Voices (ISL Stories)

Meet Danica Torrens

Learn more about Danica Torrens, Alumna (Class of 2018)

Where are you living now?
I’m currently living in Vancouver, BC with one of my best friends after having lived with my mum up on the Sunshine Coast for over a year because of the pandemic.

What are you doing now?
After I left ISL, I moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia (UBC). I’m currently in my fourth and final year studying Political Science and Middle East Studies. I’ve taken an interesting compilation of classes including environmental politics, Islamic studies, Arabic, philosophy of religion and issues in international conflict management, to name a few. Apart from academics, I have been heavily involved with the Palestinian solidarity group since my first year and joining it has been such a powerful experience. I’ve met incredible people, learned so much and grown in both my knowledge and my understanding of how to approach the world and make change. Our team this year is majority Palestinian and all women and we host a variety of events, both political and cultural, focused on educating people on and advocating for Palestinian rights and liberation. Throughout COVID, we adapted to being online by hosting several online panels with high profile guests including politicians and lawyers, in collaboration with other organisations throughout Canada as well as focusing on growing our social media presence and putting together campaigns to pressure our politicians to vote in favour of Palestinian rights. I currently work part-time as a Communications Assistant for the Office of Regional and International Community Engagement. I am also a Senior Writer for an organisation called Spheres of Influence. It was started by two UBC graduates in order to give young people a platform to write about current events and delve deeper into them. We are guided by the principles of accessibility, decolonisation and accountability. I really enjoy writing and it has made me think about pursuing journalism after I graduate. The other options I am considering are grad school, law school or going to Jordan for a year to study Arabic - we’ll see what ends up happening! 

Do you think that your time at ISL helped you pursue this? If yes, how?
In many ways, yes. As stressful as the IB was, it did prepare me for university. Knowing how to properly write an essay and being able to cite correctly allowed me to be really efficient - a lot of people I knew in first year had not been taught to cite properly. This combined with me studying something I am passionate about means I have done very well academically at university. ISL’s emphasis on pushing out a well-rounded student with academics, sports and extracurriculars means you are forced to be good at managing your time which is an essential skill at university! Additionally, a lot of my teachers throughout middle and high school encouraged me to write, read and follow what I was passionate about and gave me avenues within the limits of the IB program to explore these. More personally, being surrounded by people from different parts of the world helped me keep my mind and heart open to new people, cultures, languages and experiences which I regard as an essential life skill. I have grown and changed since being at ISL but I am grateful for my time there and the impact it had on me.

What advice would you give students to help them make the most of their time at ISL?
Don’t limit yourself. This phrase encompasses a lot of things but mostly - ask questions and explore everything. The teachers at ISL are so knowledgeable about their subjects - ask them questions, if they mention something you find interesting in class, delve deeper into it and find opportunities to do so. In your Extended Essay, IAs and presentations go outside of the regular realm of topics. For example, I was learning about Palestine on my own time so I decided to write my Extended Essay on one of the failed ‘peace deals’ exploring why and how. Passionate about helping others? Use your CAS hours to go volunteer for the Red Cross or MSF. Don’t know what you want to study at university or thinking you don’t even want to go? Go talk to your university counsellors - Ms Byrne helped me feel confident in my decision. If you don’t have everything figured out - don’t panic. You are still young and you are lucky to have a strong support system around you so use it.

Another tidbit that goes for more generally your time in high school - ENJOY YOURSELF. School can be so stressful but in 10 years, you won’t look back in reminiscence on stressful study sessions - you’ll remember the nights you had surrounded by your closest friends, that festival you went to on a whim, even just the days you spent too long chatting at your favourite cafes. Find the balance and make some memories. Also, don’t forget to spend time with your parents or other family that you may not see as much after you graduate. You have your whole life to be an adult and be independent so relish the joys of living at home while you can! 

Were you involved in any clubs/activities at ISL? What did you enjoy about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
I was! I was on the swim team and soccer team mostly, though I tried some other sports too (to little success). I do not consider myself an athlete and never excelled at any sport in particular but I really enjoyed having an outlet during the week from the stress of academics, university applications or whatever else could have come up. I also took part in the YMGE conference a couple of times - if you are able, do it. Sign up with your friends and you get a trip to a cool city and meet people from a bunch of other schools while taking part in an interesting conference about world issues! Honestly - and this goes for high school, university and anything else - put yourself out there! Try everything, you don’t have anything to lose and chances are you’ll meet some interesting people along the way. That mentality is what pushed me in university to join clubs through which I’ve met some of my closest friends. I would truly encourage you to just try everything. In my first year, I went to lots of club meetings and random events to try stuff out and figure out what was for me. I was nervous a lot of the time about meeting new people but it helped immensely to remember that everyone else was in the same boat. 

If you could thank a teacher or staff member, who would it be?
I consider myself incredibly blessed to have had some really incredible teachers throughout my time at ISL who I can confidently say helped shape me into who I am today through encouraging me to think, write and follow my passions. Ms Morty for her enthusiasm and continued support. Mr McMahon for being the first teacher to encourage me to critically think and write about global affairs. Ms Schweifler for understanding my passion - I remember her telling me “If you can write about Palestine on your final and it's relevant, do it!” - and I did! Mr Penn for supervising my EE, the first big piece I wrote about Palestine, which helped keep me uplifted and not giving up despite clapbacks and challenges from some around me. Lastly, a huge thank you to Ms Pereira for being an incredible cheerleader throughout high school and now - thank you for listening to my rants and pushing me to keep going. 

And this isn’t even all of them. I was not the best student throughout high school - I was immature and felt unmotivated a lot of the time - but to all my teachers who remained patient, tried everything and went out of their way - thank you, thank you, thank you. (I’m tearing up writing this - so another emotional thank you).

Describe ISL in 5 words:
Fascinating, Intense, Supportive, Fun, Community 

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