Accepting Change and Loving Life: An Interview with Idil Uner

Meet Idil. When I ask her to tell me three adjectives that best describe her, Idil says that she is outgoing, caring and late. I can see how she is outgoing and caring, given she is a floor fellow in Carrefour Sherbrooke, but late? She was right on time for our interview.           

Idil and I, as the two Idils, are in her rez, sitting in the comfy lobby chairs. It’s cold, dark and windy outside. Having spent the entire day in McLennan, I welcome her company. Throughout our interview, she remains very energetic, and does her best to answer my questions as clearly as possible, occasionally going back to a question to re-word her response when she isn’t quite satisfied with the way it sounded to her.

I know Idil through a mutual friend; they are both in the MPSA. Idil says she is the VP Arts representing the Arts students in Psychology. When I ask her what made her want to get involved in the MPSA, she replies, “It’s in my field of interest and seeing that I’m a psychology student, I can be like ‘This is what I don’t like about it. This is what’s lacking in the Psychology program.’ For example, one of the greatest things that’s lacking is a lot of people in psychology want to do clinical or counseling or research, and there isn’t much emphasis placed on what you can do with psychology other than that. So next semester, as VP Arts, I’m going to plan a panel where we’ll have McGill alumni who have studied Psychology come in and talk about what they are doing now. And they will not be researchers or counselors or clinical psychologists; they will be alumni who took their degree and did something else with it.” After a brief pause, she quickly adds, “I also like what the MPSA does and how they do it. There are so many events. They are just tailored towards different things - whether it’s for bonding, or how to get into grad school or movie nights. I think that’s great and that’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to join in.”

Idil has a very busy schedule – she says planning out her days is her “go-to.” In addition to her job at the MPSA and her volunteer work at the Cognition lab, she is also a floor fellow at Carrefour Sherbrooke, and just by the way she talks about it, I can tell it’s a responsibility she takes very seriously. “In my eyes, the biggest role of the floor fellow is to build a community. Especially in a large school like McGill, it’s important to have that community and sense of belonging when you are away from home,” she says when I ask her what her job entails as a floor fellow. “It’s also about caring for the students and making sure they are alright. If they are going through issues, working with them through it. It’s really nice to see them develop. I’ve had students, you know, who didn’t feel so great and now I see them and they are so much better. That’s just a really nice thing to see.” Another brief pause. “Is there anything else? Oh - ‘safe space’! There’s that.” We laugh; you can’t forget the importance of safe space – not in McGill.

I ask her to list three facts about herself. She immediately says, “I love to travel. I love being around people – I need that in my life. And I love my friends and family.” It isn’t hard to see that Idil just really loves life. Born in Turkey, she and her family moved to Bangkok, Thailand, and then to Dusseldorf, Germany when she was eight. It’s no surprise that she loves being around people – I’m guessing she has been in many different social settings, given her international background.

She says she came to McGill knowing she wanted to study Psychology. She is a U2 this year, and she seems to have a lot sorted out for a U2. I can’t help but think she probably had quite a smooth freshman year. As if to confirm my thoughts, she struggles to find the right words to answer when I ask her what her advice would be to her freshman-self. After taking a couple of second to think about it, she turns to me and suddenly says, “What would you say? Curious to hear.” I blank for a second – this is a first. I don’t want to influence her with my answer, so I keep it honest but short.That seems to give her an idea: “This is not advice, so I’m going to phrase this differently. I think a lot of people experience this from what I’ve heard from friends and just from people in Rez. You kind of know who you are before you come to university. But then you come here and context matters a lot, right? So, everything changes - your friends, your family is not here anymore, your academics are different, and your living situation is different. I think that can get very confusing but I think you need to embrace that difference. This is not advice I’d give myself because I think I kind of followed it. It’s just that to change and not know what the future holds is okay. That instead of looking at change as this scary thing, you should embrace this new chapter in your life.”

At the end of our interview, she goes back to re-word and clarify her answers. We say our good-byes. I leave the interiew feeling like Idil is really the kind of person you can have deep conversations with, and be totally comfortable with because you know she will care about you and your safe space. And I’m not biased, not even a bit, because I know for a fact that all Idils you will encounter in your life will care about you, and your safe space.


Pictures provided by the interviewee.