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HBA · Anusha Imam

The Journey Here: Anusha Imam

Mar 28, 2024

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Friday, February 24th, 2023, at 11:08 am: my double header of a grueling first-period calculus test followed by even more math in data management had finally ended. I had just tucked away my calculator for the day when I heard a PING come from my pocket. Unbeknownst to me, the email I was about to read would bring me the peace that for weeks, I had been yearning for. The "Congratulations! Ivey AEO Offer” sitting at the top of my inbox instantly brought a smile to my face and to say I was elated would be an understatement. But arriving at this pivotal moment was anything but easy and to understand the whole story, we’ll have to backtrack first.

Throughout elementary school, I was a proud eco-club and MEtoWE member. I dreamed of travelling the world to help to solve issues like climate change, racial injustice and educational disparities. My hobbies included sewing clothes out of second-hand fabric to make sustainable fashion, and I was an avid bookworm who would dedicate more time to reading novels than my schoolwork. I was certain that I would grow up to work in the non-profit sector or be a journalist, as I was completely infatuated with the society around me while always looking at life through a global lens.

Then in middle school and early high school, I found myself loving anything to do with numbers and problem-solving, excelling in the math and sciences. I was adamant that I would find my niche in a STEM field, with a particular interest in healthcare. My parents’ South Asian background made me very aware of social determinants of health and the inequalities in healthcare accessibility across the globe, so the intersection between environment and health outcomes was of major interest to me. But, although Dr. Imam definitely has a nice ring to it, I would be lying if I said chemistry, biology, and physics were subjects I could tolerate studying for the many years to come.

Which brings us to grade 10: what now? I had already exhausted the dichotomy that students are presented with -- you’re either left brained or right brained, good at math or good at writing, either in STEM or the social sciences and humanities…. right? I mean, what else could I possibly even do with my life? I had hit a roadblock and was seriously worried about my options. I spent countless hours browsing university programs but couldn’t find one that was stable, realistic, interesting and fulfilling. I finally landed upon business, a highly intersectional discipline which seemed like a secure field, yet still gave me some of the flexibility I yearned for.

It was now late into my grade 11 year, a time when talking about post-secondary options is seemingly the only thing parents, school counselors, teachers, and random distant relatives at family events want to do. So, my monotone reply would always be that in the fall, I would be applying to business schools closest to my hometown: Schulich at York, DeGroote at McMaster, Lazaridis at Laurier and Rotman at the University of Toronto. I would just be yet another business student and I would look at spreadsheets, calculate profits and create SWOT analyses.

But that just wasn’t me.

I’m strong at math and did gain an appreciation for business through courses I took in high school, but I knew limiting myself to traditional business programs would be an injustice to my true passions for social issues. I kept this in mind during my parent-mandated trip to the university fair in grade 12, which is where I stumbled upon Ivey’s unique 2+2 structure. I was immediately intrigued with the possibility of using both my analytical problem-solving skills and passion for social justice in a degree which could be customized to anything I dreamed of. But, to attend Ivey I would a) have to be accepted through a daunting application process and b) be nearly 2 hours away from home and everything which brought me comfort.

These worries haunted me during the winter of grade 12, but I applied for AEO status nonetheless. As acceptances from other schools started rolling in, I grew even more conflicted and resorted to conducting more research. Through hours of internet sleuthing, I learned about the flexibility in Ivey’s dual degree options. Not only did this opportunity to combine disciplines through a one-of-a-kind program solidify the idea that I was meant to be a Mustang, but it also resolved an internal conflict I had been fighting for years. I no longer had to choose between the two aspects of my life, and instead, my analytical and math skills could coexist with my writing skills and passion for social issues. And it didn’t hurt that Western’s campus was gorgeous and the social life vibrant.

This brings us back to Friday, February 24th, 2023 at 11:08 am. I maniacally ran around the hallway searching for my best friend to inform her. I instantly knew that I would accept my offer, and the even better news was that I could start skipping my 8am calculus class (although I absolutely do not advise this and warn that you do this only at your own risk). Choosing Geography and Environment as my program of choice for the first 2 years of my degree allowed me to intersect my lifelong passion for sustainable fashion, the environmental factors which impact health, global social justice issues and reading. Everything had finally fallen into place.

My freshman year at Western is now ending with finals less than a month away, so I can now confirm that I am beyond grateful that I chose to become a Mustang. I cannot imagine studying anything else and adore my Geography and Environment courses, while also eagerly looking forward to studying principles of business in the upcoming years. I know that the pressure of choosing a university program is an undeniably stressful process, but it's important to value the passions nearest to your heart and skills you’ve developed the most, despite how cliche it sounds. And for those who are wondering which choice to make -- who said you have to choose only one?