with the process, I sought to develop a metric that could more accurately outline the value of redevelopment schemes balanced against the various costs. It was by far the toughest project I have undertaken, but Prof. Wong was a great mentor and guide. It is a topic that I am exceedingly passionate about and I hope to pursue the project further at some point.

It sounds like you’ve been really busy! Do you still find time to watch Prime Minister’s Questions in the U.K. House of Commons on YouTube, as you did when we first spoke to you in 2010?
Meh, my disillusionment with British politics has grown, so I watch less — mainly due to David Cameron’s abandonment of his progressive green agenda.  

You’ve received a number of grades from U of T. How would you grade U of T in terms of your undergrad experience overall? 
Excellent. The university has been nothing but supportive. I am an enthusiastic advocate for experiential learning. Through the university’s financial support and guidance, I’ve been to Fudan University in Shanghai, the Ecuadorian Andes, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

How has U of T prepared you for the next stage of your life?
U of T, by virtue of being big, has shown me that jobs are not going to fall into my lap. In that sense, I know that I have to work hard to get what I want.

And what are your immediate next steps?
I want to pursue my thesis in a non-academic setting, so I’m looking to work in the urban planning or environmental design sector.

 

Fatima Bella Braimoh

Degree: Bachelor of Kinesiology
University College
Hometown: London, Ontario


How are you feeling about graduating?
I’m excited to celebrate the completion of my undergrad and to share that experience with my family.

How often did you get to see your family while attending U of T?
I made sure to see them regularly, whether that meant going home for a weekend, or having them up for a visit. Any time I could spend with my family was a refreshing break to put things back into perspective and de-stress.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?
I would tell my first year self to try and schedule time better so that you can see and experience things on and off campus — coffee shops, live music, local eats, getting to know the campus grounds and quiet spaces — while still devoting time to academics.

Which of your U of T experiences stands out most in your mind?
My time playing Varsity soccer and the outdoor camping projects that were part of my kinesiology program.

Thinking back to when you started at U of T, what’s the biggest difference between what you were expecting of your undergrad experience and how it actually was?
I expected it to be very independently focused and to go by slowly. Instead, my program accentuated group work and my undergrad flew by.

What would you say is the most common misperception about U of T among people who have never been a student here?
The type of students who go to U of T. I have met some of my best friends here because the students are so unique, down to earth, and know how to balance work with fun. People are really devoted to their academics here, but they are full of personality.

And what is an accurate perception?
How academically demanding the courses are.

The university is raising money through the Boundless campaign. If you had some say in where the money was directed, what would be your number one priority?
Helping to reduce costs for students to attend the university and to be successful here.

What’s the best course you’ve taken at U of T?
One of my favourite courses was the Nature of Humans. I really enjoyed the subject of anthropology throughout my undergrad, and this course was my first taste of how enlightening the topic of evolution really is. I liked how the professor taught the course; I often forgot I was sitting in a classroom.

You’ve received a number of grades from U of T. How would you grade U of T in terms of your undergrad experience overall?
A-

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself happy, working in the kinesiology field making money doing something I’m passionate about.

Are you going to continue playing soccer after you finish your undergrad?
Yes. I’m planning to play at Western University while completing a master’s degree in kinesiology.

How has U of T prepared you for the next stage of your life?
By pushing me to work extremely hard academically while being a forward thinker and juggling multiple projects. I’m also confident working both independently and within group settings.

 

Jiawei (Betty) Li

Degree: Bachelor of Commerce with high distinction, specialization in finance and economics
University College
Hometown: Shenzhen, China


How are you feeling about graduating? 
I feel very excited about it! My parents are flying in from China to attend the convocation. I am so looking forward to my graduation trip with them. We are going to Vancouver and Banff for six days, and taking a short trip to Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.

If you could give your first-year self some advice, what would it be? 
Attend as many networking and volunteering events and join as many clubs as you can. Get to know more people and develop your soft skills through all those activities. Try to have fun (since you will not have that much time when you are in upper years)! As for finding internships and attending technical workshops, they can wait till second- or third-year.

What’s the best course you’ve taken at U of T?
A marketing course with Professor Ann Barker, who taught us lots of useful knowledge using real-life examples from her experience. Also, we were more like friends than professor and students.

How have extracurriculars played a role in your U of T experience?
Without extracurricular activities, the academic life would be stressful and a bit boring. I played various sports and volunteered from time to time, which made my undergrad experience richer and more intriguing.

What would you say is the most common misperception about U of T among people who have never been a student here?
In China, I think there is or was a misperception that it is easy to graduate from a “foreign” university without much hard work if you have enough money. But life here is not as easy as they think. We get what we contribute. Studying here is really an invaluable and rewarding experience, but you must be willing to put effort into it.

How do you see U of T assisting international students?
U of T provides abundant academic and non-academic resources to all students, such as fitness centres, career centres and writing centres. My feeling is that I can get help whenever I need it and this might be something special about U of T.

