By Cindy Wei • Schulich Leader at University of Waterloo
9-hour study sessions in the health sciences lounge. Ridiculous mnemonics. Laughs, tears, and lots of tea lattes. As my first year of university came to a halt after seven back-to-back final exams, I experienced an overwhelming amount of gratitude and satisfaction. Although my first eight months in Ontario were stressful yet spectacular, the unanticipated friendships I formed with brilliant people made my university experience truly memorable.
The first thing that dawned on me about university was how much freedom, how many opportunities I had - if only I could muster the courage to take initiative. As much as I’d love to sit at home and eat melted chocolate from a bowl with peanut butter (okay, I did that last night), I value the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone. At the Grand River Hospital, I volunteer with child life specialists in the pediatric department, and recently switched to registering patients. Several times a week, I perform ultrasounds and set up various procedures as a physiotherapist’s assistant. My favourite roles, however, include teaching autistic kindergarteners and leading fitness classes at the local retirement home. I have also spoken about my experiences with biology to promote a learning enhancement program, and presented a speech to express thanks to the families of the donors who gave their bodies to the anatomy lab. It was quite intimidating to thank the children of the people I formerly knew as cadavers, but my first year of Kinesiology certainly wouldn’t be complete without learning to dissect the human body.
As important as school and volunteering are, these two aspects of my life are simply one “hand”. It’s possible, but extremely challenging, to balance on one hand for an extended period of time - burnout is inevitable, and eventually, your other hand needs to provide support. The other “hand” in my life is health, and exercise and nutrition make up your fingertips and your palms. In a handstand, you need the weight to be distributed equally across all areas of both hands. There is nothing more important than empowering yourself with nutritious and delicious food, which is why you will find me whisking up a batch of black bean brownies the night before an exam. To share my love for healthy eating, I continue to share nutritious recipes on my cooking website, in addition to meal-planning tips, food budgeting advice, and student food hacks. Throughout the year, I have also created a presentation on the Mediterranean diet and evaluated lab results under the guidance of my nutrition professor. We are currently exploring innovative ways to introduce essential vitamins into the traditional diets of older adults. To fuel my passion for exercise, I am now on a 200-hour journey to attain my yoga instructor certification, with goals of teaching hot yoga or recreational lessons at my school’s fitness centre.
Travelling is like the pointed toes of a headstand. Living off-campus in a new province five hours from home didn’t turn out to be the daunting adventure I’d imagined, but not a single day passed where I didn’t reminisce about the summer I spent in France with my sister. To satisfy my craving for adventure, I applied for the Global Experience Certificate and will embark on a monthlong trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, where I will complete a medical internship this July. Despite being a little nervous, I am looking forward to immersing myself in the exquisite and exotic culture.
With these incredible opportunities, I’ve discovered a newfound determination to make a difference in the health and happiness of others - whether it’s on their plates, their yoga mats, or on their desks. Every day, I feel so amazed to one of Waterloo’s remarkable Schulich Leaders, and hope that my next four years here will be equally exciting.