Psychology: Student Testimonials

Pratyasha Agrawal

Majors: Human Biology and Psychology

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

During high school, I adopted a keen interest in the field of biology particularly that was in relation to the human body. At the time I wished to be in the medical field working as a physician. I explored different options across Ontario for a program that would suit my interest and future prospective. The human biology program covers a magnitude of different areas so I was aware it would allow me to divulge further into my interest and allow me to narrow down what I wished to pursue. The good reputation and high level of education at UTSC is what drew me into finalizing my decision. Upon entering UTSC, I was taking my introductory courses that all life sciences students were required to take, one of which was psychology. I didn’t expect to enroll myself into a psychology based program since I had minimal exposure to it in my past education. However upon my first exposure into it, I became very intrigued by the course content and decided to become more involved in it by first pursing a minor in it. I found myself taking plenty of psychology courses just out of sheer interest, this prompted me to turn that minor into the major and hence work towards my degree in psychology.

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

At the start of this program, I was skeptical on what I was getting into. The program itself is very introductory and basic when you start and a lot of students don’t find that it caters to their interest level at such an early stage. However, life sciences as a way of going more in depth the deeper you explore the program and the topics get narrower and more focused. Therefore entering my third and fourth year courses, I was exposed to areas I was not aware that existed. For example, while taking certain psychology courses, I discovered I had a keen interest in clinical neuropsychology, a branch of psychology that I didn’t know existed. This impelled me to take more upper year courses in this field and eventually apply and obtain a research assistant position at Sickkids Hospital in the field of clinical neuropsychology. This program also offers students the opportunity to take courses in neuroscience, biochemistry, mental health which only increases the exposure you get to other disciplines. Another interesting fact about this program is that it integrates a lab component to the classes which allows students to not be sitting in a lecture hall absorbing information but also consequently applying what they learn practically and increase their skillset. As a result, a lot of student’s network with Teaching Assistants and Professors and gain research assistants positions within the University Network which is hugely beneficial to those pursing a health based career.

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

1) Do Not Restrict Yourself: While the human biology courses are primarily focused in the areas of biology, psychology, physical science and social sciences, it’s important you don’t only take courses in this field. Take some courses that are outside your comfort zone, balance I always find is important. If you restrict yourself to only what your program requires then you are not taking advantage of the services that are fully available to you. You can learn that you like another field just as much as you enjoy your own program. By doing so, you realize that you can integrate your two interests together and new opportunities may come to light. This could become a career changing path for you and perhaps affect your future course decision as well.
2) Expand the Areas you do Extracurricular Activities: A lot of students tend to only look for extracurricular within the university framework, although this is a great way to get involved as a student on campus and utilize the university’s resources. I personally found it extremely beneficial to expand outside to other institutions such as hospitals, non-profit organizations and clinics. The benefits of this including being able to work in a real-life working environment which can give you a taste of what life might be like after graduation. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to work with people who are not only students but also people of different ages, different stages of expertise and different work environments which increases your confidence and makes you a more adaptable individual.
3) Be ready for heavy workload: A lot of people tend to underestimate the biological and psychological sciences; they think the majority of the program is taking a book, memorizing it and regurgitating that information onto a piece of paper. As a student familiar with this program, I can ensure it is fairly more complicated than that. Although memorizing is a part of it, most of the exams are application based therefore you must be ready to obtain a conceptual understanding of the material in order to write the exams. Do not expect to memorize the book the night before and ace the exam, due the large amount of information, you need to be constantly managing your time, prioritizing your commitment and be ready for some stressful times. It’s not about who memorized the material best, it’s about who is able to understand the material accurately.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to work for a few years before pursing my masters. I gained an interest in computer science this year, I wish to educate myself in this field to decide whether it is the right direction for me. Along with this, my interest in medicine still remains, I want to go into a field that integrates both aspects (medicine and computer science). For the next bit of time, I want to narrow down what I really enjoy doing in terms of job prospective, being in the professional working environment would allow me to accomplish this goal. Along with working, I want to continue increasing my knowledge and doing non-profit on the side.

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

The first academic year of my program was largely similar to content I had learned in grade 12, since the foundation was already created the previous year, it was an excellent way for me to transition into the university environment. It was also the year that I had the most hectic schedule in terms of classes, majority of my classes involved a lab component which I was required to attend. Getting into such a hectic flow of things was the most difficult aspect for me. First year also gives you the ability to explore outside your comfort zone, see what is available on campus, get involved with extracurricular activities and interact with students. Upon second year, the material became slightly more detailed but still remained fairly foundational, this is when professors will be more lenient in accepting you for volunteer lab positions which can turn into more as you go into upper years, therefore its important you start networking despite still being in the early parts of your education. Third year is when you no longer will encounter information that is foundational but rather very specific to certain areas, this is the point when you really start to notice things that you like and don’t like. Studies is the not the only commitment you will have, you will also likely be working part-time, be a part of a club and doing volunteer work. By fourth year, the pressure of graduation will soon dawn upon you, and you will have to decide what path you must take. You might decide to take a year off to decide what you like, go straight to the professional working field to gain experience or pursue graduate studies.

