Photo Credits: Emma Seckel Photography
When I reflect on the start of my highschool journey, I am in disbelief of how it was a decade ago. A few days ago, I graduated from UBC with an honours BA in Political Science.
If you told me when I was a child or even a teenager that I would be where I am today, I would have been a bit shocked. While I grew up immersed in the arts, I also avidly pursued science.
Despite, being an arts/ social science student now, I am still very much enamoured with the STEM field and regularly explore the intersection of technology and social sciences in my current research.
Nonetheless, at the time of my starting Fraser Heights, I very much wanted to be a doctor. Why? Well, I grew up watching my grandfather battle and then pass away from cancer.
I, myself, would then tackle numerous unexpected and unexplainable health issues. Therefore, pursuing medicine and health at the time seemed to combine my values of compassion, helping others, and my curiosity with the world around me wonderfully.
So that's what brought me to Science Academy! What better way to prepare myself for the pre-med journey than having the opportunity to take advanced classes in the science related disciplines?!
At the time, Science Academy had just finished it's first year and I entered into the second cohort (Class of 2016). I was definitely a very keen individual so I studied some courses ahead in summer school so that I could complete Biology 11 and 12 on the side before starting the Science Academy program which is centred upon Math/ Calculus; Physics; and Chemistry. Fast forward to university and I accepted an offer as an Arbor Scholar at the University of Toronto. My hopes were to pursue a dual degree (a BSc. in Global Health Human Biology and a BA in Ethics, Society, and Law). I found the last years of high school to be honestly a lot more challenging than any years of my undergrad and I don't say that lightly or to diminish any others' experiences. The reason for this was because I was so involved in extracurriculars in high school and completing university level classes through SA that by the point I started at U of T, I was well situated to tackle midterms with expectations of how my grades were going to look like. At that point, I was well adapted to managing my own time and developing my study habits (this meant no procrastination and always getting my work done before having fun)! This also meant mentally I was already adapted to how university life (academically) felt. On the side, pertaining to my upbringing as an older sister that was a second mom to my younger sister growing up and that often spent summers alone taking care of her, I knew how to not only take care of myself but others effectively. Bam, when university started I hit the ground running because I knew how to clean up after myself, get around a new city quickly, and adapt to a whole new situation. This meant with my school training as well, I performed academically to a high level with a 4.0/ 4.0 GPA in the Life Sciences (which I must say myself at U of T that is known for having a very competitive Life Sciences program I found myself quite proud with how well I had adapted). It wasn't all easy though! First year university was still hard. I had to move and develop new connections. I also had to better my learning habits, which I did. A lot of change meant a lot of challenge! University itself is definitely a heavy workout!
Then an unexpected health occurrence hit during the middle of my first year, and that drastically changed my life and all my expectations. Long story short, with recovery and taking sick leave for half a year, my family and I decided best that I transfer to an institution closer to home. I chose UBC. By that time, I felt like physically I had a very long arduous journey ahead to pursue medicine, one that my body could no longer take. Even today, I deal with very bad chronic pain in my chest and back areas after my surgeries. I took a leap of faith and pursued the more social sciences path as I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect during my first year at U of T. Political Science was the major that matched the most closely to Ethics, Society, and Law at UBC. My experiences are very unique and perhaps, I feel in retrospect I only had the courage to pursue something that I had never ever thought about until I was literally in a hospital bed contemplating life and its meaning. For the longest time, I had to grieve that dream of medicine and becoming a medical doctor. It took two years of a lot of bitterness to process why I couldn't pursue that journey and to also allow another part of myself that I had always fostered in me to take a larger role in my life. I grabbed numerous coffees after recovery listening to those in social science careers, and believed that I could choose a different path and still end up in health / medicine related fields one day by pursuing policy or governance. As they say, life isn't really about a linear progression from Point A to B; for most, it can be a very long-winded messy scribble to get to our own Point B's. For my social science/ arts degree, SA wasn't as applicable as I was writing essays. But funnily enough, for the higher level and grad level courses I took in political science methods, I had to rely heavily on my understanding of statistics, probability, and mathematics that I had started earlier foundations of skills/ understandings in SA. And even when I write my papers, I often invoke some of the more theoretical and philosophical concepts of chemistry or mathematics that I find are so beautifully intertwined and integrated with the ways of knowing in the social science realms.
Many people have asked me if I have ever regretted pursuing SA. And honestly, that's a tough question. The program wasn't directly applicable to my life as for some of my peers, but I am a strong believer in the fact that things happen for a reason and that no opportunity or lived experience is ever a waste. Everything, every moment, and every person teach you something. SA taught me that I could do it. No matter how hard the journey was, that I could overcome and that I had the resiliency to see myself through it. And perhaps, it taught me also what I didn't like and what I didn't want to do. My dad pursued a PhD in physics and absolutely loves physics. I didn't. I loved how important the discipline is to society and how fascinating the topic was but honestly, it wasn't for me. And that's okay. And SA was the one that allowed me to come to that realization. So if you're ever considering on whether or not to pursue SA, ask yourself not whether you can but whether you should. You always can accomplish whatever it is you put your mind to (that's truly my belief), but perhaps you have to ask the question: if you should pursue " x opportunity." That in and of itself comes from asking the 'Why' and the 'So what' questions. Why does this matter to you? So what about SA? Are you pursuing the program for the right reasons? For your own right reasons? And speaking as an arts student, I wouldn't shy away from SA even if you aren't thinking of STEM. I think it can be a very useful program if you are still figuring things out so that you can use this experience to rule out what you don't want. And also from a philosophical standpoint, incorporating more ways of knowing is only going to help you down the road in a world that is already heavily affected and dominated by STEM developments! At the least, having those understandings of higher level math/ calc/ physics or chem may not be directly applicable if you don't pursue a STEM related field but it does expand your own horizon of understanding this beautiful world around you.