Leo Cai '21

School & Program
University of Toronto, Department of Materials Science & Engineering

Meadowridge Student Since
Grade 9

Born in
Beijing, China

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve been interested in mechanics since I was young. As a kid, I remember that whatever I drew looked like really rough blueprints more than any drawing. When I was ten, my dream job was to be a car mechanic but as I got older and learned more about science, physical science, and math, my career ambitions grew. I have a lot of hobbies. This includes robotics, an interest I discovered at Meadowridge, as well as flying remote control airplanes. I’ve also enjoyed helping as the light technician with school productions. These interests and hobbies influenced my course selection and eventually my university program. I didn’t realize at the time that they were leading me in that direction, but it all worked well and my hobbies merged together. It was a random chance that they led to this, like rolling a die.

How did you first find yourself at Meadowridge?

I wanted to attend a university in Canada, so I actually asked my parents if I could find a school here so I could get used to the system and life out here. My parents and I talked about this and they agreed we could make it work. We picked Meadowridge because of the IB Programme— we liked that it was challenging and more widely known. When I first joined, I remember being nervous because the other students looked so formal in their uniforms. Like, what am I doing here? But it got better, of course.

Tell us about your year ahead.

I’m planning to live in residence for the first year, but after that I may look at off-campus places. We’ll see! The plan was to visit Toronto over the summer and look at nearby places, but then of course the travel ban didn’t allow that to happen. Other than that and school, I look forward to getting a feel for the east of Canada.

Meadowridge also has some amazing teachers. They give up their weekends and after school time to help us with questions or host clubs. My Diploma Programme (DP) teachers really made my high school experience. They were always there to help, were reachable, and cared.

What was it about Engineering?

Well, my hobbies motivated my decision for sure. My father also influenced me. Growing up, we worked on air model aircrafts together and he shaped my ideological thinking. I knew I wanted to make a difference in my career. That’s why I chose a more research-focused career that will allow me to make discoveries and change the world. Like, if I found a new way to process materials, that’ll enable many new designs without limitations in things like weight or strength. But lot of things can happen – who knows!

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?

Building connections with people. Your friends are the people who will be with you for life. I don’t know if this is true or not – but, I feel like connections are more important than the things you learn or do. Society is, at the end of the day, a group of people. It’s not just about knowledge. Having connections also make you less lonely. Connections also provide more opportunities for all things in life. What happens in our lives is by random chance. I talked about dice before – well, making connections gives you more dice to roll, which increases the good chances you have.

I’m also excited for some freedom. It’s scary, but it’s also a step everyone needs to take. It just means that if you mess up, you pay the consequences. If you don’t do laundry, you won’t have a shirt to wear. If you don’t do groceries, you won’t have anything to eat! That’s scary but exciting.

What will you miss most as you move onto the next chapter?

Definitely my teachers and classmates. Even though some of my classmates and I will go to the same school, we won’t be on the same campus since we’re not in the same program. Right now, I see them daily, but next year it’ll be weekly or even less. Meadowridge also has some amazing teachers. They give up their weekends and after school time to help us with questions or host clubs. My Diploma Programme (DP) teachers really made my high school experience. They were always there to help, were reachable, and cared. I think that’ll be different when I join university.

I’ll miss robotics too. You can do similar things in university – of course there will be a robotics club at the University of Toronto! – but it won’t be the same. There will be more people, and you won’t feel as deep a sense of connection. The same goes for the theatre department. There will be similar opportunities with the same form, but with a different quality. We connect with our teachers.

Any parting words of wisdom?

If you regret something you did, know that you’d regret if you didn’t do it too. You might as well do it then. I feel like there are some opportunities I could have taken that I didn’t because I was afraid of making mistakes, but when I did take risks – like joining clubs, for example – I ended up enjoying it. It was worth it. So if you’re nervous about something, just do it.

Congratulations to our 2021 Graduates

The Class of 2021 is graduating from one of the most rigorous academic programs in the world, and they become graduates during one of the most challenging times. Throughout the past year, and throughout their journey with us at Meadowridge, they have exhibited grace, courage, intelligence, and kindness.

They are all going on to prestigious schools nationally and internationally, to join rigorous programs in a variety of disciplines, and, most importantly, to make a positive impact in our world. We are proud of what they have achieved, and despite knowing change is the only certainty, we are confident that these young people are prepared to not only meet the future, but also to create it.

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