Woodsworth Campus Director and Closet Poet, Aakanksha John

Aakanksha John takes life by the horms in a way you can't help but admire and at the end of this article you're going to wish you had her life - we promise.

Meet one of Woodsworth college's off campus directors who also mentors first year students as part of the Woodswoorth mentorship program. When she is not busy being a boss around campus,  Aakanksha is a project leader for Alternative Reading Week hosted by the Centre of Community Partnerships. She chairs the first ever Equity Committee of Woodsworth and has worked in organizing U of T's first ever Commuter Appreciation Week in collaboration with all other colleges as part of Off Campus Students' Association (OCSA). Aakanksha is also working on two creative projects, both based in theater. She also writes and occasionally performs spoken word poetry (this I can attest to: she is an absolutely marvelous writer and performer). She is a also a singer looking to get back into training.

Year & College: 3rd year, Woodsworth College

Majoring in: My majors are Philosophy and Equity Studies and I'm minoring in Diaspora and Transnational Studies.

What is your dream career, and why?

I hope to pursue a career in social justice and rights activism; especially surrounding the public policy affecting marginalized communities. I have a pretty strong desire to become a lawyer but only to equip myself when I engage in the destigmatization of racialized youth. I believe that a big reason youth in marginalized communities aren't going where they are capable of going is because of the stigma attached to the spaces in which they live in. There are several systemic and structural limits that can hamper a younger person's ability to make change for themselves. By working with them, I want to empower them with ways in which they can educate themselves and learn from their experiences. I want them to feel they matter, and that they have the strength and ability to enrich their communities and bring change forward.

What is your background?

I'm native to Kerala, a South Indian state but I was born and brought up in Calcutta in West Bengal. Moved to the United Arab Emirates and lived there for 17 years and now I'm here!

What are your thoughts on traveling, and where would you like to go?

I travel as much as I can, whenever I get the chance. Last summer, I worked as a tour leader and visited Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston and Quebec City. I've been around a few places in South India and traveled the entire East Coast of the United States in two weeks! But my favorite place to this day is my first ever travel destination: the beautiful city of Istanbul, Turkey.

What do you love about Turkey? I visited Istanbul when I was 15. By virtue of being the first place I had ever traveled to outside of India, it became my favorite place! I have so many great memories; having breakfast with an amazing view of the Bosporus, eating literally the best goat's cheese I have ever tasted in my life, the Apple tea, the streets of Taksim square, the aromas and the Turkish lamps in the Grand Bazaar, the enchantment of the Hagia Sofia, and my favorite is Princess Island which is where I would have my dream wedding. I haven't given away even half of the places I visited in Istanbul because the rest you have to discover for yourself. It's impossible not to fall in love with one of the oldest cities in the world. I only visited Istanbul so I can't really comment on Turkey as a whole, but I do love Turkey's mix of cultures, it's ancient history and its nature as the bridge between Europe and Asia.

As somebody so well traveled, what is your favorite ethnic dish? 

Oh man, you got me there. In every culture that I've experienced, I've got one type of food I could eat over again. With Thai culture, it's pad sew, fish cakes and prawn red curry. In Sri Lankan food, it's a coconut rice dish called Kiribat. In Caribbean foods, cod fish fritters, rice and peas and jerk roti. With Arabic food, kebabs, hummus and kuboos. But if I had to pick a certain cuisine or style of cooking, the intensity of flavors in Thai cooking, yet the subtle ways in which they all have a perfect balance earns them top spot.

You have first hand experience in many countries, do you ever wish to settle down in another country outside Canada after university?Thing is I've never had a permanent home, one place in the world I could call home base. Part of me looks at Toronto and goes, "damn, I could really live here." But that's because I see the potential of spending enough time in this place to know it inside out, to make space for myself and feel like I truly belong. If I move to another country when I'm older, like New Zealand, that's really where I'd go if anything. I would have had to be unsatisfied with Toronto first. So far, I'm not but I really think the third culture kid in me is trying to plant some roots.

Do you speak more than one language? In not having a permanent home growing up you must have had to adapt to different countries very quickly, for you did this include learning a new language or two?I can almost fully understand and speak 3 Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam. I can read Arabic but I can't understand what I'm reading. I can speak a little bit of it and understand a little too. Can read, write and speak a little bit of French and Spanish. Can mildly understand them both as well. I know a few words and phrases in Japanese as well and of course, English, which is my first language and the only one I have 100% fluency in.

Just like you have adapted to some of the languages... I'm curious to hear what your music taste is like?

Girl, I'm all over the place! French hip hop, Polynesian reggae, Indie house, Latin, Zouk, Dancehall, old rnb etc. I LOVE music with a good message, strong beat, and great instruments. I love dancing so usually it's also something I can dance to, but I have my quiet side believe it or not lol and that's when I chill and listen to indie house or Polynesian reggae, for example.

What is your life philosophy?
I've struggled to find the balance between family, work, studies and extracurricular for years now. I don't think my life has ever been this full and I suppose it will only get fuller. The point is, though, to get better at handling yourself and doing the things you feel you need to do. The trick is to always reflect and check in with yourself and maintain your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. To have your desire for success be greater than your fear of failure and to always ask whether you're doing the best you can to be the best you can be. Stay true to yourself, be good to others and whatever it is that comes your way, let love fuel you. You'll do great. No matter how far you go or how low you feel, know that there have always been good people behind you. Remember where you come from and where you want to be. Remember this when you need to find focus, so you feel strong and stay humble. Stay true.