Life @ U of T

Lunch with 30 Strangers – Alumni Events

In the middle of first year, I signed up for U of T's Next Steps Conference. I thought that the workshops would help steer my academic career in the right direction for what to expect after university. Unfortunately, something came up the day of and I didn't attend the conference (I'll hopefully make it next year!) but I was still on the mailing list and received an invitation for another alumni event - Dinner with 12 Strangers. It was their annual lunch for 30 U of T students and alumni, hosted by alum Paul Nazareth at Hart House Farm. I had never been to the farm and thought the event was a neat way to gain insight from other students and alumni about where my academic career could take me. The morning of, I was terrified. What if I was the only undergrad student? Who would want to talk to a first year who is still green? Other dinners are usually hosted at the homes of alumni and have fancy dress codes. However, this lunch was more casual and was being held in a rustic setting which calmed my nerves a little. After a one hour bus ride, we arrived in Caledon.
outside the farm house
students and alumni getting settled in inside the farm house
inside the farm house
            The conversations we had on the bus continued once everyone settled into the common area. I met people from across all three U of T campuses in varying disciplines who had come from Ethiopia, America, India and Cameroon, to name a few.
Students carefully walking down snowy and slippery hill
Sliding through the semester like
Sauna covered in snow by a frozen pond
A group of Finnish exchange students loved U of T so much that they built a sauna by one of the ponds!
Two girls taking a selfie
Cheesing for the camera with Leslie who I later in the semester sat next to in A math class
Half of us stayed to help the host, Paul on kitchen-duty while the other half explored the trails and ponds of the 150 acre property. I learned that Paul was a New College student like me! Everyone kept asking him which year he graduated but he never gave a straight answer.
A plate of food on a UofT plate
Lunch served on U of T dining ware!
boardgame set up with a few people around the table
getting to know people over board games in the sun room
After lunch, he gathered us in the common room and shared his U of T story with us. His path to success was not a straight road but because of it, he found his personal mission (and loving partner) at U of T. Paul also recommended that we work on growing our personal connections with professors, industry workers and people in general as soon as possible, especially considering U of T's strategic downtown location and the amount of cutting edge research that goes on around us daily. I'm glad that I attended the event. I learned that even though reaching out to upper years, faculty members, my registrar or even alumni may be intimidating, they ultimately have more experience and can guide me through this confusing yet exciting time in my life. I may have left my Varsity Blues toque at the farm, but I did bring back new friends, motivation and some leftover salad for the day after! Keep your eyes peeled for the next Dinner with 12 Strangers by connecting with the UofT Alumni network.

2 comments on “Lunch with 30 Strangers – Alumni Events

  1. I’m so glad you found the event of value Zoe!! Paul Nazareth your host here, was quite a treat to read your thoughts on the event that I have been hosting for now over a decade. Just to close the loop on my New College graduation status, I WAS being mysterious on purpose – as I hope you heard in my formal comments that day that part of my story is that although I’m an alumni I did NOT graduate from UofT. I left school in my third year because the academic side was not working for me, I wanted all the students present to know that I carried that ‘failure’ around for a long time but now, 20 years later know that it was just part of my story and not the end. Students put a LOT of pressure on themselves, and I experienced one of the worst case scenarios and not only did I just survive but I have thrived in my work, career and life – and UofT has been there for me every step of the way. Continued success in all you do Zoe, thanks for writing! Paul

    1. Thanks Paul! What you shared with everyone after lunch was what I needed to hear to turn a turbulent first semester of university into fuel for the second, and now in my third. Thank you again for hosting the event!

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