Meet our Students
There is no single formula for success at university but finding inspiration and learning from the experience of others is a great place to start. From studying overseas and conducting fascinating research, to joining clubs and getting involved in college life, these Arts & Science students share their most memorable experiences and top tips for success.
Programs: Peace, conflict and justice, and diaspora and transnational studies
Ruth has had plenty of memorable learning experiences as an Arts & Science student, from interning at a local refugee shelter to researching art’s role in community building. Yet, her favourite memories come not from academics but from the connections she’s formed. “We put so much stock in rankings and numbers, but for me, those everyday experiences you have with people are what make U of T so special.”
Why Arts & Science: I was very indecisive in Grade 12, so I needed a place that would give me the ability to try out different programs. I was also drawn to the location. I knew Toronto would inspire my studies and shift my perspective outside the classroom.
My college experience: I’ve met some of my best friends through my college. I went into university not knowing anyone, so I was very much in need of a community. I became involved in my college’s student government, which gave me opportunities to meet more people.
I love U of T because: The peer-to-peer learning is great. You’re surrounded by people who are doing so much. You’ll be in a conversation with someone and think, “Wow, this person will probably be prime minister one day.”
Favourite resource: I have to give a shout out to my college's Writing Centre. I came into university with confidence based on my Grade 12 English marks and then imposter syndrome hit me hard. The Writing Centre helped me improve my writing.
Top tip: If anything piques your interest — like if you’ve always wanted to try beekeeping — do it! That goes for applying for scholarships too. Every college and program has financial resources, so when it comes to scholarships, apply for everything.
Programs: Peace, conflict and justice, and economics
As a high school student in Mumbai, Atharv dreamed of attending university in North America where he would have the flexibility to pursue his many interests. He didn’t know much about Canada (“I thought it was a cousin of the United States but with maple syrup and free health care”), but he had heard that Toronto — and U of T specifically — is a welcoming place for international students. Receiving the prestigious Lester B. Pearson International Student Scholarship cemented his decision to pursue his studies at Arts & Science.
In my studies: I’ve had the chance to do research since first year. Currently, I’m working as a research assistant studying a fog harvesting initiative in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
My college experience: Victoria College feels like home. The support has been incredible. Everybody is committed to helping students rise up to their potential.
Favourite resource: The Centre for International Experience. They had a winter excursion for international students who are usually alone on campus during Reading Week to stay with families in Muskoka and Orillia. That was a cool experience.
Outside the classroom: My friends and I received funding from U of T to start a podcast called Different Boat, Same Storm to capture people’s unique experiences during the pandemic. It’s been truly rewarding because we’ve connected with so many people across the world.
I love U of T because: Anything and everything you could possibly want to do, anyone and everyone you could possibly want to meet — it’s all here at U of T. If you’re willing to put the initiative in, the people and opportunities will come to you.
Programs: Health and disease, and physiology
As a future life sciences student, Setareh’s top consideration when selecting a university was the number of research opportunities available to undergraduate students. “I knew I wanted to go to U of T because it’s the number one research university in Canada,” she says. Her involvement at U of T has extended beyond the lab into college life, starting with her work as an orientation coordinator and culminating in her role as president of the Woodsworth College Students’ Association.
Why Arts & Science: I like that you’re admitted into a broad admission category, which means you can explore and see what you like in first year instead of going into a specific program and getting stuck there. I didn’t even know what physiology was until I took courses in it in second year.
Memorable class: I took a fourth-year independent research project course where I was able to study the impact of glucagon-like peptide-2 on mice intestines. It was the highlight of my university experience because I was able to translate my scientific knowledge into something tangible.
My college experience: My college has been an important part of my university life. In first year, I found orientation to be a very welcoming experience and I was able to make a lot of new friends. I love the community that I’m in.
Favourite resource: When I wasn’t sure what to do about a course I was struggling with, I reached out to an academic advisor at my College Registrar’s Office. They were super helpful — we sat, talked and I got the feeling that they cared.
