Journey of an International Student (Part Two): “The Heart Is Not A Lonely Hunter”

by Shamim Ahmed 

In our ‘Journey of an International Student’ series, Shamim shares his experiences and journey as an international student parent at the University of Toronto. This thoughtful monthly series aims to highlight experiences of international student parents, find connections in our community, and uplift voices of others. If you have story or idea for our Redefining Traditional community, you can submit it here! 

This week’s snowfall* was quite unprecedented. I was not expecting a heavy snowfall on the first day of November; not at least from my experience of living in Toronto for the last four years. Snowfall was heaviest when I came to Toronto in 2016. I remember our most adventurous journey to this city was then to visit the Queen’s Park, a 10-minute walk from our home. The park was full of snow. When we entered the field, it felt like we were about to drown into a rough white sea! It is such a fond memory. However, I think, snowfall gradually decreased in the following years. Is climate change started impacting the urban cities too? Maybe. There is no chance that we ignore or deny the effects of climate change on our beloved habitat. It’s true and it’s happening.  

Share Your Story: A Can of Soup on a Halloween Eve

By Kaitlyn Corlett – Senior Project Assistant at the Innovation Hub

Our Share Your Story Series highlights individual’s stories in the Redefining Traditional community – and aims to bring in different perspectives by student parents and supporters. If you have a story you would like to share you can submit your story here!: Share Your Story Submission Form

Kaitlyn Corlett smiling at the camera

I was raised by a single mother who pursued her education throughout my childhood. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on memories of when my mother was completing her Master’s degree online and we were navigating this reality in our home. Today, I share with you one memory that has always stuck with me.

It Takes a Village

By Heather Watts

Heather standing in front of a colourful background wearing a teal long sleeve shirt, smiling to the camera.

Throughout my childhood, I lived in a number of different communities and homes. Burlington, Ottawa, and Cambridge, Massachusetts are just a few placed I have called ‘home’ over the years. Our moves across Turtle Island were a result of different career opportunities my father pursuing. I remember the networks of friends and family that supported me as a young child: Anna in Burlington, Tara in Ottawa, and Robin and Charmaine in Cambridge. I’m sure there are many others, but these are folks I have vivid memories of riding bicycles in the driveway, taking long walks down our residential street, and playing hours of Monopoly with (you know you’re making an investment of time when you sit down to play Monopoly!) To these people, I thank you. You weren’t merely babysitters, or but people who I looked up to, confided in, and leaned on during my younger years. 

Three Things I Wish I Knew About Being Both a Parent and a Grad Student at UofT

By J. Sparks, Graduate Student at the University of Toronto

This is a re-post from the Intersections blog at the Family Care Office at the University of Toronto (learn more here!). While this post is based on experiences at the University of Toronto, we recognize that these insights apply to all student parents in higher education and we invite you to share any insights in the comments below!

If I had an opportunity to go back in time, I would have shared these three things with my former self about what to expect as a parent and as a student enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Toronto.

Journey of an International Student (Part One): “Much Ado About Nothing”

by Shamim Ahmed 

In our ‘Journey of an International Student’ series, Shamim shares his experiences and journey as an international student parent at the University of Toronto. This thoughtful monthly series aims to highlight experiences of international student parents, find connections in our community, and uplift voices of others. If you have story or idea for our Redefining Traditional community, you can submit it here! 

As an international student, I flew from a country which is almost 11000 kilometers far from Canada. When it’s 8am in Toronto, that’s 6pm in my home country, Bangladesh. I arrived in Toronto on a chilly morning of December 2016. I had previously seen snowfall in Geneva during my short trip to United Nation’s Human Rights Commission meeting back in 2012, but for my wife and daughter it was the first-time watching the snow fall. It was very exciting, but I remember we could not enjoy as much we would love to because we were occupied with so many thoughts at that time. We were concerned about adapting with a new culture and society in this new chapter moving of our lives.

