“When you happen to encounter failure, use it as a major learning lesson.” Meet Beedie Luminary Polina Petlitsyna, currently enrolled at UBC.
What program will you be taking in post-secondary and why does it interest you?
I will be pursuing the Bachelor of Science because it was something I always felt passionate about. Biology, in particular, is very complex and interconnected; I find this subject very beautiful as it makes me realize how lucky we are to be equipped with body systems that do our breathing for us. At the same time, we are able to digest food, destroy foreign cells, and convert our thoughts into words (which is what I am doing right at this moment).
Tell us a little bit about your background (growing up, going to school, extra-curricular activities, etc.).
I grew up in the southern part of Russia and moved to Burnaby at the age of 11. It was quite a change; my English skills were practically nonexistent and my mother and I experienced many challenges along the way. While I was not in the position to afford school sport involvement, I would discover other free opportunities around me and get involved to the best of my ability. And so, I got involved in clubs such as Burnaby South Secondary school’s Green Team, finishing my senior year as vice-president of the club. I also partook in quite a bit of public speaking, earning four medals (one bronze, one silver, two gold) at the Concours D’Art Oratoire over the span of my time at Burnaby South. Outside of school, I played (and still play) recreational tennis and went on hikes, bikes, and runs. Every week, I would take drop-in dance classes at Harbour Dance Centre (my dancing journey was a long one) as well as play piano, guitar, alto saxophone, and ukulele. As someone with a huge academic focus, I came face-to-face with some serious challenges, one being alapecia areata, partial hair loss due to both stress and genetics. It was an absolutely devastating time for me and my family. This event went on to radically change my approach to learning, the balance of life and work, as well as my personal values and priorities. Having seen how stress negatively affected my life, I hope to always put my health first and deal with school-related stress safely and painlessly. Coming back to my interests, one of my favourite contributions so far have been volunteering at Fellburn Care Centre, a senior care centre, as a morning exercise assistant. It was a very rewarding experience (thank you to Jenny Lee, an amazing volunteer coordinator) as I got to see great improvement in the residents’ strength and flexibility. I am currently trying out a volunteering position of a wayfinder over at Burnaby Hospital. A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a sensory bracelet capable of translating bass sounds into felt vibrations. This idea allowed British Columbia School For the Deaf dance students to perform with a newfound appreciation for dance. With the help of the media class students, my idea was brought to life, and the recording of its process earned Burnaby South its finalist status in the 2017 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow STEM video competition, as well as $20,000 worth of filming equipment. I am beyond grateful to have followed the vision in my head and used my communication skills to create a collaborative team environment.
Who inspires you, and why?
That would have to be my wonderful mother. Taking a leap and moving into a new country with a new language (with eleven-year-old me under her arm) must have been a terrifying and selfless experience. She always tells me about how she wanted me to have a better quality of life all while living in a cleaner environment (I was born in the south of Russia and would always get sick). As a single divorced mother, her brave decisions and devoted actions never cease to amaze me, reminding me to learn how I can adopt such great qualities and be the best daughter, student, and Canadian citizen that I can be.
What motivates you, and why?
In order for me to feel motivated, I have to seek out some aspect of the activity that would be of great interest to me. It could be either big or small – it doesn’t matter. As one who is driven by passion and a greater cause, finding that small reason can get me really excited in the activity. I am not the type of person to engage in something that doesn’t have a valuable reason or a meaningful implication to follow it (the “why” question, in other words). Once I do find it, the process flows pretty smoothly. Similar to dominoes toppling one after another, my interest and motivation grows more and more allowing me to give my all to my activity of choice.
What are your goals for the upcoming school year?
This upcoming year is peppered with quite a few goals for me. My biggest one would be managing my time as the semester gets progressively busier. I hope to structure my day in a way that doesn’t bring me too much stress (as I don’t want it to affect my health). This way, I am able to dedicate some time for myself (exercise and extra-curricular activities) and be productive with the schedule that I have picked out.
What is one thing you learned in high school that you will take with you to post-secondary?
Communication – it is so crucial to have. Whether it means connecting with your prof or setting up a group project, learning how to get my thoughts, wishes and concerns across helped me and really elevated my high school experience. Communication skills are tools that can work in any situation hence why I will be taking them with me as I embark on my university journey.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to future Luminaries?
My biggest piece of advice would be to prepare to fail. It sounds rather bizarre. However, it took me several failures to realize and realign my goals and values. When I say failures, I mean moments of rejection, ignorance, and effects that came to negatively affect me. So, in summary, don’t assume invincibility; when you happen to encounter failure, use it as a major learning lesson. This experience along with many others will allow you to grow as a student and as an individual, bringing a new sense of clarity and direction into your life.Back To Top