Finding someone to explore Toronto with was key to success for international A&S student Rebekah Robinson 

June 22, 2021 by Michael McKinnon - A&S News

Rebekah Robinson came to Canada and U of T in 2017, having fallen in love with the campus on a visit from the U.S. Here, she earned her honours bachelor of arts with a double major in history and Russian language and literature, and a minor in practical French, as a member of New College. During her undergrad, she received a 2021 University of Toronto Student Leadership Award, produced podcasts at Hart House and discovered her passion for storytelling and meeting people. In August, she’ll head to Columbia University to pursue a career in journalism.

How did you find the transition to studying in Canada — and what advice do you have for other international students?

I think the culture shock wasn't as strong for me as for students from other places. I really dug my heels in with a lot of opportunities to get involved on campus, like getting involved with international student orientations, joining clubs and just trying to find a group of people to explore the city with. That really helped me be successful in my first year.

I think it's really important to get involved. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's the best way to build a support network. Find people to explore the city with, especially if you're not a person who enjoys exploring places by yourself.

You’re studying journalism in the fall. What drew you to that?

I used to joke that if I could just get paid to travel and talk to people, that'd be my ideal job. I was trying to figure out a way to go about doing that.

I worked with different publications during my time at U of T, and then I started working as a podcast producer with Hart House Stories in September. That allowed me to do a bit of storytelling, to have conversations and create some cool content. I'm looking forward to diving more into audio journalism and podcasting and things like that to find creative ways to tell stories.

Tell us more about your podcast work with Hart House. How did it combine your interests, extracurriculars and U of T studies?

Rebekah Robinson with taking a picture with a trophy and volleyball team.
Rebekah Robinson, front right, as a member of New College’s volleyball team.

I studied history and Russian language and literature, and I really brought those passions into the episodes I produced. I facilitated a conversation with the Department of Slavic Languages & Literature on LGBTQ identities in Eastern Europe for a podcast episode. I spoke to people throughout the Slavic diaspora, and it was really cool to incorporate my knowledge of Eastern European history and a little bit of the culture and then also intertwine that with the journalist practices I'm trying to develop.

I've taken a lot of Black Canadian history courses and also a few Black American history courses, and I intertwined conversations with things that were happening over this past year to create an interesting episode with the Living Well series at Hart House.

What are you taking with you from your U of T experience when you head to Columbia University?

I think what I'm taking are the connections I've made, the feeling of being part of a really cool project and this sense of curiosity to investigate and discover why people think the way they do. I'm a huge history buff, and I just love talking about history all the time. To understand why the world is the way it is, you have to understand what has happened before.

History is cyclical; it ebbs and flows in certain ways. Nothing's completely brand new. This has all happened before in some form or fashion or another. How can we learn from people who've already gone through that? We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here.

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