You’ve received a number of grades from U of T. How would you grade U of T in terms of your undergrad experience overall? 
Overall, I would give the university an A- for my undergrad experience. U of T is truly a great university with gorgeous campuses, but what will stay with me the most are the friends I’ve made here. I thank them for making my undergrad experience so meaningful.

How has U of T prepared you for the next stage in your life?
I believe that the financial and accounting knowledge and the skills — communication, organizational and teamwork — have all prepared me for landing a satisfying job in the banking industry.

What’s in your immediate future?
I am taking the Chartered Financial Analyst Level I exam in a few days and am also enrolled in the Canadian Securities Course. Instead of fighting for a master’s degree now, I plan to obtain some financial job experience first.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m aiming for an analyst’s job in a bank. I see myself progressing from a junior analyst to a senior position in five years, and I might take a part-time MBA during my career. Starting a family might also be part of my plan.

 

George T. Steel

Degree: Bachelor of Science, double major in math and ecology, minor in aboriginal studies
University College
Hometown: Aurora, Ontario


  
What would you say is the most common misperception about U of T among people who have never been a student here?
 That the professors are unapproachable. Students shouldn’t be afraid to go and talk to them.
   
You commuted three hours daily to attend U of T. How did this affect your experience as an undergrad?
Because of the amount of time involved in the commute (equivalent to the hours required to complete two science credits!), I was unable to take a full course load and had to only take four credits a year. I was also unable to take organic chemistry due to the fact that attendance is taken at 8:30 (incompatible with transit) and worth a lot of marks. In my opinion, no course should start earlier than 9:10.

If you had the power to change anything about U of T with a snap of your fingers what, if anything, would you change?
I would bring back the (recently removed) rigorous introduction to thermodynamics as a half course and then make it a requirement for all ecology and economics programs. Ecology students should learn the underlying physics behind their science: it makes most of the other stuff make a lot more sense. Economics students should take it because when they learn orthodox economic theory, they should then learn why most of it is just plain wrong — in clear violation of basic laws of physics. Unfortunately, in economics, physics is too often just written off as “too radical.” It is time to change that.

Four years ago you identified Farley Mowat, who recently passed away, as your hero. How would you describe his impact on your life?
A lot of the ideas I learned from his books are still with me today. He taught me that not all is as we learn it in school; that there is room for full lives outside of “civilization;” and that yes, 500 million people can definitely still be wrong. Follow reason, even when people call it crazy.

 

Danielle Julia Klein

Degree: Bachelor of Arts with high distinction, double major in English and Jewish Studies, minor in history
University College
Hometown: Ottawa

Which of your U of T experiences stands out most in your mind?
Working at The Varsity has been the highlight of my experience at U of T — so much so that I’m sticking with it for another year, happily making me a face of ’15. 

Yes, next year you’re going to be the editor-in-chief of The Varsity.  It seems extracurriculars have played a major role in your university experience.
My extracurricular involvement has entirely enriched my university experience. I’ve been on the executives of both the English Students’ Union and the Jewish Studies Students’ Union, as well as being involved with my college and working at The Varsity. These experiences have connected me into my program and college, helping me to develop relationships with my professors and with fellow students, as well as developing my organizational and writing skills, among other benefits. 

What’s the best course you’ve taken at U of T? 
This is a really difficult question because there are so many that come to mind! This past year, I took a course in British literature with the best tutorials I’ve ever had at U of T. Our TA, Anthony, broke down the works we were studying unlike any other professor I’ve ever heard. Writing an essay on Paradise Lost would otherwise be a nightmare to me, but this course and tutorial taught me how to close read the text, such that analyzing it and writing about it was exciting and really satisfying. 

So, being so busy, have you and your roommate Molly performed at a UC coffee house yet — as you said you wanted to in the last interview?
Tragically, we have not. But I’ll still be a student next year, and I’m sure the UC community will be open to an alumni appearance from Molly — so that’s just another thing to look forward to next year! 


If you had the power to change anything about U of T with a snap of your fingers what, if anything, would you change?
Undergraduates would be more prioritized, with more campus resources, smaller class sizes, and more access to university administration. Also: more emphasis on sustainability initiatives, and more buildings named after women.

The university is raising money through the Boundless campaign. If you had some say in where the money was directed, what would be your number one priority?
U of T’s buildings need a lot of maintenance, and many have limited accessibility. Focusing on fixing and improving what we have, rather than building new, would be a sustainable approach to using the funds.

You’ve received a number of grades from U of T. How would you grade U of T in terms of your undergrad experience overall?
I’ve had a really positive experience, so I would give U of T a good grade — but first I would give it 10,000 pages of reading and countless papers and exams!

How has U of T prepared you for the next stage of your life?
U of T has helped me to hone my interests and to develop a network of helpful peers, colleagues, and mentors who have been sources of guidance and support as I look towards my next steps.

Where might those next steps take you?
I’m thinking about a few different things — travel, graduate studies, internships, college programs — but I can’t say for sure. First, I still have a couple of courses to go!


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