From my very first day at the University of Toronto, I knew for sure that getting a 4.0 GPA was basically as likely as the Brown Food Truck Lady not saying “Anything to drink for you?” Reaching this level of achievement is next to impossible for students here at U of T, but alas I found one. His GPA is not the only thing that’s unbelievable; there’s much more that makes this student as rare as can be. Keep a look out on campus because we have a unicorn amongst us and some may know him as Baymax.
Let’s start with the basics, what’s your name, year, program, college, and where are you from?
My name is Richard Peng and I’m a second year Life Science student studying a specialist in Neuroscience and majoring in Immunology. I’m in New College and I’m from Calgary, Alberta.
Why did you choose U of T?
I chose U of T because they gave me the most scholarship money and it’s also the best school in Canada.
Why did you choose New College?
I actually didn’t think about why I chose New College. I didn’t know anything about the college system when I applied – all I knew is that the residences were slightly lower than some of the other colleges so that’s why I chose New College, but I’m glad to be here.
Why do some people call you Baymax?
Because apparently I sound like Baymax. Apparently I’m also very huggable like Baymax.
Would you say you share some of this beloved robot’s characteristics?
I guess so. I’d like to think that I’m a pretty caring person which Baymax definitely is. I’m also kind of tall like Baymax.
I heard you were running for the position of Mental Health and Wellness Commissioner for your College’s Student Council. What motivated you to run for such an important role?
Well, mental health and wellness have always been a pretty big interest of mine, mostly because it’s fascinating how we understand so little about it. I also notice that we always (or at least we used to) cast mental health issues in a negative light, so I wanted to bring more awareness to it and involve more people into ways we can all work towards an environment that’s more accepting and engaged in maintaining mental health and wellness. Yeah, it’s also been a personal issue in the past.
The term “U of Tears” is a common saying at this university. In general how do you feel about mental health of the students at U of T?
So the term itself, I feel like did not really originate in the issue surrounding mental health. There is probably some basis with it. Ideas around mental health in general at U of T, I think is an issue that I know was fairly brought up last year that we all know about. I believe there were two or three suicides. The one we all know about is the one in Bahen and that was fairly well publicized and a lot of students brought this issue to the administration and it was fairly well lobbied to the administration of U of T. Overall I think mental health is something that is something that’s prevalent in the University of Toronto and most students are aware of it, however I think we can always do better. We won’t be able to change it quickly, but hopefully, through small steps we can minimize the negative impact of mental health on students.
Can we hear some ideas you may have if elected?
Well of course I have ideas of my own, but my main source – I suppose you could say, is from the community because what I believe can be improved on may just be a personal idea, but I want to see a more general sense of what people think we could do better. Since this is a new commission it’ll be fairly limited in the number of resources I’ll be able to manipulate, so I want to focus on the big issues that the New College community thinks we want to face, so no specific ideas yet, but if I am elected it’s definitely something I want to work on.
Along with your desired involvement in the New College Student council, what else are you a part of?
I am a First Year Learning Community Mentor and a New College SPROUT Mentor, I was a Medical Science Student Union Mentor during orientation, along with being an orientation leader. I was also am Academic Orientation Leader at the New College IGNITE Academic Orientation and I am currently part of badminton intramurals.
Yeah, I like to play the piano and the tenor saxophone. I also like to make anime-style art or sketch art sometimes; it takes me a while so I need a lot of spare time, which I don’t really have any more.
How do you manage to maintain a 4.0 GPA and keep track of your extra curricular activities?
It’s been said a lot of times, but I’m gonna say it again. It’s time management. It’s not about how much you can do. If you’re doing all of these things it forces you to manage your time well enough to the point where you’re really efficient at doing everything and that’s kind of how I manage all of this stuff. If I do feel overwhelmed however, of course I’m always going to prioritize certain things over others, such as studying over various extra-curriculars, but of course staying healthy both mentally and physically takes priority over everything else. I think that’s one of the more crucial steps because if you’re not healthy it doesn’t’ matter what marks you have because you won’t be able to enact upon your achievements. For the 4.0 GPA I have nothing else to say except for maybe, find your groove on how you want to study, find your top twosome friends and ask them to keep you on track if you are feeling distracted.
Where do you hope to see yourself in ten years?
Working in a hospital as a specialist or a physician – maybe like a surgeon. I’m not sure, I want to go into medicine, but I’m not too sure how I want to take that right now.
What motivates you to reach that point in your life?
My parents have always really supported me. It’s kind of like a dynamic relationship, so they expect some stuff from me and it’s not that I’m trying to do this just for the expectations, but I want to make them happy just because they sacrificed a lot just to be here – just to immigrate to Canada. They had a difficult time starting up. One, I want to really give back to my parents and show them that they invested everything so that it comes to fruition. Secondly, with medicine specifically, I want to make a difference in the world and this is the way I think I really want to go about doing because medicine has been a huge passion of mine. I think it’s the way I’ll be able to make the most direct impact on people’s lives while also being able to see the results of how I might have helped them. And also my friends; my friends motivate me to keep going.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t really have a specific inspiration, however I do like to draw upon all of those influential scientists of the past. You know, Einstein’s a big one. He did a lot of research and had a lot of theories, but I really respect the researchers because they’ve dedicated the majority of their life to find one thing and they’ve helped us come along so far in the field of medicine. And I kind of want to be like that, even if it’s just for one thing I want to be able to make a difference in that way.
You seem like you’re on a clear path to success, care to share what your secret to success is?
I’ve been asked that question a lot of times and I’m really not too sure how to answer. Because everybody is unique, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is for everyone. As I like to tell everyone, I don’t get stressed. There’s a lot of difference between you and me right? However, if I had to offer one piece of advice, I’d think to just be yourself. Don’t try to achieve something just because somebody else told you to do it; do it because you’re passionate about it. Regardless of what career or wherever you end up, you can make a difference if your passionate about it.
And the most important question: Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?
Well, that’s the one and only Richard Peng. Other than the fact that he’s studious, involved in his community and has many talents, he really is a real-life Baymax because he cares deeply about the health and well being of everyone around him, not to mention he’s certified in Standard First Aid and CPR. Richard literally carries a first aid kit with him wherever he goes and asks how people are because he genuinely wants to know. If you see him around campus feel free to say “Hey Baymax!” He might even reply with his iconic Baymax impression.