Meet the 2023 Pearson Scholars joining U of T Mississauga this fall

Oct 6, 2023

University of Toronto has welcomed a new cohort of extraordinary scholars from around the world.  

The Lester B. Pearson International Scholarship was created to bring students from across the globe, including international students at Canadian high schools, to study at U of T. The annual scholarship program recognizes students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement and creativity and who are recognized as leaders within their school. This year’s list of scholars includes five students whose country of citizenship is new to the program, including Ethiopia. Also for the first time this year, U of T welcomed a Ukrainian scholarship recipient who comes from a school located in Ukraine.  

Here are the eight outstanding students from the 2023 cohort who are studying at U of T Mississauga.

Alisa Chichvarina

Attended Lyceum No. 100 “Podil”

Studying Commerce at UTM 

“Hello! My name is Alisa, but friends call me Alice. Yes, like Alice in Wonderland. Except that my Wonderland, where I was born, is called Ukraine. I used to travel a lot with my family since childhood, but due to the war in my country I was evacuated to Poland and then I moved alone to Australia, where I had been taking my gap year. All these changes as well as obstacles in my way have hardened my character and gave me the opportunity to fight for my future and life by understanding in the first place one crucial thing ‘I am not a survivor – I am a warrior.’

“Starting from 2014 I volunteered by providing food, toys and clothes to kids who were affected by the war in the Eastern territories of Ukraine. From March 2023, I helped as an interpreter in volunteering centres for Ukrainian refugees.

“Thanks to this scholarship I have now an opportunity to study a bachelor of commerce to become an investment banker in the future and contribute to the economic recovery of my motherland, Ukraine, and consequently, facilitating a process of the Ukrainian post-war restoration not only at the state level, but also on the international scene. Although I am only a teenager, I know for sure that I can help my country by becoming a full-fledged specialist in finance and economics fields who is ready to contribute to a better future and prosperity for Ukraine.”

Photo of Alisa Chichvarina
Photo of Alisa Chichvarina

Natran Ambaye Tewoldemedhin

Attended School of Tomorrow, Addis Ababa

Studying management at UTM 

“Having my own business has always been an aspiration of mine. To fulfill my childhood dream, I intend to major in management.

“Along with business-related topics, environmental sustainability is another area of interest for me. Since I started initiatives to recycle plastic, I am one of the well-known environmental campaigners at my school. I intend to keep up my advocacy while attending the university as well.

“I feel incredibly humbled and delighted to have received the Pearson Scholarship. This prestigious scholarship will enable me to thrive in the vibrant intellectual atmosphere of the University of Toronto. Being able to attend one of Canada’s finest universities and acquire a top-notch education is a dream come true.

“I want to express my gratitude to the admissions and awards committee for giving me the chance to join the Pearson Scholars community. Additionally, I want to thank my teachers, family and friends for their encouragement.”

Photo of Natran Ambaye
Photo of Natran Ambaye

Jana Bassem Elghobary

Attended British International School Riyadh
Egyptian student in Saudi Arabia 

Studying social sciences at UTM

“The motto, ‘to expand your horizons’ is one that I carry with me throughout my life.

“Knowledge is infinite and abundant and thus, the journey of learning is endless. Having studied the multidisciplinary subjects of history and politics during my A-Levels, my eyes were opened to the richness and beautiful complexity of our world, and I discovered within myself a desire to learn more about the intricate and varied rules and institutions that govern our day-to-day lives. This has been a constant motivator for me and what has ultimately driven my passion for political science and economics with a particular interest of these interlocking disciplines in the context of the Middle East.

“During my time at the British International School of Riyadh, I constantly sought to play an active role in my community – after years of being guided, I wanted to give back. As the well-being representative of my school and a member of the student leadership group, I worked to nurture an environment which encouraged emotional intelligence and prioritization of mental health by organizing both workshops and events throughout the year. One of my proudest achievements was my participation in a TEDx event where I gave a talk on the topic of perfectionism in front of my school and a group of other esteemed speakers, each with their own insights and experiences to share. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak further on the topic on the ‘Infinite Learners’ podcast.”

Dila Gulmez

Attended Notre Dame de Sion Lisesi 

Studying life sciences at UTM 

“I was born in the city of Antalya on Türkiye’s Mediterranean coast and moved to Istanbul to attend secondary school at Notre Dame French High School. Life in Istanbul – a vast, multicultural metropolis of 15 million – was a little overwhelming at first, but it also presented me with wonderful opportunities to pursue my love of learning. I attended courses, workshops, and seminars on medicine, engineering, and sciences while enjoying the many cultural attractions this amazing city offers.

