Discovering passion through volunteering

Sydney climbing up a waterfall in a rainforest.
Sydney climbing up a waterfall in a rainforest.
Growing up in Waterloo, Sydney Johannsen looked to the University of Waterloo as a place to ignite her scientific curiosity. What she didn’t anticipate was that her time here would lead to self-discovery and a new desire for a career in education. 

Initially enrolling in the Biomedical Sciences program, she entered university with plans for a future in medicine. However, as she moved through her degree she found her true calling elsewhere. Her involvement with Let’s Talk Science, a Science Outreach initiative committed to connecting youth with science education, brought an unexpected revelation. It was not only studying science, but also sharing her knowledge with others that brought her joy. 

During her high school years, Johannsen wrestled with social anxiety and the daunting task of public speaking. Now, you’ll find her confidently guiding high school students through science programs with ease. 

"Stepping into the classroom and interacting with students was intimidating," she confessed. "But it felt like second nature, and it boosted my self-confidence in the process." 

Trusting her instincts, Johannsen pivoted in her third year to an Honours Science degree, allowing her to explore a larger selection of courses better suited to her new path of becoming a teacher. It is a goal she will continue to pursue this fall at Western University in the Intermediate/Senior Teacher Education program. 

Before heading to Western, she seized the opportunity for one last adventure with the university in a field course trip to Costa Rica. Led by Dean Chris Houser, she joined a group of students in exploring lush rainforests and sandy beaches, ziplining high above treetops, and trekking the trails surrounding a volcano all while delving into emerging issues in ecology, hydrology and geology.    

As Johannsen prepares to close the book on her time at Waterloo, she offers this advice to incoming students: "don’t be afraid to try something different and keep yourself open to new opportunities that come your way," she says. "You could discover skills, talents and passions you didn’t know you had!"  
Sarah Fullerton