Pieces of home: What UTSC students brought with them to residence

Devlin Grewal
We spoke with four U of T Scarborough students about the stories behind sentimental objects they brought with them to residence. (Photos by: Tina Adamopoulos)

Tina Adamopoulos

Moving away from home can be a challenge, and for many university students living on campus it’s their first experience living on their own. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a piece of home with you. 

We asked four U of T Scarborough students about the stories behind sentimental objects they brought with them all the way from home to residence. 

Simran Vedvyas

Simran Vedvyas 
4th year // Sociology and Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease 
Home town: Dubai, United Arab Emirates 

Simran Vedvyas has visited 48 countries. Her love of travelling and interest in geography was fostered by her parents – she’s had a world map in her room since she was one year old. At one point, she was even able to name the capitals, currencies and interesting facts about multiple countries. 

Now, she’s continued the tradition of having a world map in her room on campus. 

“It’s all these experiences that I’ve had the chance to do because of that one world map that really shaped my entire world view,” says Vedvyas, a lead residence adviser at Joan Foley Hall. 

Outlined with fairy lights, the tapestry of the world map pinned to her wall features rich watercolour design that blend into each other. As a lead residence advisor, Vedvyas is dedicated to inclusive excellence, and a map without borders symbolizes her belief in unity and celebrating diversity. 

The map is also the first thing she sees every day when she wakes up, and acts as a reminder of her dreams and ambitions, and all the places she has yet to explore. 

“It reminds me that there is a world outside of this campus that I still have a lot to see and learn from. I want to take what I’ve learned here and be able to apply it wherever I go,” she says. 

“I love travelling. It keeps my spirit alive.”

Devlin Grewal

Devlin Grewal 
2nd year // Integrative biology 
Home town: Suva, Fiji 

On Devlin Grewal’s bookshelf, there is a little elephant settled beside a box of cards. 

Grewal bought it from a stonecutter at a local market in Delhi, India, and took it to Texas, where he worked at a hospital before coming to U of T Scarborough (he wraps the figurine in his socks to protect it when travelling). 

“It was actually the last time I saw my parents before coming to university,” Grewal says. “I’ve taken him with me everywhere I’ve gone.” 

It’s one of two objects that helps make the second-year student feel more at home. Upon returning home for vacation this summer, Grewal bought another piece, a boldly patterned sulu, that he mounted on the wall beside his bed. 

“Last year, my room had a lot of white space. I call my parents every week and when they see me, the background is always the sulu,” he says. “Unconsciously, I think it’s like reconnecting back home.” 

A sulu is traditional clothing in Fiji, worn by men and women to events. Designed, patterned and dyed in block prints, the one hanging on Grewal’s wall is made out of cotton, while others are made with mulberry bark. “When I look at it, it reminds me of home. A lot of things that people associate with Fiji is florals prints and beaches, but I think being more connected to the authentic Fiji makes me feel more at home here.”

Lia Weng

Lia Weng 
1st year // Linguistics 
Home town: Shanghai, China 

Lia Weng has been sporting the same red bracelet since 2012. It was a gift she received from her school for her Grade 6 graduation -- which also marks the year she lived in Toronto when she was 11 years old. 

The engraving on the band, originally the school’s name, has worn out over time. But its story carries special meaning for Weng, who is literally wearing those memories on her sleeve. 

“I keep it on my hand because I thought (my time in Canada) was a unique experience for me. I came to Canada when I was little and then went back, and it’s not something everyone experiences,” says Weng, a first-year linguistics student from Shanghai, China. 

For Weng, who came to U of T Scarborough as part of the Green Path Program, the red rubber bracelet is also a symbol of her connection to Toronto. Her experiences as a returning student in the city felt similar to when she first arrived all those years ago, but she is still readjusting to her new environment and living on her own. 

The bracelet serves as a reminder that she did it once, and can do it again. “Right now, there is a cultural difference that I still need to get used to, but the bracelet reminds me that I have done this before.”  

Suddene Stone

Suddene Stone 
1st year // Psychology 
Home town: St. Catherine, Jamaica

When Suddene Stone went to a paint and sip (a group painting session accompanied by beverages) back home in Jamaica, he would have never known that he would later carry his painting with him all the way to Canada -- and what it would mean to him. 

“Even though it’s not the best-looking painting, it looks like a picture that you would probably see in Jamaica, with the palm trees and the sunshine and the ocean,” says Stone, a first-year psychology student. “When I look at it, I remember the memories I have with friends and family and I remember my home.” 

The painting, taped to his bedroom wall, is painted with vibrant, warm colours of red, orange and yellow. Rays of sun light reflect off the blue water. Stone used black paint to illustrate palm trees, crows and a boat sailing through the water. 

“The crows represent negativity, the palm trees represent good times and the boat represents the rough sea and life’s journey.” 

He also has a Jamaican flag hanging above his bed, and a water bottle with the island’s colours -- all of which serve as a constant reminder of his family, friends and life back home. 

“Sometimes I get homesick and I look at that object and it’s a reminder of home. I remember the good times with friends and family and it helps me cope with not being with them.”