Media Studies: Student Testimonials

Ting-Yi Chang

Specialist: International Development Studies Co-op (Arts)
Major: Economics of Management Studies
Minor: Media Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I chose the co-op specialist program of International Development Studies (IDS) at UTSC because it offers students the opportunity to complete an 8-12 month work placement overseas in a Global South country. For me, it is not even a rare chance in a lifetime but also a fantastic learning opportunity to combine theoretical knowledge in the books to actual actions and experience on the ground. I am currently completing my 11 month placement in India and I can testify that it is indeed an exciting, self-exploring, and extremely valuable learning experience. On the other hand, I chose to add a major in Economics after the completion of my first year in IDS. While many Arts students consider taking Economics courses in the mathematical approach (instead of theoretical) is a heavy burden, I see it as a great blessing to advance my logical thinking and quantitative data analysis skills, alongside with the qualitative, anthropological focus that the IDS community emphasizes. In my opinion, it is an important balance to find. To make the combination even more colourful, I also chose Media Studies as my minor since I have always been fascinated by the media theories how they shape our society and reality. It was not until later that I realised this minor helps me see IDS issues like "free knowledge and development", "information and technology for development", and "the portrait of an Global South image" with a totally new lens.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

(I am focusing on the IDS Specialist co-op program in this question) IDS co-op program is a really close-knit community, or more accurately, family. In the IDS co-op program, we are not only classmates who sit together in lectures, but also friends who help each other through the challenging placement preparation, and sisters and brothers who you Skype and share your struggles and laughters with when we are all in different places. Faculty members in the program are also extremely supportive and multi-disciplinary. That's a great thing about being an IDS student - no matter what your passion is, usually there will be a way to link it to development and most possibly there is a faculty member who can be your best friend and tutor on your journey to explore all possibilities. The curriculum of IDS co-op can be quite theoretical in the first two years in my opinion, but it will definitely enrich you with the necessary critical thinking skills, broad knowledge, and creativity that will eventually become part of you.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

(1) If you are an IDS (co-op) student, I strongly recommend that you explore your passion and field of interest in development as early as possible. The broadness of development studies can be a blessing but a weakness at the same time. It is best to find a direction that you are most interested in about development (ex. Environment and development, political conflicts in development, development history in Canada's First Nations, anything!). Thinking about this early also helped me plan out my courses in the four years well in advance so that I am not stressed about missing credits or delaying my graduation when there are three programs on my plate.
 
(2) Although IDS co-op program (or even exchange programs at UofT) provide the chance for you to go abroad, you don't need to be abroad to make your university life colourful and meaningful. Before my placement in India, I tried volunteering for child literacy, helping out a mental health awareness project, organizing a conference for my program, and even playing Quidditch! There are so many things to do on campus (all three campuses if you want more!). Each of these experiences contributes to my well-being, interpersonal skills, and shapes whom I am today. I would not be able to do what I am doing today without all the learning and training in each of these activities. I guess what I am saying is, have fun, meet people, and discover hobbies in your university years!

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

With my interest in the media aspect of development and my current work placement that focuses on the internet and social issues in India, I think I will consider a post graduate degree in information, internet study, or something related. Many people think that graduating from a development studies program means working in an NGO or the government as a social worker for a lifetime, but that is far from the truth. There is so much to explore during your 5 (or 4) years in the program and every year people discover routes that no one has tried before. I will say, no matter if my future career or study will be development-related or not, this program has taught me many valuable lessons and skills that I can always apply to different fields.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

In first year I tried to complete most of my breadth requirement credits and it was through this year that I found my passion in Media Studies (which later became my minor) and also decided to take on Economics as my major outside of IDS co-op Specialist. For me, first year courses are generally not difficult even though the hours spent on classes may be more than what you will get in the following years. I also used my first year to try out many interesting student clubs and extracurricular activities. As an international student who came to Canada all alone, I found this really helpful in building my confidence in socializing with people. Second year curriculum is honestly not too hard either but some more efforts and time are definitely needed. I think the biggest trap is that after first year I thought that I knew how to juggle between courses and social life, but soon it was clear that nothing is as easy as it seems. This was also the year that I started taking up more leadership positions in my extracurricular activities and even a part time job. I learned it the hard way to say "No" to some extra responsibilities, as well as, to not compare myself with my peers to stress myself out - after all, we are all going towards different directions (this will become even more clear in third year). During the summers (in 1st and 2nd year) and in my second year I also took courses downtown for Economics and French. There are so many rumours that the courses offered in the downtown campus are much harder, which I'd say is just a myth. If you think it is hard, it would seem hard anyway. If you just try your best, there's not much difference in the mark you'll get or in the performance of students between the two campuses. In my third year classes became a lot smaller and the topic more narrow and practical. In my opinion, it is the best because you can focus on the topics you are passionate about and become close friends with the professors. Third year is also a crucial time for IDS co-op students to apply for jobs overseas. I was lucky enough to have set up my mind and built a network with my soon-to-be research supervisor quite early, so the application process was pretty smooth for me but the situation can differ from person to person. Right now, I am in my fourth year in India, I am not taking any courses but am preparing for my thesis in the fifth year. One year overseas sounds (and IS) fascinating but at the same time I learned that I have to be more self-motivated when there's no hard deadline or assignments to push me. At this moment, I am collecting data for my chosen research topic and will be writing my thesis on it once I come back for my fifth year.

