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What can a degree in French and Biology really get you?

Annet Antanrajakumar (BSC, 2014) is taking all her courses at medical school at the University of Ottawa in French.

...Well, how about medical school, for starters?

For Annet Antanrajakumar (BSc, 2014), a bilingual medical student at the University of Ottawa, it was love at first sound when she began studying French in elementary school.

“When I started French immersion in Grade 5, I just fell in love with the language,” said Antanrajakumar, 25. “It was such a beautiful language.”

She continued her immersive studies through high school and was determined not to lose her growing facility with French.

“There was no one else in my family who spoke French and no other way to keep up the language except through school,” said Antanrajakumar, who grew up in Toronto speaking English and Tamil.

She was accepted to U of T Scarborough to study biological sciences, another of her interests, and also registered for first-year French. In talking with her academic advisors, Antanrajakumar discovered that she could incorporate both subjects into her degree and pursued a double major in integrative biology and French.

“It wasn’t tough to fit all of the required courses into my timetable, but with all the three-hour lab courses, it meant that I was at school all day from Monday to Friday,” she said.

As if her courses didn’t keep her busy enough, Antanrajakumar also ran a facilitated study group for science students, volunteered at The Hospital for Sick Children and Toronto Rehab hospital and taught Sunday school at her church.

“It was nice to be busy doing things I liked,” she said.

After graduation, Antanrajakumar spent a year working in a bank, dealing with their francophone clients. She loved using her French skills, but discovered that banking wasn’t right for her.

“I always wanted to be in a career where I could help people,” she said, and she decided to apply to medical school – at the University of Ottawa, where she had the choice of taking her courses in English or French. Naturally, Antanrajakumar chose to immerse herself in the curriculum taught in French.

“To be honest, I’m not a French expert yet and sometimes, I don’t understand a word or two and it throws me off, but I have francophone friends, so I can nudge them to get a definition. I’m always learning.”

Medicine has proven to be the right path for her, and she’s thrilled to be cementing her French as well.

“If I had it to do all over again, I’d want to do exactly the same thing I did,” she said. “I know enough French now so that it will always stay with me, and it allows me to keep many doors open.”

Professor Karen McCrindle, one of her teachers and the director of UTSC’s Centre for French and Linguistics, calls Antanrajakumar “a credit to our program and to UTSC.”

“Annet followed her passions, which may seem contradictory from the outside, but combining her interests has clearly helped her to chart a path all her own,” she said.



© University of Toronto Scarborough