Stories From The Arch

The Planned Happenstance Project: Fabiha Faiza Islam

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

Coming from the Middle East, there was a huge cultural difference when I came to Canada. I went from not ever walking alone on the streets to living in residence alone.

I never thought about studying Science; in fact, I’ve wanted to become an astronaut ever since I was a child. I even applied and got accepted to the astrophysics program at the University of Waterloo, but I also applied to Life Sciences here at Mac because the program was diverse in its approach and it was something my parents wanted for me.

Getting accepted to Life Sci was a huge surprise for me, but even more so falling in love with the program. It is more than I had imagined. What makes it even more special is that I have never seen my mother as happy as she was when she found out I got accepted.

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

I came to Mac during the Winter semester and therefore missed Welcome Week. I felt like it was hard to get to know people on my own and because I did not have a balance between my academics and social life, my grades started getting really bad.

The language was never a barrier, but transitioning was difficult. The unfamiliar weather also played a role in making me uncomfortable. It became really hard to even communicate with my parents. In the end, I realized that cultural differences exist, but what we have to do is explore, meet people and find things that match our expectations. All I had to do was find people who were similar to me in a different environment. I was scared to interact with new people but came to find out the people around me were actually not as different as I thought. We were similar in many aspects, and things were not always as I perceived them to be.

3. What are you curious about?

I am curious about how I will survive when my loved ones are not around in this world. I’m also curious about what will happen when humans do not exist. I wonder what will be on the planet when we no longer are here.

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

In my second year, I took an English course. Once the class started, I realized the course was different from what I had previously learned in my classes in Saudi.

The class had cultural studies mixed with poetry. I wanted to challenge myself and see how I could grow from the experience. At first, it was hard to study for the course, but then when I started going to go to the professor’s office hours, I developed a new love for the course content. I learned about terms and critical thinking in the field. Honestly, it came to a point where I started learning and loving it even more than some of my Science courses.

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

The idea of having a big family one day makes me very excited. I can’t wait to be at a place in my life when I am successful in achieving my dreams and have all my loved ones around me.

Other than that, I don’t think a lot about what I will become in the future because the thought can be scary and intimidating. As of right now, I do not have a specific dream job, but I am excited about where my studies will take me.

I also still want to go to space at some point in my life, whether that’s in the far or near future.

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

I try to focus on the present. Uncertainty scares me just like anyone else, but I try to do my best in living in the moment and doing things that matter the most, such as helping people, being kind and leaving a positive impact on other peoples’ lives.

I think if you want to accomplish something, keeping positive energy inside you is important. When you help people, it comes back to you, so being mindful of other people along the journey of life makes me comfortable and gives me hope about a good future. When things are hard, I believe karma will come around just when it’s needed, and in the end, it will work out. For this reason, I’m prepared for the future and whatever happens in between.


Fabiha is a second year Faculty of Science student, studying Life Sciences.

Learn more about The Planned Happenstance Project here.

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

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