Top tip: Join as many clubs as you can. It’s one of the best ways to meet new friends and get more involved. This is your chance to try new things!
Program: Environment and toxicology
Anna was inspired to study the effects of chemicals on humans and the environment after watching Erin Brockovich, a movie based on a true story about a groundwater contamination disaster in a small town in California. Through her studies in Arts & Science, she has been able to follow her passion, working alongside a renowned professor on research exposing the harmful impact of fluorinated compounds in consumer products including cosmetics, food packaging and textiles — research that has been featured on CBC and other media outlets.
Why Arts & Science: Something that really stood out to me was the number of research opportunities for undergraduate students. That’s not something you can find at every school. I feel confident that I can do something with my degree because I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience and made a huge number of connections.
My college experience: Innis is one of the smaller colleges, and I wanted to be part of a tight-knit community where I could really get to know people.
Outside the classroom: I’m on the U of T synchronized swimming team. It’s so much fun. It’s nice to have that second home on campus that’s completely unrelated to school.
I love U of T because: I feel like I’ve found my people here. The people who come to this university are really motivated and they inspire me to do better.
Top tip: Join a club, say hello to whoever is sitting next to you in class, find ways to engage with U of T outside of academics — it will make your experience a lot more worthwhile.
Programs: Mathematics, applied mathematics and philosophy
College: St. Michael’s
If Neo has learned anything during his four years at U of T, it’s that one seemingly small opportunity can open the doors to so much more. As a first-year student, he submitted a philosophy paper for his college’s research colloquium. That experience helped him get into the Research Opportunities Program in his second year, which led to further research opportunities with the Fields Institute and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. “It goes to show what a domino effect something small can have on your future, especially at U of T where there is an abundance of opportunities for students,” says Neo.
Why Arts & Science: It’s a well-rounded Faculty with so many good programs. U of T was the only school that offered a math and philosophy program and was strong in both subjects.
My program journey: I switched programs many times. I tried computer science, psychology and statistics; it’s important to experiment before committing to a program.
Memorable experience: I did the SMC One McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology. It gave me an appreciation for technology and encouraged me to think in that light throughout my studies. I still talk to a lot of the people who were in that seminar with me.
My college experience: St. Mike’s is a very welcoming community. I’ve been involved with the student union, mentorship programs and clubs, but your college experience isn’t limited to those things — it could be something as simple as playing basketball with your friends.
I love U of T because: You get to know people from all walks of life. I learned so much about diversity in terms of personal experience, values, religions, culture and sexuality. Everyone I meet helps me become more layered and well-rounded.
Top tip: I’m very unapologetic about receiving mental health support and I think every student should be. We can only do well if we feel well, and these resources are there to help us be the best versions of ourselves.
Programs: Immunology and molecular genetics and microbiology
With an interest in scientific research, Kris was drawn to Arts & Science because of its renowned faculty and affiliation with world-class research facilities and hospitals. Outside of her studies in the sciences, she had the opportunity to study abroad during an exchange semester in Korea. “It was a great chance to explore the Korean culture and curriculum.”
In my studies: In my second year, I did a Research Opportunities Program course with the Department of Cell & Systems Biology. I worked as a student researcher and was supervised directly by the principal investigator. It was just the type of mentorship I’d been looking for.
My college experience: I like that Trinity is one of the smaller colleges. It allows me to get fast appointments and build a personal rapport with the administration. It’s also affiliated with the immunology program, so a lot of friends from my program are part of Trinity too.
Outside the classroom: I’m part of the Women in Science and Engineering U of T chapter. We run competitions where participants put forward STEM-related products or strategies to improve the quality of life of global citizens. It’s a great networking opportunity!
I love U of T because: The culture is very future-focused; it emphasizes preparing for your future, being innovative and having a lot of opportunities during and beyond undergrad.
Top tip: It’s important to pace yourself, take time to make friends and have a healthy school-life balance. Check out the Student Organization Portal to see which clubs speak to your interests and passions.
Programs: Critical studies in equity and solidarity, and public policy
Social sciences student Frances recently landed a job with the Town of Cobourg advising on equity, diversity and inclusion — issues she has always been passionate about. In fact, she chose New College on her Arts & Science application because of its affiliation with the critical studies in equity and solidarity program. While she chose New College based on her academic interests, she has immersed herself in all aspects of college life, including her residence house council, student union, peer mentorship programs and orientation.
Why Arts & Science: I liked the atmosphere, the size of the campus and the fact that it has a strong reputation and so many program options.
In my studies: We talk about the history and politics behind how this world has come to be. It’s so interesting to take all these theories and bring them together to see how they shape inequality in our world.
My college experience: We’re one of the bigger international colleges, so you get to meet people from all over the world and learn about their different experiences.
Outside the classroom: As a First-Year Learning Communities mentor, I meet up regularly with small groups of first-year students. I love it because I was in their shoes not that long ago and my mentors really helped me.
Top tip: If you need help, reach out. There are always people at U of T who are willing to help you out.
Programs: Criminology and sociolegal studies, peace, conflict and justice, and creative expression and society
When Syeda made the switch from life sciences to social sciences, she wasn’t expecting to have so many research opportunities. “I always thought research was limited to the sciences. I didn’t think it was an option for me,” she recalls. But in first year, she volunteered to conduct research for a professor’s textbook and started to gain hands-on experience outside the classroom. Her latest research projects include studying the racialization of automata throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and looking at the scalability of an initiative to prevent and treat HIV in youth living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Arts & Science: The day I picked U of T was when I did the campus tour. I immediately fell in love with the campus and the people. I felt very at home, and I knew that would be critical to enjoying my university experience.
My program journey: I came to U of T under the life sciences admission category, but after taking a first-year sociology course, I realized I preferred social sciences. It’s important to be open-minded about your university experience. You don’t want to box yourself in to choices you haven’t fully thought out.
My college experience: As a commuter student, I feel like Victoria College is my home away from home. I always stop by Vic to see my friends, sit at one of the cafes or visit my professors.
Top tip: Reach out to professors about research opportunities. Even if they don’t have anything for you to work on, it’s good experience to get comfortable communicating with professors.
Outside the classroom: I’m an associate editor for Goose Fiction, one of Vic’s literary journals. I love literature but don’t get to read a lot of fiction in my courses; this is one of the ways I get to stay in touch with something I’m passionate about.
I love U of T because: Everyone is so intelligent, driven, kind and genuine. It makes this huge university feel a lot smaller because you get to meet so many wonderful people.
Programs: Archaeology and history
College: St. Michael’s
From travelling to Ireland to study medieval manuscripts to cleaning and cataloguing bones from an archaeological dig, Kendall’s studies in Arts & Science have been hands-on right from the start. Most recently, she presented her research on archaeology and Christianity as tools of Indigenous erasure at the Arts & Science Student Union Undergraduate Research Conference, adding another accomplishment to an already impressive resume.
Why Arts & Science: The opportunities for undergraduate research are amazing and I’ve tried to take advantage of as many as I can.
Memorable experience: I was part of the SMC One Boyle Seminar, where we travelled to Ireland to study medieval manuscripts. The trip was packed with visits to museums and historical sites, and we were given private showings of different manuscripts.
In my studies: The Wadi Ziqlab Project, which looks at household objects from a Neolithic village in Jordan, was recruiting undergrads to help in the lab. In the classroom, we talk about theory and interpretations, but this allowed me to see the technical, practical side of archaeology.
My college experience: It’s been immersive. I’ve lived in residence, been a peer mentor and was treasurer of my house council. You can usually find me studying at either the St. Mike’s student lounge or the Kelly Library.
Favourite resource: I use Accessibility Services because I have multiple disabilities that make university more challenging. I don’t think I would have been able to do as well as I have if I hadn’t registered with Accessibility Services.
