School spirit

Thursday, October 8, 2020

“Two of my high school math teachers were alumni of Waterloo Math, and they constantly raved about the university,” remembered Gurtaj Dhaliwal. “Their classes were always the most challenging, and they would say things like ‘You have to buckle down if you want to go to Waterloo!’”

In spite of his teachers’ occasionally excessive cheerleading for Waterloo, the Brampton native pursued his passion for mathematics to the Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics. “I came in expecting to watch my marks drop dramatically and have no social life,” he admitted, “but my experience has been the opposite.” Gurtaj enthusiastically built a community of friends in his first-year residence and participated in a wide variety of recreational activities, from joining his residence council to organizing ping-pong tournaments. “I’ve enjoyed my university experience so much more than I thought I would,” he said. “I have a lot of school spirit!”

Gurtaj opted to join the Department of Pure Mathematics in order to study math for the sake of math, he explained. “I’ve never liked focusing on computations, so finding a very proof-heavy, theoretical field of math was a fantastic fit for me,” he said. “I love that moment where a difficult abstract concept just clicks. Pure Math lets me delve deeper and deeper into the mental challenge of solving puzzles.”

Now, Gurtaj has taken on the role of cheerleader for Waterloo Math as he passes down knowledge and school spirit to younger students. He is currently completing a co-op term at Sheridan College, where he works as a teaching assistant for first-year math classes. “My ultimate dream is to become a professor,” he revealed. “I want the opportunity to teach students who are passionate about the content.”

Gurtaj Dhaliwal in front of a bridge over a river

Gurtaj often shares one insight that he has taken to heart: “That first math class that makes you feel stupid is the class that will make you grow most as a mathematician,” he summarized. “Though the transition into university was smoother than I expected, I have still had my fair share of difficult classes where I spent an enormous amount of time trying to wrap my head around the content.”

Gurtaj recognizes that it can be intimidating for many students to cope with studying in an environment full of so many brilliant minds. “Eventually, you have to accept that you will hit walls when you try to understand concepts, and in every class, there will be someone smarter than you,” he recognized. On the other hand, Waterloo makes it worth the struggle. “This is where we get to chase the peaks of human knowledge,” he said. “I’m enjoying the process.”