Convocation is a special time for students. It is an emotional and exciting celebration that culminates years of intense study. Although time at university is full of memorable moments of learning and personal growth, it also has its fair share of setbacks, sacrifices, and sometimes even failure and disappointment.
Fortunately, for many students, their perseverance and resilience have given them the strength to overcome the obstacles, push past their limits, and make their dreams come true.
These three young alumni know something about that. Despite difficult circumstances, they persevered and their efforts were crowned with success. Now they can face the future with confidence.
Overcoming loss helped cultivate compassion and empathy
Undergraduate medical education
I remember everything about two specific days during my medical school training: the day my mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and the day she passed away. The latter, I will add, was also during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
When my mother was initially diagnosed, I persevered through my clinical rotations. Navigating the tough decisions, the uncertainty, and the pain while being five hundred kilometers away from my home in Victoria Harbour, Ontario, was grueling. I now intimately understand the battle faced by many families as they juggle routine expectations while caring for loved ones and processing emotional, life-altering diagnoses. I very quickly learned to change my perspective, to ask for and accept help, and to prioritize both my needs and those of my patients, within my medical training.
In the fall of 2019, my mom’s condition deteriorated terminally, so I paused my final year of medical studies to be with her. I spent my days ensuring her last moments were filled with the things she cherished: family, card games, and crosswords. Little eases the pain brought about by this experience, but I will be forever grateful for our time together.
I know it sounds cliché to say that this experience will make me a better physician, but my approach to clinical encounters and compassion has certainly matured.
I was able to experience my medical training from both academic and personal perspectives. I re-entered my last year of medical studies as a member of an entirely new MD class and during a global pandemic — far from how I initially envisioned my last year of medical school.
My graduation this year means so much more to me than obtaining my MD. It represents persevering through the hardships, both within and outside of medicine.
Most importantly, my graduation is for my mom. She was a crucial part of my successes throughout my medical school journey. She was there for me when I took my first steps, and every day I wish she could see me take my next. I take her, and our shared experiences, with me into every single clinical encounter. She is my continual inspiration to be the best clinician I can be.
Precious friendships in a brand-new world
MA in bilingualism studies
Farhad Roodi is an international student from Iran. He had been living in Istanbul for two years with his wife when, in 2019, he learned about a research position in bilingual studies at uOttawa. He applied, got the job, and after getting his documentation in order, he made it to campus just in time for the fall term that year.
It was his first time making the long journey across the Atlantic, let alone living in a foreign continent. He was a newcomer without any friends or relatives, and his wife was only able to join him in Ottawa five months later.
“It’s usually not easy for Iranians to get a visa to travel to another country — even a student visa. One thing that was helpful, in my case, was the financial support offered by uOttawa,” he explains.
At uOttawa, Farhad worked as a research assistant in French and English teaching, and as a teacher’s assistant in the English intensive program, at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI).
He’s thankful to have met very supportive professors and staff at the University. One OLBI faculty member stood out in particular: Associate Professor Nikolay Slavkov.
“He picked me up from the airport when I arrived and quickly became like family to me. I’m most grateful for the fact that he fully trusted and accommodated me, a totally unfamiliar person from another country.”
Farhad, who will graduate at the spring 2021 Convocation, is all set to begin doctoral studies in language learning and technology at the Faculty of Education.
Fueling the flame despite the setbacks
Bachelor of Social Sciences with a Minor in Anthropology
Gee-Gees – Men’s Hockey
In March 2020, Kevin Domingue, a right winger on the Gee-Gee’s Men’s Hockey team was ready for the national championships in Halifax. After an excellent season, the team was aiming for the cup. But the pandemic struck and the tournament was cancelled.
His disappointment was intense. “They sent word the night before the first game of the tournament, with the team already in Halifax,” the hockey player recalled.
In November 2020, while pursuing his studies from his home in Laval, Quebec, he received his first contract to play hockey professionally and set out to play for the Tulsa Oilers of the East Coast Hockey League.
“I tried my luck over there, but it didn’t pan out. So I returned to Canada in February 2021.”
During quarantine after his return from the US, he was invited to join the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in the UK just in time to join the team’s ranks for a five-week tournament. He jumped at the chance without hesitation.
“In university hockey, we usually play 14 games per term. There, over the five weeks, we played 16 games, and to cap it all off, we won the championship!” explained the athlete who, in passing, is the highest goal scorer in Gee-Gee’s history.
Despite the obstacles he faced, Kevin found a way to keep the dream alive. Many of his teammates quit hockey for various reasons. “For my part, I am really happy that I persevered.”
With his diploma in hand, Kevin will be heading back to the UK in the fall 2021 to continue to play for the Nottingham Panthers. The team has offered him a regular contract for the upcoming season.