Annela Tchouadep finished her undergrad at UTM with a biology specialist. Annela described the program as very intense. She heard second year was the easiest for a student in her program, but she found it was just okay.
“In second year,” says Tchouadep, “I had so many bio and stats courses at once. Five tests in a single week was the norm.” In her first two years, all courses were mandatory. There were only one or two courses she enjoyed. It was in her third year that she was finally able to have some choice. “Third year was when I actually began enjoying the courses I was taking,” shared Tchouadep. She had looked forward to the finish-line for a long time, with her final goal being medical school. She was rewarded with an acceptance to the St. George University of London Medical School in England.
Tchouadep is originally from Montreal, Quebec and came to Ontario to study at UTM. Tchouadep’s family moved around a lot growing up. The second eldest of five children, Annela and her family lived in Montreal, the U.S., France, and Cameroon, before coming back to Montreal. Her father is from Russia and her mom is from Cameroon.
She had the unique opportunity to study in different school systems. There were aspects of each school system that she preferred. The U.S. school system, like the Canadian one, had periods and mandatory language classes. You had to take a mandatory secondary language and PE-type period.
In the U.S. system, it was a lot easier to skip grades, as opposed to the Canadian and French Systems. She had wanted to skip grades in the latter systems, but it wasn’t a question of whether she could do it, rather how she could be placed.
The U.S. has a process for helping students skip grades. Teachers recognize that a student knows everything they are teaching, the student takes whatever test or advance program needed to move on, and then they get placed in a higher grade. “They really got the ball rolling and rolling fast. The next year I went from the first grade to the third grade, opposed to other systems where it is designed because they don’t want to skip classes. Our parents wanted us to skip as much as possible.”
In terms of activities, aside from academics, Tchouadep preferred the French system. “In the other systems, parents had to pay for whatever extracurricular activities they wanted their children to do. Instruments or sports team, they was never free. You could make the school team for free, but there were always some additional costs,” explained Tchouadep.
In the French system, students were presented with a list of activities provided by the school. In France, Tchouadep chose horse riding and gymnastics, and while she had to pay for her own equipment, there were no other additional costs. Training, transportation, and tournaments fees were covered. All students had to do was show up.
“That, I enjoyed,” said Tchouadep. “I was interested without having to worry about how my parents were going to pay for it. And my parents were all for it. As long as it was free I could what I enjoyed.”
Tchouadep didn’t quite have the same opportunities in the U.S. as she did in France. “In the U.S., I really had to pick and choose what I could do. One instrument, one activity per semester.” Although she wanted to do so many different activities, living in the U.S., her choices were limited due to cost.
There was a bit of a cultural shock when she moved to Mississauga for school. There were a lot of things in common between Montreal and Mississauga. “You definitely felt like you were in the same country. People talk differently. But the biggest thing for me was being so far away from family.”
Tchouadep had a lot of trouble with the transportation system in Mississauga. “In Montreal, you can take the one bus to a station, and from there you can hop on any bus to get to where you need to be. Here you must take two buses to get to one place, and then get off at one stop to get to catch another bus. It was so hard for me to get by my first few weeks here. In Montreal, if you knew the city, it was very hard for you to get lost. I can’t tell you how many times I got lost coming to Mississauga,” said Tchouadep.
Sports played a big role in her family. Her father played soccer while her mother participated in Track and Field. The Tchouadep family was keen on making sure their children became well-rounded individuals. While the focus was on academic excellence, her parents encouraged her and her siblings to excel in other areas outside the classroom. “When we were young,” said Tchouadep, “our parents would sign us up for every different type of sport activity until we found the sport that fit us.”
Tchouadep fell in love of soccer after all the rotations of different sport her parents made sure she at least tried. She was trying basketball and her coach at the time asked if she had ever considered playing soccer. “My coach told me that I should try soccer next, because he said that I looked like I had the speed and agility to play. I tried it and realized that I really loved the feeling of moving the ball.” Unlike other sports, soccer was a lot harder for Tchouadep to get the hang of. Soccer was the one sport that really challenged her. “Unlike with other sports, I couldn’t do any fancy moves very quickly.”
Annela has played for UTM’s Women’s Tri-Campus soccer team since her first year. While she plays a forward, she will occasionally play mid-field. Forward is the position Tchouadep is most comfortable in. It’s the same position she played in high school. “I like the fact I can use my speed. That I can attack using my running speed. I feel like when I’m defending mid-field, I can’t just go for it; I can’t go as fast. I must think more. I don’t have to think about if I should pass back or make a long kick.”
At some point, Tchouadep had wanted to play soccer professionally. Her parents encouraged her to continue pursuing soccer while studying in university. Regardless of whether she could go pro, Tchouadep continued in university out of love for the sport. “I would like to get more wins, but I enjoy the sport itself and meeting new people.”
Now in her fourth year on the team, Tchouadep hopes that she can bring a positive spirit and attitude to her fellow teammates. She also hopes her work ethic, running back when she is exhausted, brings some positive energy to the team.
“I think I’ve been hard on myself. Playing soccer at UTM has allowed me to be okay with making mistakes.” Tchouadep has learned that everything is a process, and it is important not to carry the weight of a mistake like it’s a negative thing. UTM soccer has taught Tchouadep that it is important to improve, and sometimes mistakes are necessary to do that. “It’s also helped me become more resilient. In the past I would marinate on a loss. And now I’m able to look at that loss and bounce back because of soccer.”
Tchouadep was awarded several accolades over her time at UTM and with UTM Athletics. She was awarded the Women’s Tri-Campus Most Valuable Player award in each of her years at UTM. She won MVP for Women’s Outdoor soccer in 2018 and again in 2020, and for Women’s Indoor Soccer in both 2017 and 2020. In addition to her four MVP awards, Tchouadep was awarded the Cynthia E. Haddow Memorial Award in 2019, given to the female student who “best exemplifies leadership, enthusiasm, and a strong commitment to her team. She strives for self-improvement and demonstrates true sportsmanship,” according to the award’s description.
In her four years at UTM, Tchouadep hopes she can be an example of how it can be possible to be the stereotypical nerd and an athlete. “In high school there weren’t many examples of that. People would be very studious or very active. There were different groups. I happened to like playing an instrument, sports, and science.”
Tchouadep hopes she can be an example that it is okay to have various interests, and to be multifaceted, even if those areas are seemingly completely different from each other. “You can do multiple things at once. You don’t just have to be a nerd, or just be into sports. If you think you can manage it, do whatever you want.” Often, we’re told we can just be one type of person. Tchouadep hopes she can be a role model for people who want to be good, or known, for more than just one thing.