Co-curricular activities help UTM grad chart a career path in sustainability
Staying engaged in a remote learning environment can be challenging in any circumstances, but for Andi Darell Alhakim, there was an extra degree of difficulty. In the early days of the pandemic, the international student returned to Indonesia, and had to keep nocturnal hours to attend class.
“The folks in the GTA were very understanding of the 12-hour time difference, and the organizations I participated in often scheduled evening meetings, so I could participate. That was very nice, but the hours were grueling — I was working from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.,” says Alhakim.
“By the end of one semester, I decided I needed to return, so I could have a healthier schedule.”
Since coming back to campus, Alhakim has made the most of it. The 2018 Lester B. Pearson scholar was drawn to the university because of its strong academic reputation. But co-curricular activities have enriched the academic learning experience, and now, they are helping shape Alhakim’s career path.
“Clubs, committees, organizations really set the tone for university life,” says Alhakim.
“You make good friends from it, and it's nice to have people on the same journey as you.”
One of those organizations is the International Education Centre (IEC), where Alhakim worked for two years.
“It was so exciting to make sure that students get to express their cultural affiliations, and at the same time bridge divides between cultures,” he says.
“People from many backgrounds participate in these programs, and the IEC really trusted students to run their programming. We facilitated discussions about food, dances, and different customs. These are important to building and starting conversations. As an international student, I really appreciated how U of T did not expect me to fit a pre-existing mould. There was a lot of emphasis on chasing your own path, and I was not really sure what that would be when I arrived.”
Co-curricular activities helped Alhakim find that path forward. He also got involved with Hart House Debate and Dialogue, and was able to align that involvement with a burgeoning interest in sustainability. Through a facilitator, Alhakim learned of the Hart House Finnish Exchange, a three-month program that sends U of T students to Finland.
This summer, he is headed to Helsinki.
“We will help the Helsinki Regional Council showcase what it has done to achieve sustainable development goals. They have done a lot, and want to demonstrate that to an international audience. I’m excited to be a part of that,” says Alhakim.
This month, Alhakim will graduate with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He envisions a career in sustainability, and his time at U of T has helped lay the foundation. For the past two years, he’s been a researcher and intern for the President's Committee on Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability. After Helsinki, he will be a Sustainability Lead at the Canada Games in Niagara Region.
But back in 2018, this path was far from clear.
“It was daunting to come to an institution with a reputation like U of T’s. You think everyone else has everything figured out — but that's not the case. Everyone is trying to find what they are most passionate about. You need to take the time to explore.”