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Aisha Faruqui: Current Jazz Musician, Future Researcher

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Edited by Sophia Savva


Aisha Faruqui and I met in grade nine. We quickly became friends and happened to share some pretty incredible experiences together over our four years of high school. We were both music majors in Cawthra Park Secondary School’s Regional Arts Program, and we spent years together in music ensembles. The two of us are some of the few students from our high school that are at U of T who are not studying music. 

Aisha is in her first year of the Life Sci program and is a member of New College. I met up with her and, after catching up for a bit, I checked in with her to see how she’s been doing in her program as the fall term comes to an end. We talked about her courses, studying tips, and how she’s keeping music a part of her life as a Life Sci student. 

Q: The term is wrapping up now. How are you doing? 

A: In the first month of school, I handled my time well. Towards the end of October, I was struggling with having papers due, having labs twice a week, and keeping up with all my tutorials. Now I’m playing catch up. But overall, now I’m really excited for this term to be over because I know how I’m going to improve for the second term. 

Q: What did you take away from your first term that will help you next term?

A: Mental endurance is a skill that is really hard to achieve. I believe that everyone can do well on tests, but to persist and have perseverance for a full course load over a series of months, and to wake up every morning and get out of bed and decide to be productive that day—it’s really hard to do that over and over again. It’s easy to have a one hour break turn into a whole day. 

I think taking breaks is the most important part of studying. If you effectively take a break, if you get up and walk around, think about anything you want. I like to think about music, seashells, fish, swimming somewhere tropical, or skiing…something like that. 

Q: You play a mental image of those things?

A: Yeah, and I’ll eat something, or I’ll play a mindless video game for a bit. But having the discipline to go back is really hard, and it’s really hard to take a break effectively. If you can, it’ll really improve your own study skills because it refreshes your brain. And when you get back to studying, you’ll get into it faster. When you take a break, really take a break. Don’t think about studying. 

Q: Do you consider music to be a leisurely activity for you now?

A: I don’t have as much time to play piano as I’d like to anymore. It feels good to take a break from things and play, but it’s also very physically exhausting for me. You burn as many calories playing piano as walking. 

Since I’ve been our of music for six months now, when I hear a piece of music that I’m really into, I think about getting all my friends together, arranging a piece of music, and doing an awesome jam session. I have my midi keyboard sitting a foot away from my computer keyboard, so I’ll have the urge to bring it out and start playing something.

Q: Was music ever on your radar for post-secondary?

A: I can’t say that it was. It’s not that I didn’t like it, or that I don’t think it’s a good field to go into. Music is one of the hardest programs you could go into. I don’t think I could do music every single day of my life as a career. I have friends in music right now, and seeing how much they work to play their instrument, I realize that that would drive me crazy. I need music to be that thing I always want to return to. 

If you can picture yourself doing anything besides music, you should do that thing instead. If you look into your future, and you can only see yourself doing music, don’t argue with people who say that you shouldn’t. 

Q: How is music a part of your life now?

A: I’m in the Engineering Band. I’m the only Life Sci student in the band, but the engineering students are so welcoming. We have the same taste in jazz and we like the same kinds of music. We’ve had three gigs so far this year, and I’ve had a really good time going out. I’m not much of a party person, so these gigs are a really nice social time for us. We play at bars, we’ve played at hotels…it’s a nice relaxing time when we perform. It takes the anxiety away.

Q: What are you most excited for in the years to come?

A: I’ve decided I want to take a double major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Neuroscience. It’s a bit of an unusual combination because they’re two very different fields, but they overlap when it comes to animal behaviour. The way our brains work is a result of natural selection acting upon us. 

I can see myself applying for med school and doing anatomy labs on human bodies—that’s something I still want to do. But now I’ve taken a greater interest in doing research in my undergrad. Being at UofT, I think this would be the best school to do research at. I’m interested in taking a research excursion in my third year; they have one for every animal kingdom you could think of. 

I want to go into research. It’s hard to do it as a first-year. In second-year, I really hope I get a research position. It doesn’t matter where it is. I’ll work in a greenhouse, I’ll study animals…I already volunteer at Trillium hospital, and I’m going to start volunteering at the emergency department there. I’m hoping that doing these things will give me a greater chance of landing a research position. I’d love to take a research excursion to a coastal place, or an island and conduct my own experiments there. By fourth year, that’s something I really want to do.