The University of Toronto is home to students from numerous ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. Even despite its notable diversity, racialized students, like myself, often find themselves feeling isolated and underrepresented in traditional academic settings. As a result, I often jump at any opportunities to attend events targeted towards racialized minorities. In particular, as an African-Canadian immigrant, I find myself quick to sign up for events that speak to issues that Black Canadians like myself may encounter.
When I first heard about the Access and Inclusion Peer Program, I excitedly registered for the first available session on the Career & Co-Curricular Learning Network.
Hosted by mentor navigators from the U of T’s Access and Inclusion Peer Program, the drop-in weekly session for African, Black and Caribbean students is open for all African, Black and Caribbean undergraduates students.
The drop-in session that I attended began at 2 PM EST. After registering for the event, I received a link to join the session using the Microsoft Teams application. As soon as my call connected, I launched into a chat with the four mentors who were already available on the call.
Prone to shyness, I found myself surprisingly comfortable as the five of us introduced ourselves to each other. I’ve grown eerily accustomed to using virtual communication for job interviews, virtual classes, office hours. But, I found myself feeling really grateful for the virtual aspect of the Access and Inclusion Peer Program session. As a student who travels back-and-forth between Ontario and Alberta, it would’ve been a shame if I’d missed the meeting due to being physically located in Alberta. Thankfully, the online quality of this call means that students can drop-in anytime and from nearly any part of the world.
Early into the call, we discovered that we were all calling in from various parts of the Canadian diaspora, including British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta. Consequently, we immediately launched into a friendly debate about which region of Canada reigns superior (I have to give the win to Ontario!).
Community is one of the most significant aspects of a student’s academic career, and I was genuinely grateful for the opportunity to meet and bond with other minority students. The mentors all seemed to have genuine interest in each other’s lives, as well as my own, and I enjoyed watching their dedication to offering wisdom to students’ lives.
While I certainly think that this type of drop-in event is perfect for all U of T students, I believe it is particularly helpful to incoming or first-year university students, who are looking for peer support and guidance. Honestly, I love that there are spaces for Black, African and Caribbean students to congregate, to speak and be heard, and to voice concerns and difficulties in a safe environment. Not only are the weekly drop-in sessions a great way to foster community among diverse students, but The Mentor Navigators recently hosted a series of Facebook Lives:
Check them out!