How Finding a New Hobby Changed My Life
In grade 10, I was a self-proclaimed science nerd. I took grade 11 and 12 physics in summer school before I even entered grade 11. I excelled in my math courses, and was really interested in human biology. But I struggled in English and humanities courses, which furthered my belief that a science-focused life path was the only path for me.
My parents encouraged me; after all, a STEM-based life plan meant I was more likely to be successful, right? They’d both pursued STEM degrees in their youth and were now successful, so the same must apply to me. Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that I wanted to be a doctor. My parents were thrilled, and everyone around me was impressed that I was thinking that far ahead at 13. So until grade 10, every decision I made regarding school and extracurriculars was centered around this goal.
My high school was concerned that my focus was too narrow. They encouraged all of us to be well-rounded and made sure we were part of sports teams, volunteered, and participated in a wide variety of clubs and societies. Someone suggested that I join my school’s Model United Nations club, and I was a little shocked. Me? The science nerd who reads books in her spare time and struggles in English class? I couldn’t possibly speak in front of people and debate successfully. I was convinced I’d be terrible at it, and so it would just be a waste of time.
Eventually, with a little bit of encouragement, I attended one of the meetings that was preparing students to go to an upcoming conference. I felt like a fish out of water. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing except for me. After a few weeks I decided to go to the conference since it was close by and only two days long. Why not take a shot after weeks of attending these meetings?
I ended up doing better than I ever thought possible. I even ended up winning an award! I caught the eye of the Model UN coach at my school, and she encouraged me to attend more challenging conferences with better delegates. Within a year, I became a mentor for younger students just starting out, helping them craft papers and improve their public speaking skills. This club that I didn’t even want to join in the first place became the one extracurricular I dedicated most of my time to.
About halfway through 11th grade, I realized that this was the type of thing that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Trying to find solutions to the world’s problems and lessening global inequality seemed infinitely more important and fulfilling to me and than any other job I could have wanted. I radically changed my plans. Instead of looking at health science and biomedical programs for university, I began looking for international relations programs that suited my interests.
Now I’m a freshman at the University of Toronto, with plans to double major in international relations and economics. My 15-year-old self never would have guessed that this is where I would end up. If there is one piece of advice I could give to anyone in high school, it would be to take some risks. I took a risk and explored something that I had absolutely no interest in, and it changed my life. Maybe you’ll find your passion somewhere you never expected.
By Alison Dudu, 19