Programs: Health studies and sociology
As a YouTuber who regularly shares about her experience at U of T, Nicole has an abundance of advice for future students. Her top tip: “Always keep an open mind and try different courses because you never know what you’re going to be interested in.” She speaks from experience. Nicole initially came to U of T as a life sciences student but ended up enrolling in social sciences programs after taking a sociology course as an elective. She has also expanded her horizons through her college, where she worked as a videographer and a mental health peer advisor.
Why Arts & Science: In Grade 12, I was really confused about what I was interested in, so I was looking for a school that would give me a lot of different choices. Arts & Science caught my attention because there was so much space to try things.
My college experience: As a commuter student, I really wanted to get involved. I attended many Non-Residence Affairs Committee events where I got to meet other commuters. I also met many great friends during orientation week.
Favourite resource: I’ve been quite open about my mental health journey on my YouTube channel. Reaching out to U of T Health & Wellness was a very positive experience for me. I always remind students that these resources are here for your use and benefit.
I love U of T because: It’s so diverse. There are so many programs and people from different walks of life. It just feels so lively and like I’m part of something so much bigger than myself.
Programs: English and criminology and sociolegal studies
When choosing her programs, Natalia sought advice from several sources, including upper-year students and advisors at her College Registrar’s Office. “Every single person told me: ‘Do what you love,’” she recalls. With an interest in true crime and a passion for literature, she decided to double major in criminology and English. “It was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she says. “I get to go to school every day and do what I love most.”
Why Arts & Science: When I did the campus tour, I enjoyed the sense of community I experienced at U of T. I felt confident knowing I would have the resources and support to succeed there. Plus, the campus is gorgeous
In my studies: My favourite criminology course was Criminal Law. Every week, we got to analyze real cases and discuss what happened at the trial.
My college experience: Joining the University College Literary & Athletic Society opened my world to all of the diverse people at UC. I found my sense of community and met a lot of my really good friends through that.
Outside the classroom: Last year, I worked with another UC student to help a refugee student come to U of T. The university sponsored her, and we helped her complete her documentation, purchase basic necessities and move from her hotel to campus. That was the best extracurricular experience I’ve had.
Favourite resource: I always use the University College Writing Centre for help with essay writing. Even though I’m an English major, it’s always great to have a second perspective and get feedback.
I love U of T because: There’s so much history as well as many advances happening at U of T.
Programs: Immunology and pathobiology
Abdula has kept busy during his four years at U of T. From co-creating a machine learning algorithm that assessed the need for medical resources across Ontario during the pandemic to researching the drivers of acute myeloid leukemia resistance to current therapies, he has worked on a number of fascinating research projects. Outside of academics, he is the co-editor of the Journal of Undergraduate Life Sciences, an academic peer advisor (APA) at his college and a trainer for Health Occupations Students of America’s Biomedical Debate event.
Why Arts & Science: I was debating between computer science and life sciences, and I knew the diversity of programs in Arts & Science would allow me to pursue my interests much more freely than other schools.
Memorable class: I did a First-Year Foundations Ones Program in my first year. It was a great opportunity to connect with mentors and professors and be part of a community. It made me feel more comfortable transitioning to university and showed me the importance of interdisciplinary learning.
My college experience: I’m one of the many APAs at Trinity who serve as sources of unofficial advice for students. During frosh week, I vividly remember an APA introducing herself to me and giving me a lot of tips. I remember how helpful that was, so that guided me to become an APA myself.
Top tip: The upper-year students around you have been in your shoes and are more than happy to help. I was hesitant to reach out when I was in first year. I thought: “They’re fourth-year students. What if they don’t want to talk to me?” But it’s not like that at all. Everyone is happy to share their knowledge.
Favourite thing about U of T: People from all over the world attend U of T, and the person sitting next to you in class has probably had so many unique life experiences. You have the pleasure of learning something from everyone you meet.
