“What I most appreciate about Waterloo Arts is that I got to have so many different focuses.”

This fall, Sabrina Khandakar is graduating with a degree in Honours Arts and Business with a major in Political Science — but her list of accomplishment stem much further than that.

When Khandakar was first debating where to go to university, she was considering Toronto-area schools, but Waterloo could offer her something the others couldn’t — an internationally recognized co-op program that would offer her real-world working experience.

“I struggled to choose between business and political science programs, so I googled both majors and Waterloo Arts popped up — I knew this was the right fit.”

More than a degree

Khandakar’s degree expanded even further when her professor encouraged her to pursue a minor in Fine Arts. Along with her professor’s encouragement, her family also inspired her to broaden her degree.

Sabrina Khandakar“I was lucky to grow up with three older sisters, who nurtured a lot of my different interests. I recently realized how much my degree reflects them; one works in politics, one in business and one has always been an artist.”

Khandakar also completed minors in International Trade and International Studies, as well as a specialization in Global Governance. These academic paths led her to run for Senator At-Large and Board of Governors at the University of Waterloo — both of which she successfully acquired.

As Senator At-Large, Khandakar represented more than 34,000 students. As part of the Board of Governors, Khandakar provided guidance concerning student decisions. Through this experience, Khandakar was able to enhance her leadership skills and get a glimpse into the complexities of decision-making that happens within large educational institutions such as Waterloo.

“Being on the Board of Governors and Senate were highlights of my time on campus,” Khandakar said. “During my campaign for Senator At-Large, I got a chance to speak to more than 500 students and as a Board Member, I had the privilege of sitting on the Presidential Nomination Committee and helping select President Vivek Goel.”

Finding resilience in challenges

Although there are many highlights to Khandakar’s academic career, there were also many challenges she had to overcome. In her second year, she fainted and sustained a head injury which resulted in vision and reading problems. She was able to seek help from University of Waterloo Optometry Clinic to recoup from her concussion. While it was difficult to manage her recovery along with school, co-ops and extracurriculars, she learned to adjust.

“I had to be much more conscious of what I gave my time to and plan everything meticulously.”

Khandakar pushed herself and by overcoming this difficult time in her life, she was able to graduate with distinction.

“I now joke that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you more efficient.’”

“You will hit rough patches and, to me, resilience begins with consciously choosing your own narrative in those moments. There's a big difference between asking ‘Can I do it?’ versus ‘How can I do it?’ When you approach challenges this way, the focus is solely about what actionable steps you can take to overcome them.”

Discovering the work relationship

Not only did Khandakar want to take advantage of academic and volunteer opportunities at Waterloo, but she wanted to gain work experience too. Through Waterloo’s co-op program, she worked in a variety of positions at several organizations including TR Global Labs, Deloitte, Waterloo Economic Development and Legacy Leadership Lab.

“I got a lot of creative freedom,” she says. “I was tasked to find gaps in the organization and pitch my solution to leadership. I was given the responsibility of mentoring another university co-op and even designed a whiteboard mural.”

Through these enriching experiences, she developed exceptional skills in creativity, organization and leadership. “I left each position with new mentors, friends and stronger sense of direction,” she recalls.

Khandakar is currently working at Deloitte as a Business Analyst, working on a project with a federal client which combines her education in political science and business.

Khandakar’s undergraduate journey is a strong reminder to always seek new opportunities and find ways to push through difficult times.