Veronika Potylitsina: Exploring Life On Her Own Terms

Edited by: Jina Aryaan 

Born in Toronto and raised in Long Island, New York, Veronika Potylitsina likes to explore her life on her own terms. She is unafraid of making changes in her life and style. She follows her own trends and after a long journey, beginning way back in high school, she finally found her ‘me hairstyle,’ in her current fiery part-blonde, part-red hair colour.

Veronika finished her double major in Architecture History and Design, and a minor in Environmental Geography from the University of Toronto, U of T. She was the treasurer of the Architecture and Visual Studies Student Union (AVSSU), and a mentor for the Daniels Architecture Faculty.

Talking about her return to Toronto, and her ties with U of T, Veronika says that her parents were in U of T graduate school when they conceived her. “Maybe I was meant to live and die at this university.” She giggles. “I was also accepted into a civil engineering course back in New York. (It was) kind of an easy choice for me because I’m not a genius at math and I wanted to be away from home… I wanted something that would blend (with) my interests in art that could also be applicable to the "real world" according to my family. I ended up loving it (U of T courses) immediately in first year, and I was fortunate enough to have professors that let me keep my artistic identity while designing.”

University life is hard for everyone. Veronika shares her ups and downs at U of T. “I've questioned whether I could actually continue going to university after a really bad exam in first year, cried after a mock presentation in second year, had a panic attack right before an exam in third year, and had all of this happen again in my fourth year. No matter how much you fight, the university keeps fighting you back, from the way it deals with students' mental health to the "suffer for your grades" mentality. A lot of aspects of my health have been permanently altered for arguably the worse during my time at university, and what that says about the "top school in Canada" is all up to interpretation.”

But advocating to look at life with an open mind, and from various perspectives, Veronika examines the positive experiences she had at U of T. “Like anyone else, U of T's been really good and really bad, but the really good outweighs the really bad in my opinion.

“There is so much that I've learned and experienced that I wouldn't trade for anything. I've discovered a lot of aspects of my identity that I felt lost or confused about previously, and developed interests in writing, and photography. I've met some amazing people in and around the university that have impacted my life in the best ways possible.

“Were there terrible times at university? Of course. Would I change those experiences for anything else? Absolutely not.”

Getting involved in the campus community helps deal with a lot of stress. For Veronika, being part of the Her Campus community meant finding an outlet for anxiety, and networking with other people. She started as a writer for Her Campus U of T chapter, and in 2016, she grabbed the position of Editor-in-Chief along with her Co-Editor-in-Chief, Jina Aryaan. The two of them shared similar goals for the publication: they wanted the publication's U of T chapter to reflect the University's high quality reputation and the eclectic interests of the diverse student body, as well as increase the chapter’s physical presence on campus, and produce content that speaks to all U of T students while shifting away from merely being a “girly publication.”

Veronika and Jina achieved their goals and acquired even more success than imagined. The publication's U of T chapter became top 20% among all Her Campus chapters. Their dedication helped increase the team size to over fifty members from all U of T campuses and expanding over numerous course backgrounds.

Veronika believes that their content “truly reflects U of T's different and amazing interests and passions. Our She Leads Conference, back in March, had attendees come from as far as Seneca College and Western University, and that alone is such a crazy thing to think about, that we've come this as far as to reach people from outside of Toronto.

“It was difficult to hand over the publication to the new Co Editors-In-Chief, mainly because it's as if I'm giving away a child or a project that we've grown and developed into something amazing, but I knew Tasmiyah and Sophia would be fantastic people to take on the role since I started thinking about it in September so I can't wait to see what's to come in the next year.

While juggling her architecture studies, and working with Her Campus, Veronika also got into modelling. “I feel like it kind of just happened? I had done portrait photography for friends and peers for half a year back in October 2017, and I joined a Facebook group that's essentially a place to facilitate collaborations between photographers, models, and other artists. A photographer posted that he wanted to practice doing urban/lifestyle portraits after doing cosplay photography for so long, so I decided to message them. He gave me a few notes on posing, and it made me a bit more comfortable to continue seeking collaborations.

“January 2018 and onwards was when my modelling really kicked off, and from the short time I've done it I'm proud to have accomplishments like being published in Femme Modern's Black & White Issue! Modelling will probably continue being a hobby or a side gig as I still want to pursue architecture as my career path, but who knows what'll happen?”

Currently working at an architecture firm, Veronika wants to pursue photography and modelling back in New York. She also plans to work on projects for “bringing women to the forefront of something, be it in architecture, writing, music, or other fields.”