Ahnaf Rahman likens receiving the University of Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Scholarship to receiving a “lifeline” during a difficult time.
“After navigating the quirks of online high school during a deadly pandemic, the news of this scholarship felt like a lifeline to me,” said the first-year student who moved to Malaysia from Bangladesh with his family when he was nine.
U of T President Meric Gertler said the event has become a highlight since the “Pearson scholars embody so clearly the distinctive strengths and values” of the University.
“Your academic excellence, your international orientation, your commitment to leadership and the world around us – these ideals unite the U of T community across an incredibly wide array of backgrounds, perspectives and disciplines,” President Gertler said.
The scholarships are considered U of T’s most prestigious and competitive scholarship for international students – awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement and who are recognized as leaders within their high school. This year’s recipients were chosen from a total of 1,761 applicants.
“Let curiosity and courage drive your story.”
This is the second year the welcome reception was held virtually due to the pandemic. While most of the scholarship recipients are now on campus, some haven’t been able to travel to Toronto yet due to the pandemic.
Sandy Welsh, U of T’s vice-provost, students, said the University is attempting to provide as many in-person experiences as possible, but some activities will remain virtual so that everyone can attend.
“All of us at U of T, including the deans of your academic divisions, the principals of the colleges you are a part of and the many faculty and staff you interact with constantly, are working hard to make your virtual learning experience as enriching and seamless as possible,” she said.
Katherine Beaumont, senior director, global learning opportunities and international student success, said that while the hybrid start to the school year may be challenging at times, it will prepare the group for real world challenges.
The 2021 cohort of scholars represents 21 countries from around the world – and is serving as an informal support network for several of the new students who started meeting virtually this past summer.
“I have already made some friends,” said Mathira Kawser, who is studying social sciences at U of T Mississauga. “Having the Pearson scholars has been a very good thing for me because they have been a good support system after I moved in.”