What a Ride... / by Simmon Li

Yesterday was my last official day of classes. Though I have plenty of things left to do, I think it's worth taking a moment to look back and reflect on the time I've spent on this degree. What a ride it has been, indeed. Where do I start? It all began with POL103Y1, Canada in Comparative Perspective. "What is this course about? Sounds kind of interesting, I guess." Needless to say, I had no idea what this thing called "political science" was. I thought to myself "hey maybe I should learn more about Canada." Among the good decisions in my life, this one is up there. I learned a crapton, met some really cool people (Lindsay & Dan) and found out that I really enjoyed this kind of thing. Lindsay and Dan both inspired me to really get my ducks in a row. At least, enough to keep giving it a go. Beyond the academics, I remember this year was a big turning point for me. I finally felt like I was getting good at something worth being proud of. I started doing more choral things, which helped to put me over the moon in terms of music (shout out to Lynn - never forget Philly), and I was good at this paper writing stuff. The next year I did POL208Y1, Introduction to International Relations (among other courses) and that's when things really linked up for me. My TA in that course (Abouzar) really encouraged me to consider applying to the Peace and Conflict Studies program once he caught wind of my ambition to do another undergraduate degree. He was so kind as to write me a recommendation letter that really helped me out. Without that course and the topical happenings of Libya, I don't think I would have gotten to where I am today. Turns out, I was a good fit for the program. The following years were a whirlwind of people, places and things. Suffice to say, I am so grateful and lucky to have met the people that I've met and had the opportunity to make such great friends. There have been so few other life changing experiences that have so deeply and profoundly impacted me and changed my life.

The first year was really an exercise in me putting myself out there, something I'd never really had the confidence to do. But thanks to the events leading up to my admission, I was feeling particularly bold. I decided I'd put my name in for class representative on the student executive. Let's just say, the rest is history. I won and got to make some pretty cool friends, and I like to think I was pretty darn good at my position. We were a pretty good bunch! During the course of the year, I caught wind of the summer exchange program. And then...

That happened. And what a glorious time it was. I tell Julia all the time that it was a life changing experience. I remember distinctly that I was very grateful for that program, but told her I thought it wasn't "all that life changing." In retrospect, I can now appreciate just how wrong I was, being all unsentimental. Anyway, to say that the year was so pivotal in shaping the path I travel now would be more apropos. The intervening time between now and then has been eventful, to say the least.

I was, in my third year, elected as social director, so I feel like maybe I did a good job the year before. There wasn't much to say other than that, having a really good time growing with friends. It was so exciting to put together the Hart House Farm trip and the annual Formal, as well as the other social events that we did. We were able, I hope, to inspire the incoming class and make them feel like a part of the program.

It was during this year that name of the program changed. From Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) to Peace, Conflict & Justice (PCJ). There was a debate between the students and the question of how we would identify. I still think I'm in the middle, PACS was a cooler acronym to say but PCJ encompases more of what we do as scholars, students and communities. Either way, we took up the PCJ banner so we could focus on more important things, like fostering the community at the program.

In my last year, I was fortunate enough to have been selected by the program as conference director. We put on a conference about Canada and its lingering peace and justice issues that was a huge success! I heard many encouraging comments about the conference's content that seemed to tell me that Kay and I (my conference co-director) had stumbled upon an issue of great importance. We were glad, of course, to have the opportunity to give the issue a stage to be explored by some very smart people! All the support from our friends and family has been really great.

This is already longer than I thought it would be. So I want to finish by saying thank you to everyone that has helped me along the way. It's been a pleasure.