Programs: Genome biology and fundamental genetics and its applications
Jade came to Arts & Science for the East Asian studies and biochemistry programs and ended up studying genetics and genome biology. This might sound like an unusual trajectory, but Jade wants to assure new students that it’s completely normal to change your mind about what you want to study. “I’ve talked to a lot of new students who don’t know what programs they want to pursue, and I tell them, ‘That’s okay. I’ve changed my program every year.’” Jade also mentors new students in her role as an orientation executive at New College. “A lot of them tell me that just hearing me say that is a really big comfort.”
In my studies: Last summer, I enrolled in a Research Opportunities Program course and worked in a lab at the Krembil Research Institute. I didn’t have any real lab experience until then, so that course was really valuable to me.
My college experience: I chose New College because their website had a lot of information about equity and advocating for marginalized groups; those things are really important to me personally.
On mentorship: A lot of new students are coming to Toronto and maybe even Canada for the first time and they don’t have anyone here. I hope I can make the transition a little easier for them.
Favourite resource: The libraries. They are nice places to study, but they offer so many other resources. The librarians are deep wells of knowledge on how to study, write a paper, properly cite resources and access library databases.
I love U of T because: There are so many people from so many different walks of life. Being able to talk to them and gain insight into their experiences is such a privilege.
Rachel came to U of T looking for an academically rigorous environment that would prepare her for medical school. What she discovered was a new-found interest in psychology and a passion for helping her fellow students. She currently works as a mental health peer advisor at Trinity College, where she connects students with mental health resources, organizes mindfulness workshops and leads fun activities like crafting to help students de-stress. “I want to encourage students to think about their mental health and well-being in addition to academics,” she says. “That’s something I really needed in first year.”
Why Arts & Science? I wanted to be in an environment that would challenge me. I knew I would meet people at U of T who would push me out of my comfort zone.
My program journey: I originally planned to do pre-med, but after first year, I realized it wasn’t the path for me. By chance, I took a psychology course, and it was so interesting. I realized this is what I actually want to do.
My college experience: It’s helpful that students are placed into different colleges because you can receive the help you need through a smaller group that focuses on you. I’d feel lost trying to navigate Arts & Science alone. The college system helps you find the resources you need.
Outside the classroom: I’m part of the Psychology Students’ Association. Since our program has a lot of students, we try our best to create a sense of community by running different academic programs and social events throughout the year.
I love U of T because: There is so much opportunity to explore your interests. You can learn about different topics by taking the wide selection of courses offered, and there are so many different people you can meet and clubs you can join.
Top tip: Ask for help if you need it — it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. There are so many people at this school who are here to support you.
Programs: Political science, sociology and music history and culture
College: St. Michael’s
On her first day at U of T, Sophia was sitting alone in Convocation Hall, having shown up early for class. When the professor arrived to set up his slides, he noticed how nervous she looked and told her not to worry, that she would get the hang of it. That small act of kindness stuck with her. Four years later, Sophia is now passionate about helping other first-year students make the adjustment to university through her work as an orientation leader and as a work-study student at her College Registrar’s Office. “It’s helping students from a student’s perspective,” she says. “Everything I do at St. Mike’s is putting a little bit of good into the community, and I love that.”
Why Arts & Science: There are so many different programs, and you can really mix it up and do whatever you want. It truly doesn’t matter what your interests are; you can find a combination of programs that fits.
My college experience: I can’t imagine my university experience without a college. I spend all my time outside of class at St. Mike’s and that’s where I made all of my friends. U of T is so big; having a college gives me my own little corner.
My program journey: I didn’t get into my first-choice major, and I didn’t have a plan B. In second year, I had to start over and figure out what I loved. I had always enjoyed politics in high school, so I thought: “There’s an entire major on this. Why not study that instead?”
Favourite resource: I enrolled with Accessibility Services in second year, and it completely changed my university experience for the better. It’s important to me to be the best student I can be, and I couldn’t do that without the educational aids that U of T offers.
I love U of T because: The fact that U of T draws kids from all over the world is amazing. So many of my friends are international students and I never would have met them if I hadn’t chosen U of T.
Top tip: You are not alone! I said this a lot as an orientation leader when first-year students would tell me they’re here on their own. There are so many resources and people who care, especially within your college.