Sadiah Rahman

Specialist in journalism
Minor: Media Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I’ve always been a creative individual. I grew up devouring novels and dreaming of becoming a writer. I never really took it seriously though. It was my dream as a child. But when it came to choosing my program, I was lost. I have a great passion in care and wanted to pursue social work. I applied to social work programs at different universities and the journalism program at UTSC. Eventually my decision came down to UTSC by chance, I literally flipped a coin and had no idea what to expect. I did know that I love writing, expressing myself and sharing ideas and that UTSC would help me do this effectively. I was also really keen on current events, so this program fit me. I was attracted to UTSC’s program because not only is it a specialist program, it’s also a joint program and has internships available. I knew this program would prepare me for my professional life.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

This program is tough. But that’s the nature of journalism and I love that the program doesn’t ignore it. The courses you take at UTSC are drastically different from the one’s you’ll take at Centennial. The university part turns you into a critical thinker, an analyst and a reader. You then take these skills and start your three-semester journey at college and your whole world is different. At Centennial you are technically a student, but you’re treated as journalist. This means you are always pitching, collaborating and chasing stories. The program also helps you find an internship within your preferred field of journalism, be it music, politics or fashion. Something admirable about this program is that it's being updated as you read this (since journalism is always changing.) As a student you learn industry tricks and tools from your professors and a wide variety of guest speakers. Being a part of this program has taught me how to be an effective leader, communicator, networker and collaborator.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Manage your time and work hard. This is a demanding field and news doesn’t sleep, nor should journalists. When you begin your college part of this program, the scheduling really takes a toll on your personal life. As a young journalist, your schedule is dependent on your sources (that you’ll need for your stories) so you’ll always be juggling your time and theirs. It’s easy to prioritize your time before your sources, but doing so only puts of your work. Working part-time is possible but will be strenuous especially when you’re at Centennial. If you want to be successful in this program, manage your time, believe in your ability to produce quality content, work with your peers, editors and professors to create a seamless journey.
2) Network. A great aspect of this program is that your professors will email you about conferences, talks and guest speakers. It’s your job to show up, make an impression and then build a professional relationship with these people (odds are they will be the ones providing you with job opportunities post-graduation.) Starting from your first year, put yourself out there. Get to know industry professionals, your professors and your peers. Build a strong foundation of people who see and value your talent as a young journalist.
3) Use UTSC and Centennial resources. UTSC has creative spaces such as The Underground and the Hub, whilst Centennial has production studios (radio, photo and TV). Use these as much as you can to work on personal projects and/or aid your school ones. What you produce in your years as an undergraduate student will shape your career.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

In my third year of this program I bought my first DSLR and since then have been really invested in photo and video journalism. One thing I really love about this program is that every student has the opportunity to explore their own interests and I have this program to thank for my passion in photo and video journalism. I am currently talking to my professors about potential media outlets to work with. Upon graduation, I plan on implementing all my storytelling and people skills with a focus on photo and video at a suited outlet.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
Within the first academic year, the program focuses on reading and writing skills with an introductory approach on media and journalism. Strong reading and writing skills serve as an asset during this period, along with reading the news (this is journalism after all.) Students are also encouraged to start networking and find their field of interest. In second year, students delve more into critical theory and thinking. This is a pivotal period for young journalists, as it builds your journalistic curiosity. Third year is usually when students move over to Centennial (given they have all the prerequisites). At Centennial, you learn how to report and interview and create multi-platform products. Then you report, produce, create and collaborate. You work in photography, interactive journalism and radio. In your fourth year,  you spend one semester at Centennial where you take everything you’ve learnt up until that point and create a magazine, a documentary and website along with learning TV news and everyday reporting (and that’s just the first semester). In second semester you head on back to UTSC to finish up your credits. Despite this program being a specialist program, as of now there isn’t a sufficient amount of C and D level courses in journalism, so students are expected to resort to a minor to fulfill those requirements throughout their undergraduate.