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#UofTGrad17: Shakhnoza Vafaeva

Shakhnoza Vafaeva credits her success at U of T Scarborough to the balance she kept between her course work, extracurricular activities and staying physically healthy. She advises incoming students to do the same:

A car accident that left her in a month-long coma at a very young age was what drove Shakhnoza Vafaeva to pursue a career in medicine.

Born and raised in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Vafaeva moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in life sciences with a double major in Human Biology and Psychology, a decision that was inspired by the doctor who had helped save her life in Uzbekistan.

“My gratitude for this doctor motivates me to become a medical doctor just like him and to give back to my community,” she says.

She has given back to her U of T Scarborough community by being involved in the International Friendship Club, hosting events and planning icebreaker activities for newcomers, and on Residence as the group leader of the Academic Engagement Committee.

She has also volunteered outside of her university community by volunteering at the St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre senior home and as a pediatric volunteer at Centenary Hospital Rouge Valley Health Systems.

Where does she hope to be in five years?

“Hopefully, I will be studying to become a doctor,” she says.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to high school at Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It is a city located in Eurasia more than 10,000 kilometers away from Toronto. 

Why did you come to UTSC?

I came to UTSC because of its high- ranking education, close-knit community, and its multicultural environment. I was also excited to attend lectures given by well-known researchers and experts.

What was your favourite class? Why?

 One of my favorite classes was cell biology, which was taught by a professor—Dr. Ashok—who served as a wise role model to me throughout my undergraduate years. Coming to university from a different educational background made it difficult for me to catch up with the program at University while simultaneously trying to improve my English.  What made this course particularly enjoyable was the supportive environment created by the professor and my peers. I remember going to Dr. Ashok’s office to find a group of students discussing topics together, helping each other understand concepts while receiving guidance from the professor. Another aspect of this class that I enjoyed was the opportunity to interview a medical researcher from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Thus, not only was I learning from a real-life practitioner, I was also extending my network as a young scientist! 

What’s the best-kept secret on campus?

It was not until my third year that I found out we had a “Tall Couple” on campus. “They are” located outside of the Humanities Wing. 

Where do you feel most at home on campus? 

I feel most comfortable at the Residence Centre where I received lots of support from staff and met many of my friends. 

What is a “must-do” on campus? 

Going on walks or biking to the valley on campus should be an experience everyone must have before leaving UTSC. 

What made you want to be a part of the Residence Life Team? 

I knew that in Residence I would be able to meet students like myself who had come from different corners of the world or from various walks of life. During my time in Residence, the friendly and supportive community allowed me to feel welcomed as if it was a place like home. As a member of such a community, I developed strong relationships with staff members who greatly helped me throughout my stay.

What is your favorite memory of Residence?

My favourite memory of Residence was having a potluck with my friends after weeks of midterms and assignments. That day we had prepared various dishes from different parts of the world. This was a moment when we got to be creative and to destress after a hectic semester. 

What was your most rewarding accomplishment during your time here?

For most of my undergraduate years, I kept myself busy with academics not having seen my family for over three years. The challenges I faced as a student studying in a different continent, in a language different from my mother tongue and thousands of miles away from my family enabled me to confront difficult tasks with resilience. Therefore, I would say that my most rewarding accomplishment at U of T is the successful completion of my degree despite the various obstacles faced along the way.

What’s next?

I look forward to opportunities to continue learning and to gain research experience in biology and psychology labs.

If we call you up in five years, where do you think we will find you? 

Hopefully, I will be studying to become a doctor. 


To read about more of the class of 2017 graduates click here

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