My Laidlaw Program Experience

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          When I first heard of the Laidlaw Foundation and its Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholar’s Program, I was intimidated. Aside from the big application process, I was intimidated by the types of students that the foundation worked with and attracted. Every example of a Laidlaw scholar I was given was this strong, open leader and intelligent scholar. I thought to myself, at the time, whether I was actually one of those students. Was I the type of exceptional researcher and leader the foundation was looking for?

            I applied regardless of my nerves, the same thoughts remaining in my head the entire process. Thankfully, I was accepted and invited into this cohort of wonderfully smart and compassionate students and my growth as a researcher and leader increased exponentially.

            Through the various leadership workshops and the beginning of the independent research study, I began to realize that the Laidlaw foundation wasn’t looking for perfectly honed and trained leaders, but rather, students who were open and curious and willing to learn. This was what they were looking for. Having students who were curious and always looking to improve, get better and better and to grow into the best version of themselves they could be. This is the mark of a good leader. This is what the foundation was looking to provide the best environment for. Most importantly, they were looking for those who wanted to make a change in the world.

            Through the independent research project, I began to explore this aspect of myself. The foundation and the scholar’s program provided me with the wonderful space and opportunity to begin to think creatively about a topic of study that I had always been curious about. It provided me with the chance to learn more about an area of the world that had been overlooked and potentially create something that could help those in need. Homelessness is a social aid cause that I have always been passionate about, specifically homelessness for women as they are usually underrepresented in research and media. Being able to look into and help try to fight against homelessness is one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I was able to go into this project with confidence in my abilities because the scholar’s program had provided such an extensive base which also helped me in my internship.

            The internship aspect of the program is what drew me in when I first heard about the Laidlaw Foundation. I immediately knew I wanted to do an internship in a social justice organization or an NGO as this was something I wanted to explore as a career option. I wanted to be able to work in that space for myself to see if this was something I wanted to pursue or if it was something that I had built up in my head that I wouldn’t be able to do. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the foundation provided for me with Think Pacific. Their Laidlaw partnered program was the perfect internship I had wanted.

           Previously, I would have been nervous about my abilities and whether I would be perfect for the role before I even began, but after going through the first half of the program, my mindset had begun to change. I started to focus more on what I could learn and how I could grow and become the perfect fit rather than if I was perfect from the beginning. Seeing the internship with this perspective made the experience a much more rewarding and exciting opportunity as I had the chance to learn so much about Fiji and myself. I learnt that NGO management and social justice is something I definitely want to work in in the future. I want to continue making a change in the world and continue being a curious and strong student, growing into a better and better version of myself.

I want to continue being a Laidlaw scholar.

Areesha Imaan Siddiqui

Undergraduate Student and Research Assistant , University of Toronto

Hi everyone! My name is Areesha Imaan Siddiqui and I am third-year student at the University of Toronto - Mississauga campus. I'm currently doing a double major in Psychology and Sociocultural Anthropology with a minor in French. My research looks at homeless women in Toronto and the social and cultural processes as well as policies that affect how the women are re-integrated into society. Please feel free to message me to maybe talk about my research or anything else really!