Andrei Iliuta & Christina Beharry| October 6, 2019
The Translational Research Program isn’t simply about creating a network of diverse individuals. A major emphasis for those in the program is on building community – meaningful bonds and relationships between these people. To achieve this, classes are structured in a way that group work and inter-team collaboration is a must, but that’s not the only way we’re encouraged to interact. A part of the “hidden curriculum” of the program involves encouraging students to connect outside of class, with regular social outings, which are planned and executed by the social committee.
Love And Learning At The TRP
TRP Alumni Andrei Iliuta (class of 2017) and Christina Beharry (class of 2019) have recently announced their engagement. In their joint-blog, they share their experiences in finding love and how the TRP played a role in their lives.
Andrei: As I left the TRP with its tightly knit community and entered the wider world of IMS at the beginning of my Ph.D. program, it quickly became obvious that it would be far more difficult to find like-minded individuals. After all, we only had one course in common and barely had a chance to interact in our vast amphitheatre. I continued to attend TRP social nights and one time I remember suggesting humorously we should do a board games night. The answer was – I should do it myself (and that was from Moni)! So I joined the social committee even though I had no experience with this sort of activity. It turned out it was fun to be creative in a more socially-oriented way and it helped me step out of my comfort zone.
Christina: I had completed my undergraduate studies at UofT, but I found my experience rather isolating. I didn’t make meaningful connections to people within my program, because it felt like everyone was against each other rather than working together. As a result, I only focused on studying and didn’t get a chance to participate in campus life. When I was accepted into this program, it was important to me to try and get a bit of that experience, which is why I joined the social committee.
Andrei: We both ended up on the social committee but we didn’t really get to talk much. I was the only alumnus, surrounded by younger people with a different academic background from mine, and it felt a bit odd. What did Christina and I think about each other? Not much, if at all. I remember our longest conversation occurred when she showed us a shot of a Pollock painting. I just said I wasn’t much of a fan of abstract expressionism!
Christina: After months of meetings, we knew each other by name, but that was it. I like to think that we truly met at the end of year social which was planned by the committee we were both on. One thing that most of our classmates don’t know about us is the fact that we’re both poets. I only found out during the social, when one of our friends and fellow TRP alumnus, Ibrahim Alshaygy, mentioned that Andrei had recently published a book. He had bragged about buying two copies, and that’s when I realized that I had to talk to the author before the night was over.
Andrei: It was funny, we suddenly made eye contact and Christina, smiling, said she wanted to learn more about my writing. So we mainly talked about that – about when we started writing and what we tended to write on. Writing (along with literature in general) has always been one of my greatest passions – quite possibly, the one I’d be pursuing now exclusively if it was lucrative enough (but I sadly don’t see myself publishing a handful of bestsellers)! Unsurprisingly, in addition to her natural warmth and charm, it was the one thing that drew me to Christina.
Christina: I think what attracted me most to Andrei was his patience and kindness. Most people have a difficult time believing is that the two of us are extremely alike (except for our taste in music, though he did convince me to go to several metal shows).
We both love reading, writing, birds (thanks to me!) and all things nerdy! While we may not seem like it in public, we both also have very similar personalities and approach life in a very similar way.
Andrei: Interestingly, when I attended an orientation activity for graduate students in September of 2017, one of the faculty speakers quipped “should we look about hard enough, we might eventually win a mate!” Turns out there was some truth to that. Although I wouldn’t necessarily have expected it to happen within the confines of my old program. Maybe the strengths of the TRP also shone through in that particular conjuncture as Christina and I came to know each other in a small, comfortable social space where people were encouraged to mingle and share ideas and dreams.
Christina: When I first started the program, I was so focused on how different everyone was from me, instead of noticing that we all had similar qualities that lead us to be in the same room. Perhaps the TRP acts as a bit of a vetting process, similar to those matchmaking sites, and that’s why things worked out for us. At the very least, we would never have met if we both weren’t in the same program, so we do have the TRP to thank for that!
Andrei and Christina would like to invite their friends from the TRP to join them on Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 7 PM at Fran’s Upper deck to celebrate their engagement!