Students with a passion for global issues have incredible opportunities at Upper Canada College. The annual World Affairs Conference (WAC) attracts more than 1,000 students from across North America as well as some renowned speakers. (Edward Snowden gave the keynote address in 2015.) Plus the school’s Model UN club is one of the top teams in North Americam most recently earning best delegation at the McGill University event in Montreal, making it four years in a row.
Matthew Jagdeo ’17 has taken advantage of it all. Heavily involved in both WAC and MUN (he was president this past year), he’s both following his passions and excelling in the pursuit. His internationally minded UCC journey has enabled him to arrive at his next destination in September — New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates.
“It brings me a great sense of pride that I’m able to go out and represent UCC and win all these awards, but it’s also helped me to connect with people from the States and around the world who have a different perspective, debating international issues that are happening right now.”
Yet even the opportunities at UCC to travel to other cities to debate world issues, Matthew felt his experience lacked authenticity. That fact was driven home when he visited New York University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Matthew learned about NYU Abu Dhabi from University Counseling director Katherine Ridout. She was visiting the school through a counselor program and sent him an email, excited she’d found what she thought was a great match for him. The school is part of NYU’s Global Network University, which includes the main campus in New York City and a campus in Shanghai. It has a small and diverse student body, with a total student enrollment of about 670 representing over 80 different countries, and offers a prestigious liberal arts undergraduate program.
Despite the fact Matthew had never traveled to that part of the world and knew nothing about the school, Ridout’s confidence encouraged him to take a closer look.
After receiving UCC’s nomination he submitted an application and was invited by NYU Abu Dhabi to join other finalists at an orientation program. He quickly connected with other prospective students, who’d come from around the world and whose passions often mirrored his own. For the first time he was able to talk directly with people who had first-hand experience of the issues he’d been debating.
“I was really blown away by the level of intelligence and commitment and what some of these people were doing. To be honest it made me feel a bit insignificant,” he says.
The school’s truly international profile and its broad program of arts, science and engineering courses, sealed the deal for Matthew. He’s looking forward to learning about both the intellectual and technical aspects of solving problems, essential when it comes to effecting real change. He recalls a lecture he once heard given by University of Toronto professor Joseph Wong, who argued there is enough information and technology and great minds coming up with solutions out there to potentially solve many issues; the challenge is applying those solutions where they’re needed most, in the developing world, due to cultural, societal or geographical challenges.
“Bridging the gap between coming up with a solution and implementing it well and in the right scenario is something that I really connect with, and something I would strive to emulate in any career that I choose.”