University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of Ishita Aggarwal giving a speech.
Ishita Aggarwal. Photo courtesy of Ishita Aggarwal

From Shy to Shining

A YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award winner reflects on a pivotal first-year program at U of T

In high school, I was shy. When I enrolled at U of T to study biology, I joined its First-Year Learning Communities program, which helped me come out of my shell.

The program’s leaders placed me and other life-science students in the same classes for core courses. I took sessions with upper-year mentors and faculty advisers on how to write exams and email a professor. I also learned how to join research projects and work-study programs in my faculty. First-Year Learning Communities organized social outings as well – the ROM, frozen yogurt, a board game café. The program helped me become more confident and outgoing, and some of my closest friends are people I met in it. I had such a good experience, I chose to mentor students in my third and fourth years.

My First-Year Learning Communities faculty adviser recommended I pursue a diverse science education. It’s one reason I felt comfortable serving as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Undergraduate Life Sciences and helping to plan U of T’s first Women in Science and Engineering conference. It’s also why I now enjoy a career as a neurogenetics research analyst. The program played a big role in so much of my growth.

Ishita Aggarwal (BSc 2015), as told to Sharon Aschaiek.

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