“I love learning new things, and I am passionate about math and sciences. If something piques my curiosity when I read a book or watch a documentary, I dig into it until I learn it to the tiniest detail. And, among all the sciences I have explored, nothing captivates me as much as the life sciences, which I will study at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I also enjoy drawing, sewing clothes, creating short animations, and making sculptures out of ‘trash’ people throw away – toilet paper rolls, glass bottles, old toys, and such. I believe we can all repurpose things we no longer use to express our creativity and help protect the environment.

“My decision to study life sciences and become a research scientist has as much to do with my concern for the environment as with my curiosity and fascination with life on Earth. Someday, I hope to work on projects to unravel the mysteries of organic molecules and use my knowledge to contribute to a more sustainable future.”

Photo of Dila Gulmez
Photo of Dila Gulmez

Seemal Akhtar Sheikh

Attended Lahore Grammar School Defence Phase I

Studying social sciences at UTM

“Hey! My name is Seemal Akhtar, and I’m an A-levels student from Lahore, Pakistan. I’m interested in the intersection between public policy, gender studies, and international affairs.

“I’m passionate about gender equality and have advocated for women’s empowerment. My manifesto for anti-harassment policies in schools has been implemented throughout schools in Lahore. I also co-authored a children’s storybook to raise awareness about bodily autonomy and protection against street harassment. Through my experience of working to ensure Afghan girls gain access to educational resources, I’ve realized how the shackles of patriarchy and pseudo-religious values that curtail women’s rights are observed universally.

“With the Pearson community, I am determined to join hands with like-minded individuals to advocate for intersectional approaches to equality for women who cannot access their civil rights.

“I’m incredibly honoured to be awarded the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship, and I look forward to ranking iced hazelnut lattes across Mississauga this fall!”

Photo of Seemal Akhtar
Photo of Seemal Akhtar

Amna Habiba

Attended East Lansing High School
Pakistani student in Michigan, U.S.A. 

Studying life sciences at UTM 

“Growing up, I saw my mom teaching and volunteering for at-risk youth, instilling a love of volunteering in me. During the pandemic, she introduced me to the world of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, which allowed me to complete 200+ learning experiences and gain various skills that I used to give back to my community. I founded BloomED Inc, a social development initiative designing safe virtual events for marginalized female youth, helping them build a better future.

“For my work, I have had the honour of being a finalist for Chegg Global Student Prize, a 2022 Global Teen Leader, an international speaker with seven million views, and a recipient of multiple awards, scholarships and microgrants.

“I want to pursue my interest in breast cancer research, specifically at the intersection of science and technology. The experiences at U of T will allow me to develop a greater understanding of breast cancer and I hope to continue working at this intersection to contribute to finding a cure.

“I am highly grateful to my mom for always believing in and supporting me. I want to dedicate my life to empowering women globally through education and scientific research.”

Photo of Amna Habiba
Photo of Amna Habiba

Paris Asaad Ouma

Attended St Andrew’s School, Turi

Studying social sciences at UTM 

“Whenever I mentioned that I studied art, history, and math in high school, people would often comment that this was an unusual combination and go on wondering what kind of work I would be qualified for. I always replied, ‘I chose subjects that I liked.’ It was true, and it still is.

“When I was deciding what degree path to take, I knew it would have to include all three of my subjects because there was no way I would let them go. After all, no amount of math would give me the same sense of accomplishment as when I finish a painting, and no amount of painting would give me the same sense of relief as when I finally figured out a math problem after spending hours stuck on it. Either way, I had to see through the vision of being an investment banker who paints on the side.

“Apart from that, I enjoy mentoring younger students. Recently, I have had the privilege to mentor prep school students by encouraging them to be proud of speaking their native languages as well as foreign languages and helping raise the profile of foreign and native languages at my school. Following that, I mentored two Year 11 students, guiding them through their exams and resulting in great academic results. It’s always a joy to see the people I’ve helped prosper, and I hope to continue this at U of T and in other areas of my life.”

Photo of Paris Asaad
Photo of Paris Asaad

Emilia Abidemi Taiwo

Attended Deeper Life High School, Abuja

Studying life sciences at UTM  

“As an avid student of the sciences, I have always been intrigued by the functions of biological entities, from single-celled bacteria and multicellular yeast to the more complex systems in humans. I am fascinated by how chemical formulations can miraculously change an individual’s health status and improve their quality of life. As someone who is passionate about helping underprivileged women and children, my goal is to become a physician of repute and care for the whole person – spirit, soul, and body – bringing renewed hope and joy to families.

“I also have a keen interest in women’s fashion and business, which some might find surprising given my scientific focus. However, I believe that my unique purpose is to serve humanity in these three areas.

“I am convinced that the University of Toronto is the best place for me to be wholly equipped to become the best blessing I can be to mankind.”

Photo of Emilia Abidemi
Photo of Emilia Abidemi