“You are the captain of your ship, so make the most of your voyage,” says kinesiology grad Rebecca Chan

An image of the U of T dragon boat racing team, with KPE graduating student Rebecca Chan in the middle looking towards the camera (photo courtesy of Rebecca Chan)
An image of the U of T dragon boat racing team, with KPE graduating student Rebecca Chan in the middle looking towards the camera (photo courtesy of Rebecca Chan)

Rebecca Chan had so many interests coming out of high school - from English, to computer science, to music and sports – that she could have gone anywhere for her post-secondary education. 

But she knew she wanted to be in sports for life, in any capacity. 

“In high school, I was involved in various sports and had a lot of fun doing all of them – wushu, badminton, track and field, swimming, netball, dance– no matter the level of competition,” says Chan, who is graduating this spring with an undergraduate degree from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto.

“I just purely enjoyed participating in physical activity and having fun with my teammates and friends.”

When she was seventeen, Chan, who is from Malaysia, went on a trip to Canberra, where she visited the Australian Institute of Sport.

“There was something about helping athletes achieve their dreams that seemed so fulfilling to me that I decided it would be a viable option for tertiary education.

“I did a few internships at physiotherapy clinics and saw how they created such tangible, immediate changes in the lives of all kinds of people and I was hooked.”

Chan successfully applied for the Lester B. Pearson International Student Scholarship program, which funded her undergraduate studies of kinesiology at U of T.

“I am so grateful,” she says of the opportunity. “There hasn’t been a single class I’ve taken where I did not learn something that has shaped my current point of view, be it pertaining to physical activity, health and even life as a whole.

“I cannot overstate how invaluable the combination of a sociological and scientific foundation has been for me in my interactions with people, having been exposed to a variety of relationships between people and physical activity.

“It’s this kind of well-rounded insight that makes U of T kin graduates the kind of healthcare practitioners who see the ‘person through the problems’ – and I am proud to be a part of this academic tradition.”

One of the highlights of her student days has been working as a teaching assistant for the KPE anatomy classes and conducting research with the Biomechanics and Sport Medicine lab at KPE.

“KPE students are so privileged with the access they have to hands-on anatomical learning, and being able to facilitate that learning is just as big, if not more, of a privilege,” says Chan. “There is no greater feeling than helping students reach an “Aha!” moment, or having them tell you they remembered something on a test because of a fun trick you taught them in lab.

“In first year, students are not just learning content– they are also learning how to be students.”

The biggest challenge Chan faced was juggling all the things she wanted to do in undergrad. She joined the U of T dragon boat racing team, was a lion dancer, a TA, a residence don at St Mike’s College and also the chair of the Hart House jazz a cappella choir, with each of these responsibilities requiring extensive time commitments.

“Balancing dragon boat and my studies was not difficult because of the sport itself, but more so because of all the administrative work we have to do to keep the club running,” says Chan. “As we are a fully student-run club, UCDBC’s exec team is in charge of over 90 club members and their training.”

This year, Chan is serving as the finance director and says it’s been a challenge to budget, source and manage the finances of a club with an operational cost of over 70 thousand dollars.

“The only reason I have been able to survive is because I am supported by the most competent, dedicated and passionate group of execs I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” she says. “We’re a great team, both on the water and off, and I truly have them to thank for being able to balance everything.”

Her message for the students following in her footsteps is that it is important to have a love for learning and to be able to find something you love learning about, no matter the subject.

“Although some of the mandatory classes at KPE did not immediately pique my interest, I found that once I took a big-picture approach and thought about it in the context of real life, the content became a lot more engaging and thought-provoking,” says Chan. “As a student, you really are the captain of your own ship, not just in the courses you choose but also in how you think about things, so make the most of your voyage.”

Chan gave a shoutout to Assistant Professor Timothy Burkhart, Associate Professor Judi Laprade, Professor Doug Richards, Associate Professor Tim Taha, Assistant Professor Tracia Finlay-Watson, Professor Michael Atkinson, Associate Professor Simon Darnell and teaching assistant Alex di Battista for supporting her on this voyage.

“They have truly inspired me and helped me through my journey, whether they know it or not,” she said. “I have learned so much from all of them and I cannot thank them enough.”