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My Environmental Studies degree at York is my second university experience. The first was in my hometown of Montreal, where I completed an accounting degree, collecting my B.Comm at the beginning of 2020. I walked away without a convocation at the very beginning of the pandemic, and it’s likely people will not remember that I was ever there. 

At that point, university wasn’t all that I thought it would be. Though it did give me opportunities to be independent and to have new experiences, it became rather monotonous. It became an endless cycle of waking up, going to school, studying, coming home, and repeating. I sat alone a lot, which I enjoyed, but thought often that I could definitely be doing something else with other people. The friendships that I made were fleeting relationships that revolved around class projects and responsibilities, and quickly dissolved away as semesters came to an end. 

I am a mature student, and school has been online for most of my time at York. So I’ll admit, even though I hoped this degree that I was passionate about could be more meaningful, I could never picture this degree being any different than the one before. 

I am so happy that I was wrong.

EUCSA was the defining difference. 

The Environmental and Urban Change Students’ Association (EUCSA) helps students from the faculty to enhance their skills professionally, academically, and also socially. This organization also acts as a campaign, advocating for students’ dreams and purposes within and beyond their degree. This association is geared mostly towards students in the EUC, but also has general positions for students from all across York who feel particularly drawn to environmental issues and wish to participate. 

EUCSA operates on a volunteer basis  but operates smoothly because everyone is on board toward a common goal. They regularly run events in the Health, Nursing and Environmental (HNES) building on York’s Keele Campus, have virtual events where you can participate from the comfort of your own home, as well as collaborative events with other clubs and organizations at York. These include the YU Fossil Free, the Carbon-Free Club, In The Zone, and Green Urban Revitalization, to name a few. 

The majority have been online events over the past two years, and have included activities like movie and game nights, bird-watching, gingerbread house decoration, and de-stress study sessions. These allow students to connect with faculty peers and to relax away from homework in a safe, inclusive environment. EUCSA also runs the EUC Discord Server, which is a great virtual spot to hang out with classmates, or to find out information about your classes or the faculty as a whole. 

My position at EUCSA is the Chief Public Relations Officer, so I handle all the social media and online correspondence that happens through our various accounts with students, other clubs, and those who are interested in joining or learning more. This past year has become much more about collaborating with other student organizations to try broadening EUCSA’s reach past just our faculty. 

It’s so vital for environmental issues to be addressed at a university-wide level, and to involve faculties that don’t have environmental issues in their curriculums. There is also something to be said about the various perspectives that could be brought to this association by those outside our faculty, and we would love to hear different points of view that could improve our reach or make even more tangible differences for the school. This will be an ongoing goal of EUCSA’s in the semesters to come.

 Another goal, one that our Chairperson, Summer Solmes, strives to complete during her time here, is to help students achieve their dreams and goals as students and beyond. Says Solmes, “The highest level of human consciousness is recognition of the greatness that lies within. Transcend. Transform. Achieve.” Solmes states how important confidence is, and how believing in yourself can help you achieve anything from a paper to actual environmental change. 

She also reiterates how vital it is to build connections with people, and how these relationships are key to helping you realize your potential. “I want to eliminate imposter syndrome,” Summer explains. Given the Environmental and Urban Change recently expanded to include the geography program, some students may feel lost or isolated within their faculty, and EUCSA wants to change that. \

One of our upcoming events specifically oriented to geo students will be a geocaching expedition. Solmes hopes that the association will be able to streamline the faculty’s community dynamic, and make everyone feel at home, especially those new to the faculty. 

A screenshot of a Zoom call with a variety of people
Photo by Kaylea Peres

My experience with EUCSA has been more positive than I could have ever imagined because of the people. Over the past two years of my degree, this association has seen many students of all races, ages and walks of life, all working together toward a common vision. It has taught me so much about environmental issues, but has also granted me with so many important relationships. 

To have the opportunity to make friends and work with people that have the same vocations as you is particularly special. These are some of the only experiences I have had where I feel like I’m part of something that is making a difference, if only for the students within my faculty. But then I think of how we will all go on to affect our own change in this world, and how we can take the knowledge we accumulate and turn that into action, and it feels so much bigger than just a club at school.

Kaylea (pronounced Kay-lee) Peres is an Honours Environmental Studies major at York University in Toronto. She loves writing, reading, and playing soccer. In her spare time, you can find her laughing with her loved ones, binge-watching true crime series, and watching her plants grow new leaves.
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