Before he arrived at King’s, Ata Zargarpour says he was feeling a little lost.
“I really had no idea what I wanted to do, and why I should be doing it,” he said. The Vancouverite had taken two years off between high school and post-secondary school to figure things out. “I became kind of disillusioned with university even more so than I had been before.”
A guidance counsellor mentioned a handful of universities to Zargarpour that might speak to him, King’s being one of them. Travelling during his gap years brought him to Halifax and he found himself sitting in one of Dr. Tom Curran’s lectures.
“It [the Foundation Year Program] was the culmination of challenging what I believe but also not threatening it at any time, which is a curious balance.”
“They were at a crisis point,” Zargarpour said. “There had been all these snow days and papers were late and they were really behind.” It was the way the professor acted in that moment that turned on a switch in Zargarpour.
“[Dr. Curran] just gave this kind of locker-room speech,” he said. “He was like, ‘I need you to help me and we can get through this.’ It was just a really human moment and I came away from that really wanting to come here.”
That human element was missing from other universities, according to Zargarpour. “One thing I think is very unique about the King’s community is just how accessible the faculty and the administration are,” he said. “The president of the college lives here and you’ll see him walking his dog, and I just think that’s kind of crazy and special and beautiful.”
In a roundabout way, King’s also led Zargarpour to something else he needed in life. A follower of the Bahá`i faith, he found no other King’s students shared his faith. But, when he started exploring questions he felt were bound by his faith, he saw other FYP students were asking the same questions in their own way. “I think it was really special to feel like I had the space to explore these ideas…it was the culmination of challenging what I believe but also not threatening it at any time, which is a curious balance.”
It was the living and learning community that enabled Zargarpour to not only survive the extensive Foundation Year Program but to thrive in it—he ended up winning the Dr. Kathleen Margaret (Peggy) Heller Memorial Foundation Year Prize for achieving the highest marks in FYP. Along the way, he learned about the humanities and himself. “We would usually read these crazy old books and have no idea what was going on,” he said. But, then the class would gather for lectures and discuss the text under the guidance of the professor. “I think going in blind like that every time was really powerful to just learn to interact with something on your own first before receiving outside help.”