New College grad's journey to U of T spanned three continents

June 5, 2020 by Sarah MacFarlane - A&S News

Sammi Chan lived in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Switzerland before moving to Canada to earn her honours bachelor of arts with a specialty in political science and a minor in English literature as a member of New College. She’s had no shortage of academic pursuits to keep her busy, including the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Research Opportunities Program and U of T’s Summer Abroad program. She’s also been an active member of the U of T community — president of the Malaysian Singaporean Students' Association and Sidney Smith Commons assistant are just two of the titles on her resume.

What was it like growing up in so many different places and what made you choose U of T?

Growing up in different countries was definitely a challenge. I worried about making new friends and adapting to new environments and cultures. However, I truly believe that it made me a better and more adventurous person. I picked U of T because I wanted to meet people and learn from great professors and I was not disappointed. Before first year, I felt uncertain about what to major in, but the many programs Arts & Science has to offer really attracted me. That’s why I decided to leave Malaysia — where my parents were at the time — and moved to Canada to start my new journey.

You participated in the research opportunities and summer abroad programs — what were those experiences like?

The political science research opportunity during my third year was eye-opening. I was grateful to follow Professor Lynette Ong for her guidance and to learn more about data collection. It gave me a greater sense of what political science researchers do and the amount of work they put in before publishing a journal article.

I was very fortunate to be a part of the Oxford summer abroad program in 2019. The month I spent at the University of Oxford learning from Professor William Watson helped me better understand the similarities and differences between the criminal justice systems in Canada and England. The field trips to famous landmarks such as the Tower of London and the British Museum were fascinating and I met a lot of new friends. It was a remarkable trip!

Of all your extracurricular experiences, which was the most memorable?

It’s hard to pick one, but I’d say being part of the Sidney Smith Commons team was the most memorable. I joined the team as a fourth-year student and met so many incredible people. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences at U of T with faculty members as well as current and prospective students. Those conversations will always be memorable.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

I’ve always been an extrovert, but I get extremely nervous about public speaking, so I joined all four Model United Nations teams at U of T to push myself out of my comfort zone. From chairing to moderating to delegating at the UN headquarters, I had the best time. I got to debate on global issues and put the knowledge I learned in political science classes to use and I’m now more confident speaking in front of an audience. 

What’s next for you?

I hope to work for a non-governmental organization or the United Nations. I’m grateful that U of T has made me more curious about my surroundings and what’s happening in the world. I hope to maintain this mindset in my career.

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