A couple of Canadians make their presence known at a recent UNIV Congress in Rome. Photo courtey UNIV

UNIV helps students navigate university, life

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • March 17, 2021

Young female Catholic university students in Canada are spiritually readying themselves for “navigating” through university culture, life and setbacks with the March 27-30 UNIV Inspire Congress — an annual international Catholic youth conference for high school seniors and college students held during Holy Week.

Canadian students got a head start on their spiritual journey by virtually attending Navigate 2021 in late February at Kintore College, an all-female residence near the St. George Campus of the University of Toronto. At this three-day workshop students got a glimpse into a future of what university life will bring.

Eva McGuire, the director of Kintore College and a planning committee member for Canadian UNIV delegations in the past, says Navigate and UNIV empower the young attendees to carve out their future. 

“During the university years, young adults make very big decisions, such as area of study, career and vocation discernment,” said McGuire. “These are decisions that have long lasting and profound effects. So, at this time it is essential that youth have guidance to navigate the world and the major choices in their life.”

The event featured keynote speeches from Rashad Badr, a co-founder of the e-learning company Optimal Work, author Christina Cook and U of T psychology professor and international speaker Tammy Peterson, wife of Canadian social and political academic Jordan Peterson. 

“What impressed me most about the speakers was the passion with which they delivered their talks,” said McGuire. “Tammy Peterson’s personal story moved many, and I have heard from some of the participants that it has shed light on their own lives.”

Meghan McQuay, a 19-year-old second-year History major at the University of Victoria, said she profited from Navigate primarily because of Badr’s testimonial on optimal work.

“Badr explained how when we approach our work, we must ask ourselves how it can be an opportunity for growth,” said McQuay. “Hearing this, I realized that I needed to change my mindset on work.”

McQuay says Navigate has prepared her for the prospect of participating in UNIV because the Canadian event helped her “reflect and brainstorm on what changes are needed in this world and in our digital environment.”

McGuire says providing an impactful preparation forum for UNIV was a touchstone goal of Navigate. 

“UNIV is like a model United Nations; you take part in activities and you could even submit research papers for scholarships,” she said. “It is a big academic event which demands preparation.” 

Indeed, participants were invited to submit academic papers up until March 1 for scholarship consideration. The UNIV forum website listed a plethora of topics in humanities, communication, politics, art, science, education, etc. to help percolate ideas. The best submissions earn scholarships and some writers deliver oral presentations at the event. A short video competition for scholarship prizes will also being staged. 

Rebecca Rebello, a third-year U of T kinesiology student, walked the cobblestone streets of Rome to engage with youth from over 80 countries at UNIV 2018. The 20-year-old, who will be attending digitally in 2021, says the gathering was seminal. 

 “UNIV arguably changed my life entirely because it was here that I was able to see how important and how beautiful my faith was,” said Rebello. “Although this year won’t be in-person, I am looking forward to meeting new people virtually.”

(Vecchiato, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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