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Double Lives of UTM students

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

Edited by Sophia Savva


University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) is a place bustling with future scientists, authors, and scholars. Thousands of students work hard every day and night, prepare for tests and exams, and work on research essays and midterms. It’s easy to lose control. Luckily, we at UTM live our double lives as hardworking students and people with unique talents quite well.

Here are some students who are excelling in their studies and polishing their talents too.

Jacqueline Gray: Full-time procrastinator, part time cosplayer.

Jacqueline is a third-year student at UTM. She is working on her double major in Art and Art History from Sheridan and Professional Writing and Communication, and juggling a minor in Cinema Studies. Jacqueline’s favourite anime character, that she frequently cosplays, is Kurisu from the anime Steins;Gate. Kurisu is a witty scientist who is somewhat defensive. Jacqueline added that she relates to Kurisu as they both get annoyed easily, but also have a shy, sensitive side.

Jacqueline’s high school friend was into cosplay. Jacqueline thought she looked cool and wanted to try cosplay, too. When her friends invited her to Fan Expo 2015, Jacqueline immediately said yes. After that she has been to several fan expos, Tri-Con, and her favourite convention, Anime North. Jacqueline found out that cosplay gave her a feeling of recognition from devoting time to things other than work and study.

“It was almost liberating to finally escape the mundane and sometimes almost unbearable lifestyle of high school,” Jacqueline added.

Jacqueline DIYs some of her outfits and spends several afternoons with her friends, sewing or gluing together pieces of fabric to make new costumes. She loves when she attends an expo and people recognise her character or compliment her and ask for a picture.

“I don’t have to worry about what people are thinking,” Jacqueline said. “There are thousands of people around you, all dressed up so you blend right in.”

Mathias Ho: Sarcasm as strong as his bagpiping skills.

Mathias is a third-year Political Science student at UTM. He was born and raised in Mississauga and is a star bagpiper.

Mathias’s ‘love at first sight’ moment with bagpipes was the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

“My love for pipes developed further in 2013 when I started to listen to military pipe bands on YouTube. Because I was in my high school drumline at the time, the drums really appealed to me, but the Pipes is what I fell in love with,” says Mathias.

“I can recall during the War in Afghanistan when one of our fallen soldiers had returned home and the pines began to play on the TV it wasn’t until the pipes kicked in did I feel such sadness and pride.” Mathias added. “Also, wearing a kilt was a huge selling point.”

Stumbling down his memory lane, he narrated the night when he and his pipe band were playing at a Legion Convention in Brampton.

“So many vets (war veterans) and other Legion members were in attendance. We played a little set for them… they were really excited during our tunes,” says Mathias. “But it wasn’t until we began play ‘Amazing Grace’ did the entire pub [fall] silent. I remember a wheel chaired vet was sitting nearby… and he wiped a tear from his face. I can still remember getting goose bumps.”

Mathias has also had some weird moments too.

“People ask me what’s worn under the kilt all the time,” says Mathias. “Like any other pipe band, it’s quite militaristic, but people have made me wild requests, asking me to play for them at totally inappropriate times. Some people make fun of the terminology, but there isn’t a single embarrassing moment.”

Sasha and Sarena Nanua: Twin talent, double the trouble, double the work


Sarena and Sasha are twin writers in their fourth-year at UTM. They both are specializing in English and minoring in French and Professional Writing and Communications. They both are nerds, sometimes procrastinating by reading novels and watching TV.

Since childhood, the twins have loved to write and read. They especially loved Roald Dahl, Rick Riordan, Harry Potter books.

While sitting on a plane, Sasha scribbled a story in her notebook, one thing lead to another, and the twins ended up writing their first book. They were nine. And then came the Pendant Trilogy, inspired from the cover for Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning.

Asking about the conflict they had in writing and working as a team, Sarena replied, “Since we’re twins, we tend to have a lot of the same ideas, and we think in similar ways. We have had minor conflicts before, but nothing major. We always come to some kind of consensus on the matter. It’s a part of being siblings!”

They always encourage young writers to dream big and work hard on their projects. In an arena where old artists have always dominated, young writers need to step forth and address the issues that may not be properly told by the authors of older generations.

Sarena and Sasha are always delighted to see more young people write about their experiences and showcase the problems their communities face daily.

Considering their own influence as new writers, Sarena said, “Seeing young writers like us, I think it opens doors for younger teens/kids to realize they can write whatever they want. It’s easy to think there are lots of barriers (and there are), but when young people see other young people writing and publishing, it gives them inspiration to do it. Plus, seeing fresh, young writers is always exciting.”

It’s hard to write and not be doubtful at times. But it’s just part of the game. “I think every writer has self-doubt, even super successful ones.” Sarena added.

Asking her for advice to tackle that self-doubt, Sarena said, “Read and write as much as possible. Look at your favourite author’s books and see their techniques. Soon enough, you’ll mould your own voice and uniqueness into your own writing!”

The best part of being young writers? Seeing your books available at the UTM library!


Avleen is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, finishing her Double Major in English, and Professional Writing and Communication with a Minor in History. She was an editor with UTM Scribes, contributor to The Medium newspaper, maintained a WordPress research blog, and has been part of the Her Campus community since 2017. Check out more of Avleen's content on her WordPress blog http://loveandthelaws.wordpress.com