Thinking beyond

For Ouelhore Diallo '22 RLC brought a sense of place, community, and perspective.

By Glen Herbert

“It’s very different from Rosseau,” she says. “No one really knows what’s going on, so we’re figuring it out together as we go.” 

I reached Ouelhore Diallo ’22 at Western University where she’s enrolled in the first semester of the Health Sciences program. She’s being honest, though given her disposition, as far as figuring it out goes, it’s easy to imagine that her peers are looking to her more than she’s looking to them. At RLC she was a prefect, a house leader, and simply a remarkable presence. She arrived at Western as recipient of a President’s International Admissions Scholarship, one of only five of its kind given each year. The citation notes that it is given to those who hold “an exceptional academic record [and] who have the potential to make outstanding contributions both in the classroom and beyond.”

"You felt heard and cared for”

Ouelhore first came to Rosseau Lake College in Grade 10, already worldly in all the best ways. She had lived in a list of countries, having moved every three or four years for her mother’s work. So she’d seen a lot. (When I ask her about her experience with outdoor education, she says “we had done outtrips to Mauritius. We did skiing and hiking. I remember the year before I came we went on a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro where we hiked up.”) But being worldly isn’t just about the destinations, it’s also about the perspective that thinking globally can offer. And Ouelhore has that, too: a calm confidence, a sense of being comfortable in the world, aware of the opportunities it can present.

Ouelhore’s last school prior to RLC was an international British school in Tanzania. “My mom thought it might be a good idea for me to go abroad,” perhaps specifically to North America. “When we came across Rosseau, I just really liked the idea of the community, and the outdoors.” She visited during that summer and enrolled the following year.

Unlike some of the other places that she had lived, this was different. “I really felt that I was close to everyone. It’s crazy because I felt connected to everyone.” Despite the cultural, linguistic, and personal differences represented within the student body—or perhaps because of them—they all felt like kindred spirits. “It just felt like we all were in the same boat,” she says. “Everyone could just relate and talk to each other. … and you could have conversations. You felt heard, and cared for, and I really appreciated that.” Academically “everyone would just seek different ways of learning, or different ways to bring your ideas forward. It was that creative aspect of learning, of not just being black and white. And I think that really helps when you come to university. It helps you to find your way, to study, to prepare for things. That idea of looking beyond the assignment, or the project, or the equation, or whatever you’re doing, and finding other ways, connecting things.”

She mentions the Discovery Day projects as an example of learning about how different things are connected, bringing together seemingly disparate aspects of the curriculum. “That really helps me here when you’re doing a major in something, and you have all these classes,” she says. “I’m able to anticipate exam questions, because I’m able to come up with, like, Discovery Day questions, connecting all the different classes together, and just thinking beyond.”     

"I don't know what I want to be ... I just know where I want to be" 

“I just feel like RLC just opens up your perspectives on life,” she says. “Ever since I went to RLC I’ve been very focussed on perspective, and just open mindedness. I feel that has sort of become my motto, and I think that’s what’s going to push me forward in this field.” 

The program she’s in at Western is interdisciplinary and, as she says, is both deep and broad; it’s as much about wellbeing and resilience as it is about biology and chemistry. “The program just brings it all together. And, actually, at Rosseau I think it was in Grade 11, I took this humanities course, and you did anthropology, psychology and sociology. And, I felt like that really made me understand what field I wanted to enter.” She adds that, “I don’t like doing the sciences and just leaving it at that. I like thinking about other things, like the social aspects of life.”

For her, it’s all about focus. “There is this new idea of global health. It's a more holistic view,” one that considers how we practice medicine, including how we measure health, and working away from just the physical aspects of the discipline. “It just makes more sense.”

It really does. I ask her what she wants to do with the degree, and her answer says more than perhaps she is aware. Some might say something like, I want to open a practice, or I want to go into research and teaching. Instead she says, “I want to do something that helps people. I don’t know what I want to be, to be honest, I just know where I want to be. I want to be using my knowledge to help people. Honestly, that’s all. I want to talk to people, and be more connected to people. To really understand them.”

Clearly, she’s well on her way.