Allow Us to Reintroduce Ourselves…

By Shamim Ahmed and Heather Watts, Design Researchers at the Innovation Hub & Redefining Traditional

Screenshot of Shamim Ahmed and Heather Watts in a Microsoft Teams meeting, who are working virtually on Redefining Traditional, both smiling at the camera.
Shamim & Heather working virtually!

As we are jumping back into the Fall semester, we wanted to take a moment to re-introduce ourselves to you all. We are Shamim Ahmed and Heather Watts, the Design Researchers of the Redefining Traditional: Making Higher Education Family Friendly project at the Innovation Hub – University of Toronto. We look forward to bringing our voices and stories to this blog space, as well as be in community with you on our Facebook group [insert link]. If you haven’t joined already, we’d love to have you!  

A bit about us and what brings us to this work… 

Reflections on Orange Shirt Day

By Heather Watts – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub

Last year around this time, I wrote the following post on my Facebook page: 

Icon of an orange shirt with the text 'Every Child Matters' on it.
Orange Shirt Day Logo: learn more at

A lot of feelings as I dropped Nico off this morning, sporting his orange shirt. Today is Orange Shirt Day, a day designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. 

This system was assimilation and erasure packaged and tied as ‘education’. What do we mean when we use this word? What are we teaching? What are we intentionally leaving out? What narrative are we working to maintain? 

As I walked my little love to his school here in Toronto, I reflect, what narrative continues to be the one that is upheld? What constitutes knowledge? Who is taught about and in what way are they remembered, revered, and celebrated?  

Let us not just be performative on this day, or any day for that matter. Beyond shirts. Beyond land acknowledgements. Let us be critical. Let us be systemic and institutional change agents. 

Over the past twelve months since I posted these words, I have engaged in the topic of Reconciliation on a scholarly level, as well as on a personal level. As an Indigenous woman with family members who are residential school survivors, there is a lot to consider when it comes to this journey of Reconciliation. I still very much believe that there is a dominant narrative that our institutions of learning work to maintain, and in large part, that narrative omits, marginalizes, and misrepresents Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).  

A Fall Like Never Before: Academic Success Can Still Be Colorful!

Written by Shamim Ahmed – Design Researcher at the Innovation Hub

Academic success is so important for students, and we know it well. We often think academic success is all about studying, but if we reflect on lifestyles where academic progress seems to flourish for folks, studying is not necessarily the only thing that has helped them succeed. A little bit of planning and giving importance to the smaller but important things in life supported them to be successful in their academic journey. However, this summer was difficult for most of us. Due to COVID-19, students might have to make up for classes, continue home schooling or face financial uncertainties. Due to the pandemic, many students might not have been able to engage in summer activities, visit family, or have a summer vacation that helps us return to the Fall semester energized. It is well known how overwhelming it can be returning to school – especially now, no matter your degree or grade. It is not just applicable to new students, but also for the returning students after an uncertain summer of 2020.    

Maintaining Social Connections During COVID-19

Authored by University of Guelph student Megan Coghill

Clusters of icons for email, conversations, online connections, and individuals interacting.

Covid-19 has impacted many aspects of daily living, especially how we interact with family and friends. With the added stress the pandemic can bring it is especially important to maintain a strong social network. “Social distancing” is in some ways a misnomer. There are many ways to connect with others while maintaining appropriate physical distance. Now more than ever, there are multiple ways to socialize virtually as services are constantly adapting in response to Covid-19. Below is a list of options to maintain social connections with others for both you and your family, online and in-person. 

Balancing Parenting and Working from Home by Fostering Self-Help Skills in Children

Authored by University of Guelph student Megan Coghill

Words making up a light bulb that include aspects of self-help, such as "balance", "care" "active" and more.

With many parents working or completing school from home due to Covid-19 it can be challenging to avoid distractions. Fostering self-help skills in your children is especially useful while trying to balance parenting and other commitments. Furthermore, increasing independence allows your children to feel an improved sense of autonomy.