Rouya Botlani, Program and Communications Coordinator at the ASC, is the smiling face of our space. She recently graduated from U of T and is passionate about student engagement. This week, she discusses her career path and the importance of following your passion.
What is your role at the ASC?
My official title is the Program and Communications Coordinator for the Academic Success Centre and the First in the Family Peer Mentor program. Essentially, I provide programming support for the various programs we have housed at the ASC, and coordinate most office operations as well. I also oversee our website and social media communications, and do a lot of the outreach with our campus partners. So, it’s program support, logistics/operations, targeted outreach, and communications all tied into one!
What inspired you to take on this role?
Throughout my undergrad, I was fairly involved with student government and various student groups at my college, Woodsworth. Through my involvement I met a lot of different staff at UofT, one being the previous First in the Family Program Coordinator and I ended up working as a work-study student for the program during my final year. I absolutely loved it! I loved that I was able to apply my knowledge and experience from the work I did at Woodsworth to a program that work on a much larger scale. Working for central Student Life also gave me the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life and different areas on campus– staff and students alike. I ended up transitioning from my work-study position, into my current role!
It’s interesting, I studied sciences in my undergrad but the work I’m currently doing has nothing to do with what I studied but rather what I learned and pursued in my spare time. I used to feel like I was procrastinating on my ‘real’ work by getting involved, but really that wasn’t the case. Usually, what you choose to do in your spare time is something you’re passionate about. I’ve been lucky enough to turn my passion into a career and I think that’s the takeaway I’d like students to focus on. We can get so lost on the culture to ‘succeed’ and be a great student at this institution, that we lose sight of who we are as a human! If there’s ever been a time to turn your passion into a career it’s now, when careers no longer fit into clear cut categories.
You said that you took five years to complete your undergrad degree. Can you talk a little bit more about that choice?
Yes! I completed my undergrad in five years, and I’m glad that I made that decision! By my fifth year I knew what it meant to navigate UofT academically, and was able to use the final year to further explore the other perks of being a student. I really took advantage of the services offered to students, and did things that I always thought I was too busy for as a full time student.
Some people are able to successfully complete five full credits each year and do that for four years. They’re often exceptional students and have a great academic experience, but maybe at the expense of developing life skills and developing their sense of self at the same time. I always think that we have to balance a scale in life. There’s always learning that needs to happen whether it’s in a classroom or outside. During your undergrad, you have to understand that you are a student first, but you should also know that these are years that you’re never going to get back. The skills you develop now are the ones that you will be showing employers years after you’ve graduated or that you need graduate schools to look at. It’s important to balance the scales of your own life. I definitely don’t regret doing my undergrad in five years. If I were to do my undergrad again, I would probably stick to five years, take a lot more elective courses, and think about whether I even needed to go university right after high school.
If you spend time building meaningful connections, putting your time into things that you enjoy alongside your studies, and taking care of yourself, you’ll look back and think of the x number of years in undergrad as some of the best in your life! I mean, we’re at a university that offers so many support systems to students in one of the best cities in the world…so if you’re ever going to explore, take advantage of opportunities, and make mistakes that you’re going to learn from, I think this is the place and the time to do it!
If you could go back in time and visit Rouya in her undergrad years, what would you tell her?
I would probably tell her to switch majors and have the conversation with her parents about not wanting to pursue a career in the sciences, a lot earlier. As a first generation student, navigating these difficult conversations with our parents can be so nerve-racking and such a major cause of stress and anxiety. That’s why I put my conversation off until my final year of undergrad, which in retrospect was probably unfair to both them and me.
I would also tell her (Rouya in her undergrad years) to breathe! One thing I learnt is that you can do anything but not everything. It took me a while to learn that, and I still don’t fully live by it. It’s still a learning process and I think always will be!