Introducing Anastasia Guzenko ’18 – a Prefect who has learned how wonderful it can be to be different. Read how her Ridley experience has been an immersive one; introducing her to unique, cultural and invigorating opportunities.
Why did you choose Ridley? When looking at different schools across Canada, my mother, with the help of an agent, narrowed the possible list down to three schools and Ridley was one of them. Being attracted by Harry Potter looking dining hall, artwork that decorates school hallways, cozy classrooms, giant athletic facilities, the Mandeville Theatre, music department, green grass fields and warm rooms, alongside endless opportunities and rigorous academic programmes convinced me to choose Ridley over other schools.
Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley? Absolutely not! Although I came and visited Ridley beforehand, I generally didn’t know why and what I was going for. I have never changed schools or place of living before. Even when the plane landed at Pearson Airport, I still had a lot of doubts. However, as soon as my orientation day has started, all my concerns were gone. Every person, whether it was a student, staff or faculty member, was all extremely friendly and welcoming, which shows the warm and hospitable nature of the Ridley community.
Who is your favourite faculty member? There is something very unique and special about every faculty member who was somehow involved in my Ridley life and choosing one will be impossible. Ms. Anderson, Ms. Blagona and Ms. Thompson are like my true mothers on the other side of the world. Ms. Becken’s History classes and funny, yet sometimes serious conversations about Extended Essay, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Mugan constant inspiration and amazing opportunity to travel to Germany this summer, Mrs. Darby and Mr. Darby’s help and support with connecting me to Rotary organization and getting me on an Australian exchange, Ms. Fournier’s wonderful introduction to the world of theatre and advisor support throughout my Grade 10 year, my ‘never stop believing’ coaches Ms. Thomas and Ms. O.R., all of the Mandeville house faculty, my passionate, enthusiastic and patient teachers: the list can go on and on… I hope you can feel my struggle of choosing just one.
What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley? The greatest challenge in my Ridley career so far has been realizing that there are only 24 hours a day, at least six of which are taken away by sleeping. With Ridley’s huge variety of clubs and opportunities, it was a challenging to fit all the activities I am interested in into my schedule, while ensuring that I am doing well academically. In the end, it all comes down to time-management and this is a key requirement for getting the most out of this place.
What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley? I think my greatest accomplishment was growing as a person, as a student and as a leader. Before coming to Ridley, I lived in my own bubble without paying much attention to global issues, emerging problems, etc. However, by being surrounded with such multicultural community and being constantly pushed to the limit by International Baccalaureate programme, I was able to put myself on a path of becoming a global citizen. Moreover, receiving The Jay Feagan-Philip Davies Memorial Award this year for character development and leadership potential was a huge accomplishment for me as it has been previously won by truly amazing and very inspirational people and it is an honour to be a recipient.
What has been your favourite Ridley experience? I really enjoy the events that bring the whole school together, for example: camp, Ridley’s birthday, Cross Country Run, arts celebrations, spirit nights, Sports Day and much more. However, I think my favourite one is Snake Dance. It is one of the longest standing traditions at Ridley and it is one of the first school gatherings of the year. I feel like this is when new students begin to feel the spirit of a tiger and experience the feeling of a strongly–bonded community. In addition, it is an incredibly fun away to start up the academic year.
What has been your favourite part of Ridley life? My favourite part of Ridley life is the feeling of being a part of this supportive and very culturally diverse community, as well as the ability to call Ridley my home. It’s incredible; when walking down the hallway, you can hear your peers speak German, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Russian and Igbo. Also, it sets up an amazing example to the whole world, how so many cultures can bond in such a small place, living and interacting peacefully with each other on daily basis.
What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for? I am not quite sure yet as I don’t know all the small details of what it is like being a Prefect, but I am excited about this challenge. I am excited to advance or to finish the initiatives that have been brought up by previous generations of Prefects. At the end of next year, I am excited to reflect and see the positive impact on Ridley and the Niagara community that will hopefully be made. I think I am very lucky to be a part of such amazingly talented group of people and I am excited to take on this journey with them, which will be filled with joy and lots of learning.
How has Ridley prepared you for the future? Ridley gave me an opportunity to pursue the IB programme, which has been very rigorous and demanding so far. It taught me and keeps teaching me how to ‘live my life’, in a good sense of this phrase. Now, after completing only one year, I feel like I am a more mature person, who can approach tasks creativity and critically, considering a variety of different perspectives. Ridley is like a little world, filled with lots of unique moments, long-lasting friendships and challenging decisions. This is what life is all about.
What are your plans after graduation? I think I will peruse an undergraduate degree at a university. Ideally, I will be double-majoring in international relations and theatre. However, whatever I will end up doing or wherever I will end up going, I want to keep learning language, travelling and culturally exploring the world.
What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley? Ridley is a place of opportunities and self-growth. Don’t be scared to take risks, to try things even though you have never seen yourself doing them, join activities, participate. Embrace your weirdness and unique characteristics and don’t judge people for being different. Being different is great. Never give up when something goes wrong, aim to become better every day. Don’t be afraid to meet people; don’t hesitate to ask them for help or advice – you will be surrounded by people from all over the world and I am sure there will at least one person who will be able to relate to your struggle. Finally, make your own decisions and don’t be scared to express your own opinions but keep in mind and respect the fact that there are people from 46 other countries. You have one chance of being at Ridley, so use it!