Reflections by Trinity Graduate: Maria Monica Layarda 1T7
June 23, 2017: Reflections by Maria Monica Layarda (Class of 2017)
I still remember the rainy evening of September 1, 2013 when I first landed in Canada. The airport cab dropped me off at the staircase of Trinity College, through which I would come to form my first impression of Toronto, Canada, and "the West" generally. I can still easily relive the overwhelming emotions the younger me had then, standing alone with my luggage and staring in awe at this magnificent and imposing Hogwarts-like building. I was excited to start a new chapter in my autobiography but also terrified of what was to come.
Four years later, on my convocation day, I still stand on this very staircase in awe, also with immense gratitude and pride. I too still feel slightly fearful, mostly of the uncertainty of post-university adulthood. But if there is one important lesson about myself I have learned over these years is that grit and curiosity are my strongest traits, which have served me well through life's ebbs and flows in Jakarta, Singapore and Toronto. There is a deep sense of personal accomplishment (and relief) to know that an ordinary girl from the suburb of Jakarta managed to survive a rigorous undergraduate education at an esteemed university, survive a years-long battle with impostor syndrome and anxiety, and graduate with the highest academic standing in the International Relations program for the fourth and final year.
Perhaps because of my life experience, I do believe in blessings, divine intervention, serendipity, lucky coincidence, or whatever you would prefer to call it. As I hold my diploma proudly, I am fully conscious that anything I have successfully achieved would not have been possible without my family’s unceasing love for and faith in me, and the kindness of humanity—of many strangers who don't know me and whom I don't know personally, but whose generosity have enabled me to become who I am today.
Throughout my adolescence, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be granted two major scholarships that allowed me to complete the IB program in Singapore and undergrad in Canada—neither of which my family and I could have afforded otherwise. Thus, from the very bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all the donors at the University of Toronto for the extremely generous full-ride undergraduate scholarship. Over the last four years here, never once did I have to worry about paying for tuition, rent, books or even my annual flight home. This allowed me to focus on academics and resume-building and take up meaningful but unpaid/voluntary internships. It’s been a tremendous honour to be the Jon S Dellandrea international student scholar in the Class of 2017. And also an equally deep gratitude is owed to my high school, SJI International Singapore, for providing me with the life-changing opportunity to complete the IB program that subsequently served as a stepping stone to fly even higher in life.
Undergrad has been quite the ride and I cannot be prouder to graduate amongst the brightest at Trinity College. A special shout out to Trinity One International Relations and TRN419 instructors and friends—you have all provided me with endless inspiration and motivation to always strive for the best since my very first day at U of T. To all of my very kind-hearted professors, thank you for never stopping to believe in me even when I was filled with self-doubt. To all the people I have been so fortunate to call a friend since I came to Toronto, thank you for making this foreign place a new home. To all the people in my life, please know that you have left permanent marks on my heart. Thank you all for the memories and life lessons.
Full-fledged adulthood has recently started as I began my full-time rotation at TD Securities. I’m not going particularly far; Bay and King is just a little south of U of T. Nonetheless, having been accustomed to being a student, stepping out of my nerdy niche does feel like a big, daunting step into the unknown. I don't plan to stray from the university life for too long—I have actually been offered enrollment by U of T Faculty of Law although due to the financial barriers I face as an international student, I cannot at the moment afford to enroll (even after receiving Trinity's generous Brian Morgan Scholarship in Law). That said, I hope to begin my legal education within the next two years. Realizing that I was not able to go straight into law school was at first very difficult to accept, but I know that when the time finally comes, I will not take things for granted and will bring with me maturity, sharper focus and determination into my legal pursuit. At the moment, I plan to study the intersection of law, trade (possibly capital markets) and social justice. Weird mix, I know, but my life has been an amalgamation of seemingly unfitting pieces and improbably coincidences!
As historian Margaret MacMillan reminded us at our convocation ceremony: Canada is an oasis in today’s turbulent world. Canada had been one for me even before the chaos started south of our border and for that I will always be grateful. For the next few years, I will be around to make my little contribution to this wonderful country and society, while also continuing my part to serve the Indonesian homeland through scholarly and advocacy endeavours.
On June 20, 2017 Maria Monica Layarda was awarded the following Trinity College Graduation Awards: Provost's Scholar, The Ambassador Kenneth Taylor Prize in International Relations, and The Brian Morgan Scholarship in Law. The following day, she graduated from Trinity College in the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction (specialist in International Relations). She was also a recipient of the 2017 U of T Libraries Undergraduate Research Prize for exceptional student research.
Photos: (top) Maria Monica Layarda on the front steps of Trinity College (photo supplied); (above) following the Convocation Ceremony on June 21, 2017, Maria with her family return to the College for Trinity's Graduation Lunch and Reception.