Stories From The Arch

The Planned Happenstance Project: Barkhaa Talat

1. Can you share an example of a time something really unplanned or unexpected happened and how did you handle it?

As I was planning for my fifth year, I had trouble finding the right courses to fulfill a full workload. I was panicking and couldn’t find anything I liked or found to be meaningful towards my degree. By this time, I had already reached out to a professor who was doing research I was interested in. Luckily, she replied right in August, asking to meet and discuss the opportunity for my involvement in her work as well as an opportunity for a thesis project.

I was definitely not expecting it nor did I anticipate having to prepare a thesis project for the coming year. In September, I took on the challenge and really enjoyed it. My thesis was based on a topic that I was passionate about and so having to work under pressure was worth it all in the end.

2. Have you ever experienced a time when you felt there was a barrier in your way? How did you manage it?

In second-year, I was working part-time while also planning to pursue pharmacy. This process involved taking a full course load, completing the pre-requisites and juggling everything else in between. I made the mistake of taking a full course load and specifically the heavy sciences all at once while working a job.

For someone like me, financial situations were not always easy, and I couldn’t find individuals that could relate to the challenges I was facing initially. It was very hard to cope. I saw the disadvantage I was at, while some of my peers experienced privileges that I did not have. I overcame this by realizing everyone works at their own pace. It was okay if I could not take full course loads and was busier with other things in contrast to others. It was hard at first because in high school I was the overachiever that was doing many things all at once. Instead of doing it all in the fall/winter terms, I decided to take summer classes and found balance. I accepted that if I had to take a fifth year then so be it.

Ultimately, I just want to give my 100% and do the best I can. And even now, this has changed me and allowed me to reflect on whether I am going at my own pace and doing things according to the time that’s best for me.

Photo of Barkhaa at the McMaster greenhouse.

3. What are you curious about?

I am curious about what would happen if I completed a different degree. In Life Sci, I always found myself steering away from the heavy sciences and found more interest in Social Sciences. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I just took a different path and how that would change me.

Another thing I wonder about is how to give back to my home community in Toronto.

4. What are some of the changes or risks you have taken that you are glad you took? Why?

Switching my career path was a risk I am glad I took. For the first four years of undergrad, I wanted to do pharmacy – even in my courses and extra-curriculars, everything had to do with pharmacy.

At the end of my fourth year, I realized I did not want to do this anymore. My original goal was to be stable financially, which is why I worked in pharmacy; however, when I took the experience, I realized this was a field that I would not be happy in. I realized that if I am going to do something, I might as well do something I love and will be happy doing for the rest of my life. Although I do not have it all figured out right now, I am willing to take all the opportunities I can get to grow, learn and explore my options.

5. What do you find most exciting when you think of your future?

I am excited about the thought that my life career could steer into any direction at this point and even though I do not have a solid idea right now, the unknown excites me. For once in my life, I do not have a detailed plan. I have time to think, reflect and decide on what I want to indulge in for the future while spontaneously living life one day at a time.

6. We all have uncertainties about our future. What is your tip or trick for handling the unknown?

You have to be really honest with yourself! A lot of people do not like to think about “what if?” Be honest about your interests and capabilities. It does not have to be one path. Take advantage of all you have and really open up the conversation about not having it all figured out.

Many people do not want to think about the possibility of not getting the acceptance they want or having their goals achieved, but it’s better to come to terms with it now than later. I can’t stress enough how it’s okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Exploring your options is very important.


Barkhaa is a fourth-year Faculty of Science student in Life Sciences.

Learn more about The Planned Happenstance Project here.

Photo Credit: Grant Holt. Interviewed by: Fatima Kijera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *