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. This article originally appeared in UofT Magazine (Autumn 2017).