Buoyed by her experiences at Hart House, U of T undergrad Duaa Nasir encourages students to try something new and outside of their academic area. She was moved by an innovative and powerful storytelling program, a joint venture with Hart House Black Futures and the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office at UTM.

Undergrad Duaa Nasir, double majoring in Biology and Professional Writing & Communications at U of T Mississauga (UTM), is a creative and talented writer. Last year, she worked as a section editor at The Medium. “This gave me a chance to communicate with the student body centered around health, whether that was physical or mental health – sometimes reviewing research, sometimes reviewing events.” Being an editor also gave her the opportunity to learn how to manage a team of writers and work with other editors.

Duaa Nasir

 After graduation, she wants to combine her two areas of study ‒ science and communications ‒ perhaps via science journalism.

Now in fourth year, Duaa is a work study student at Hart House. “I'm working with the Learning and Community team on a variety of tasks, helping with event planning, sending out emails, creating flyers, helping out in person just to make sure everything's running well.”

Here, she enjoys contributing to a variety of different things “because I can broaden my experiences, what I'm learning about – being exposed to things that I wasn’t aware of or that I may not otherwise seek out. I think this is very interesting. I really enjoyed experiencing a lot of different sorts of events focused on health, culture and wellness. There's a lot to see at Hart House; a lot to learn.”

Storytelling Series Incredible and Inspirational

One particular event made a lasting impression on her. On October 6, as part of the Laugh, Cry, Cringe: Storytelling Series, Hart House Black Futures and the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office invited The Digital Sisterhood to U of T Mississauga.

Laugh, Cry, Cringe creates braver spaces to engage in conversations that explore personal stories, current events and cultural narratives, while unmasking misconceptions about various groups, communities and people. In this new storytelling format, the intention is to act as an outlet for folks to release tensions, build community, practice wellness and be encouraged to take positive action in their daily lives. 

“The Digital Sisterhood came together to grow and heal and share that opportunity with others,” Duaa explains. “There was a huge emphasis on sharing, which I really appreciated. As someone who loves stories and can become very attached to and invested in them, I found it incredible to see how this group of people came together, becoming more and more comfortable with sharing their own stories.”

As a Muslim woman, she was deeply affected by this event. “It was an interesting perspective for me to see – women expressing themselves, which isn't something I often see when it comes to talking about women who are wearing a hijab or niqab. But these women were confident, funny, enthusiastic, passionate. I found it really inspiring. I learned a lot from them. It was impressive what they were able to accomplish.”

One of the women in this group discussed her mother's suicide. “It was a very personal and sad experience but being able to communicate it and see the impact it had on others gave this woman a chance to gain some control over the narrative and process what happened to her.”

Program Underscores What Hart House Means to Her

Duaa believes this is an excellent example of how Hart House offers incredible opportunities to learn and experience many different things outside of the classroom. “There’s a focus on engaging, talking and taking time away from studies,” she says. “I think Hart House contributes to that learning and growing experience in a non-academic sense.”

In programs like the storytelling series, she was inspired “seeing the way other people carry and present themselves,” she says, adding, “That's not really stuff you pick up in a classroom. I think there's a lot that anyone can learn from these sorts of events or workshops at Hart House.”

Advice for Undergrads: “Take a Chance and Try Something New”

Duaa has some key messages for undergrads: “It's important to have experiences outside of the classroom. It’s not just taking a break from your academics, it’s more than that. A lot of us are focused on being productive, and there's a real push towards that. But I think that taking time to relax and explore things that sound interesting is beneficial for you in so many ways.” 

Eager to talk about her experience at Hart House, she hopes others will check it out. “At the House, I found everyone really approachable. It’s easy to access information – on the website, for example or just reaching out and asking.”

Duaa also urges undergrads to write down their thoughts and ideas. “You can share something that's important to you or to understand yourself better,” she says adding, “There are many different reasons to write, and I think most people can benefit from it somehow in some way.”

She encourages students to take 10 minutes out of their busy day “to write whatever’s on your mind without any pressure to share … just take that chance and give something new a try even when you're scared. This can lead to new experiences, new opportunities as a student.”