Specialist: Psycholinguistics Co-op
What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
It was in high school that I knew I wanted to learn more about a possible career as a speech-language pathologist. After starting my post-secondary studies at UofT, I took introductory courses in both linguistics and psychology and developed a passion for both areas. I researched the different programs being offered at UofT and chose the specialist program in Psycholinguistics because it perfectly blended my two interests together. This program offers a deeper understanding of how the study of language and psychological processes related to language are integrated. I knew that choosing this program would provide me with a better sense of connection between linguistics and psychology that a double major in each separate area would not. After speaking with faculty in the Centre for French & Linguistics, I was reassured that this specialist would provide me with the needed understanding of linguistics and psychology, that would better prepare me for a career as a future clinician. I decided to do the co-operative program after reading about the professional work experiences and skills it provides in preparation for graduate studies and future employment.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
Being a part of this program has taught me to think critically, make connections, and be confident through the structure of the courses, variety of topics, and opportunities to collaborate and participate in classes. A highlight of this program would definitely be the opportunities that my two co-op placements provided in terms of exposing me to professional work environments related to my field of interest, building skills and attributes needed for professional development, and providing guidance and advice throughout the placement finding process (how to write a resume, cover letter, mock interviews). I would definitely recommend the co-op program to students as it provides you with experiences and skills that most students will not be exposed to. Another interesting aspect of this program would be the opportunities you have to interact with different disciplines and departments such as French, women and gender studies, psychology, and biology to name a few. Not only are the students in your classes majoring in different areas, the curriculum in this program overlaps with all of these areas of study and more. So if you are worried that this program will simply focus on linguistics and psychology, I can assure you that this is not the case. There are many courses that cover a variety of subject areas making this program even more fulfilling.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1. Don’t give up - University can be daunting when you first start. It’s a new environment, you’re back to being the little fish in a big pond, there are so many new things to learn and adjust to. I’ve heard a lot of stories of people finding courses in linguistics scary or difficult but like anything new, you cannot expect to be great at it from the beginning. If you are having difficulty understanding something, especially in the larger classes in first and second year, don’t be afraid to ask questions or see your professor after class or during office hours. It can be easy to assume that it’s just you that doesn’t understand something but the odds are if you don’t understand something there probably is someone else in your class that doesn't either. Don’t give up if it gets hard; seek help. There are also great advisors and workshops offered by the Academic Advising & Career Centre that I had the opportunity of taking part in (from co-op) that provide skills and advice that can help you become successful in your classes and in university overall. You are not alone, keep trying and use the resources you have available to you.
2. Be organized and plan ahead - This is very important! Personally, I try to plan out the courses I will be taking each year before the academic year starts. It’s helpful because you can address the courses you have to take (program requirements) and any breadth requirements you need to fulfill. I have seen many students scramble to find courses that fulfil their program in their last year, and it can become very stressful. To avoid this, plan the courses you need to take, doing this will give you peace of mind, especially in fourth year when you’re focusing on graduation and finishing your undergrad with a bang! If you are having trouble, you can schedule an appointment with an Advisor at the Academic Advising & Career Centre to help you understand what and how to fulfil your requirements. This was particularly helpful for me in my final year when I wanted to check if I had all my program requirements covered for graduation.
3. Get involved - It can be so easy to fall into a routine of school and sleep but it’s important to introduce other opportunities and experiences into your undergraduate years. UTSC has excellent clubs; particular linguistics related clubs are the Linguistics Student Associate and Hear2Speak. If you have a passion for an area of study there is definitely a club out there with people that share the same interests as you. This is an excellent way to network and better understand different career paths that are available. Don’t be afraid to volunteer in your community and gain experience in areas you are interested in. It can solidify your desire to work in a certain field or expose you to other areas you didn’t know you were fascinated by.
Lastly, give research a chance. I know that some of you will be thinking that’s the last thing you want to do BUT trust me it is an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of study areas in your program (it truly opened my eyes). Currently in linguistics we have the UTSC Linguistics Laboratory run by Dr. Philip Monahan. Overall, getting involved in all these areas whether it be clubs or research will make you a well-rounded student and provide you with added knowledge and experience that can be helpful in your future studies and career.
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
In my program, the first academic year focused on the fundamentals of both linguistics and psychology. It was helpful to stay organized and on top of readings and course work. Doing this helped me to do well and better integrate into my first year at university. I found workshops and speaking to other students in class an excellent way to socialize and discuss opportunities offered at UTSC. It also allowed for a smooth transition into undergraduate studies. Please note that while you are taking your courses in first year, you will be required by co-op to participate in workshops and classes. In my second year, the topic areas became more specific and the classes became smaller. This is where you will learn about topics such as phonology, syntax, phonetics, morphology, sociolinguistics, perception and cognition, and human brain and behaviour to name a few. This is the year where you will definitely know if this program is right for you, since it provides a more in depth look into different subjects. It is important to note that you will also have to dedicate some time to apply online for co-op work placements. During my third year, the courses became even more specialized and the classes even more smaller (similar to high school classes), making it easier to ask questions and get to know your fellow students. Third year builds on the skills and knowledge acquired in second year. I know you might think that courses get harder as you move through this program but it’s actually the opposite! Again, you might be applying for a co-op work placement. In fourth year the courses are more attuned to specific interests and you have more freedom to choose what you want to take e.g., doing independent studies. In my last year it was all about making sure I had all my program requirements covered and that I was working hard to maintain my GPA. At the same time I was volunteering and applying for graduate school. The last year can be stressful, especially if you’re applying to graduate school since (at least for the programs I applied for) your last 20 credits count towards a GPA calculation. Regardless, stay focused and motivated and you will make it through! Nothing worth having comes easily.