Student Profile: Mahsa Alimardani (Class of 2012)
The Innis Alumni Network was pleased to catch up with graduating student Mahsa Alimardani and learn more about her internship at Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), her plans for graduate school, and her varied experiences at U of T and Innis College.
Why did you choose to study at the University of Toronto?
Growing up in Toronto, and seeing the downtown U of T campus was like a dream. I love the collegial feeling of walking down St. George Street, and through Front Campus. I had to choose between McGill University and U of T, and being a heart and soul Torontonian I had to stay here. On top of that, I love the resources we have here as students including access to such great faculty.
You are working towards an honours degree with a double major in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and Political Science. What do you hope to do after graduation?
Right now I’m in the middle of applying to different Graduate programs. I hope to pursue a degree in Human Rights, eventually working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) /Doctors Without Borders. I am currently finishing an internship as a Communications Intern at MSF, and I love being able to write and get out well articulated messages about what people are doing in problem areas of the world, and what others can do to help. As a writer, I love being able to recount the concerns and stories of those without a voice. There is a great quote by Mother Theresa, and she says, “In life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” As corny as that sounds, I love my academic and writing pursuits, and I hope to make a small difference with these two passions.
Congratulations on your internship with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). What are your responsibilities as Communications Intern? What have you learned from the experience?
I do a lot of writing for external and internal publications. I edit and write pieces for the MSF newsletter Dispatches, and an internal newsletter called Petite Nouvelles Newsletter. At the moment, I’m working on a transparency and accountability report for the MSF Canada website. It is extraordinary to be part of MSF because it is more than just a NGO, it is a global movement. Working in the MSF offices there are constantly relief workers returning to the office that we get to meet, and they really leave a long-standing impression on you. In general there is so much integrity in MSF’s work. No one at the organization takes themselves too seriously. I’ve worked alongside some pretty selfless and interesting people who have dedicated a good portion of their lives to relief work, but there is never talk of heroism or self-sacrifice. It’s great to work alongside such down to earth people.
How has your involvement with The Varsity, the Near Middle Eastern Civilizations Student Union, and other extracurricular activities contributed to your University experience?
If you don’t keep busy you really can’t accomplish much. It is so easy to become lazy and only focus on attending class and finishing assignments. There are so many opportunities we have as U of T students. The Varsity for one gives undergraduate students a platform to express themselves and get published. I was also a broadcaster and producer at U of T’s CIUT 89.5. Before I started university, I never thought I would have a chance to be on the radio. This exposure to broadcasting also helped me land a position as a reporter in Taiwan at an English-speaking newspaper. As much as students complain about the high marking standards and long reading assignments, I’m grateful to the University for all that it has given me. Hopefully I can find a way to give back someday.
Tell us about your experiences at Innis College.
Being part of Innis College has really shaped who I am. Living in residence, I have made some long-standing friendships. As well, individuals like Donald Boere and Karen Papazian have really made the College a nurturing place. Donald has been great in offering advice and helping me figure out what I want to with my future. And I’ve worked with Karen for some time now in the Alumni Office, and she’s been incredibly helpful as a supervisor and as a friend.
What are you busy with when you are not in class or working part-time?
The great thing about attending U of T is that my family is only a 30 minute subway ride away. So in my down time I like to kick back in North York with my family, and indulge in the food and pastries of “Little Iran” (Little Iran is what I like to call North York). Everyone should travel uptown at some point to have some Persian style Chelo Kebab and Chayee (tea). Other than that, going out with friends and unwinding is always a necessary part of being a student.
What has been the most challenging part of your studies or university experience?
Getting through my first year at U of T was probably the most challenging part of my U of T experience. Personally, when I graduated from high school I was a little too cocky as an A+ student. U of T did a good job of giving me a reality check, and challenging me.
What has been the most rewarding part of your studies or university experience?
The most rewarding part of being a student has been the relationships I have made with professors and fellow students.
With only a few more months to go before graduation, what general advice would you offer students who are starting their university career?
Well, for students entering U of T, I would tell them not to take themselves or life too seriously. U of T has many ups and downs, and it’s a challenging place to get your degree. As long as you keep your head up, and take on the challenge, and learn where your strengths lie, it’s a great environment to be in.