In conversation with Lavinia Auhoma, valedictorian for the Arts ‘C’ ceremony

"I learned from my friends, peers and professors that we help each other grow... My time at McGill taught me to trust in others, in my work and in myself. I believe genuine, hard work will always be rewarded, and I know now to just trust the process

In this special series of Q&As, McGill’s 2024 valedictorians share their insights and perspectives as they reflect on their academic journeys and look back at the moments that defined their time at McGill, from navigating the challenges of entering McGill during the COVID pandemic to finding and fostering a sense of community.

Today, we feature Lavinia Auhoma, one of the valedictorians for the Faculty of Arts. Auhoma, who has earned a BA (Honours) in International Development Studies, with a double minor in Philosophy and South Asian Studies, delivered her address at the Arts ‘C’ ceremony on Tuesday, June 4, at 10 a.m.

Please note, the answers have been edited for brevity.

Why did you choose McGill?

I visited McGill in my senior year of high school on a whim and toured the campus on a particularly gloomy, rainy November day. I fell in love with how the downtown campus looked:  the moody atmosphere and the very “Collegiate Gothic” appearance of it all.

At the same time, it also stood out to me that people were playing on lower field and strolling along the Y. It was exciting.

I was drawn to how McGill, with its renowned reputation, attracted some of the brightest minds, but also nurtured a healthy work-life balance. The students here really embody “work hard, play hard.”

Plus, my favourite colour is red.

What were some of your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?

I thought, people here are really well dressed; I had better step up my fashion game.

What are some of the highlights of your time as a McGill student?

It’s hard to pick just a few, but highlights include watching the solar eclipse on lower field with some of my closest friends, sunbathing at OAP, watching obscure movies at Peel Street Cinema, hosting the International Development Policy Case Competition, getting A&W on Parc after long nights at Schulich, and getting all dressed up for gala season (departmental awards, Grad Ball, you name it)!

What’s next for you, both short and long term?

Upon graduation, I will be starting a full-time role with the Government of Canada to continue working as a policy/program analyst (as I have for the past few years). After gaining experience, I hope to pursue a master’s and find my way into academia, where my heart lies.

How has McGill helped prepare you for your next chapter?

McGill is where I learned about my values and passions. It is also where I found my confidence.

Before McGill, I was very nervous and suffered a great deal from “imposter syndrome,” battling feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

It would have been easy to feel intimidated by the calibre of the people who come to study at McGill.

However, I quickly learned from my friends, peers and professors that we help each other grow. I carry that mentality into my work. My time at McGill taught me to trust in others, in my work and in myself. I believe genuine, hard work will always be rewarded, and I know now to just trust the process.

Who or what will you miss most?

I’m going to miss being in a walkable community where all my friends live less than 10 minutes away. I am so grateful for the many life-long friendships I have made at McGill.

I will also miss the faculty, who have been incredibly supportive and gone above and beyond as mentors. The faculty members are so inspiring. I will miss the enthusiasm and excitement they brought to class.

I will also miss the uniqueness of the courses offered, from “Black Aesthetics” to “Melancholic Migrants.” McGill deserves credit for creating a space for critical engagement and celebrating the diversity of learning.

What advice do you have for students new to McGill?

Go to office hours; professors don’t bite. Don’t be shy in conferences, especially in Arts classes, because those participation grades will count. Get involved on campus and join extracurricular activities.

Remember to not get caught up in the rush of it all and go at your own pace. Sometimes it seems as if everything is going at lightning speed, but remember: your journey is your own. Above all (and forgive me for the cliché), cherish your time here. Have a blast.


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