Sandy Chao

Specialist: Psychology with Co-op
 

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

I took my first psychology class in senior year of high school. At the time, I was taking it as an elective… It was a super interesting class that I enjoyed very much learning about! So I ended up loving psychology and choosing to pursue it in university. When it came to the end of my first year at UTSC, it was time to declare on ROSI/ACORN which stream I want to pursue. The main factors that contributed to my program decision were that in this Psychology Specialist Co-op stream, it allows me to have a combination of academic study and experiential learning. Not only am I studying what I love but also I have had this opportunity to build professional skills in multiple work environments.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 

Being a part of this program enhanced my critical thinking and sparked my curiosity to find out more about different branches of psychology. In my everyday school life, having time management skills is really important. This is because there are always readings to do and papers to write. Being fully immersed in research studies and literatures keep you thinking about the why and how. Highlights of this program are discovering new things and always being an active learner. This program taught me to be open minded; not only am I learning novel information at school, but I am also learning more about the work that is being done in the real world. My co-op program bridges my experience at school to multiple career possibilities; such as, my work experience at the NGO and government sector. Therefore, if you see me on campus, ask me questions! I love to share my story with others; especially I love it when people ask me about my classes and co-op experiences. Another fantastic thing about this program is being one of the first ones to read and discuss the most current psychology findings that I learned in class with classmates, friends and family. The curriculum here is very current with a holistic approach where professors encourage students to read beyond the given course materials and make connections to our society.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 

The first advice that I would like to provide to students who are just starting in this program is to practice “Self Care”. I strongly recommend that students budget in some time to do what they love. From time to time, especially during midterm and final exam periods, life can be overloaded with course readings, assignments, papers, and studying. Keep calm and work through your to-do-list one item at a time and reward your hard work by doing an activity that recharges you (ex. painting or playing music). My second piece of advice for students is to “Network” throughout your undergrad study. As a psychology student, we have a wide range of career possibilities. Be open-minded and have the courage to meet new people in different disciplines as this can broaden your perspective about life decisions. We have a pool of super awesome individuals here on campus with rich knowledge and experiences! (ex. talk to new people and find out what are some fun elective courses to try, learn about future career options or new information in a specific field, etc.) Networking will be awkward for the first few times, since you are going outside of your comfort zone, but practicing this skill will be helpful for future work! Have fun!
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 

My plan after graduation will be working in the government sector and completing a Masters degree, specifically in the mental health care system that touches on school psychology and immigrant families. Working in the field is the most direct way for me to obtain more insight to the real life case problems. Doing practical work that positively transforms individuals and the lives of families will offer my life a more meaningful purpose. Therefore, as a soon to be, UofT grad, I am currently actively applying to jobs and volunteering in the community.  I am very excited to enter into this new chapter of life that lies ahead of me!
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 

My first academic year focused on the basics of psychology concepts and research studies, where you will have a chance to learn the various branches of psychology. First year is one of the best times to explore what our campus has to offer, in terms of interesting clubs, workshops, volunteer opportunities and much more. An important reminder will be to make sure you are taking all the prerequisite courses before getting approved to go on your co-op work term next year. In second year, students are diving into more technical research mechanisms and developing more in-depth thought to the psychology literatures and providing critical analysis of the assignments. It is also expected that you are being proactive in setting up appointments with your co-op coordinator for resume, cover letter critique and mock interview practice. You will be busy applying to different co-op jobs while keeping up with your academic study. Once you receive a job offer, you will be on your work term (4-8 months depending on your placement). Third year is where you might be working at another co-op placement and back to school to take more courses in the field that are much more specialized in nature. You have the freedom to choose courses that are of direct interest to you. (ex. social psychology, abnormal psychology, child psychology…etc.). Fourth year is the time when you are wrapping up your degree requirements along things; such as, completing professional studies prerequisites or doing job applications. You will have many commitments and responsibilities to manage. Remember, to keep networking and have your ears open to various opportunities in the real world.

Amina Shabeen

Major: Psychology
Minors: Biology & Anthropology
 

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

I chose the three programs to explore my interest in pursuing a career in the health care field from varying perspectives and disciplines.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 

As much as I enjoyed studying psychology and biology due to course contents that captured my interest, I want to make a special mention of my anthropology minor in socio-cultural anthropology stream which really helped me see the bigger picture. As this program is very multi-disciplinary in nature, I was able to think more critically and become more culturally sensitive-which is essential when pursuing a career in the health care field. I also managed to refine my writing skills and, most importantly, learned to articulate myself more effectively as a result of engagement in dialogues within classes and through various programs and seminars offered by the faculty. The small class sizes and very engaging faculty has enhanced my undergraduate career overall.

 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
For anthropology courses, I would highly encourage speaking to professors about your initial ideas for papers and assignments. They do an excellent job of guiding your thoughts which will make the process a little less scary and more enjoyable. I would also recommend making a conscious effort to skim through the readings before class if not read them entirely. For biology courses, it is very important to give yourself enough time to familiarize with the course content. It is okay to fall a bit behind, but it is critical to realize that cramming just doesn't work for many upper year courses. Therefore, even if you fall behind, pace yourself and make a schedule that works for you to get through the material well before the exams.  For psychology courses, information is easy to understand but there is a LOT of content so be sure to make/ access good quality chapter and lecture notes that can be reviewed shortly before the exams.
 

What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I plan on pursuing a career in Medicine or Clinical Psychology.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
In my first year, like most undergraduate students, I did not have much idea of what program I wanted to choose. I went ahead and did the first year life science courses (biology, chemistry, psychology) and some interesting electives. At the end of my first year, I decided to major in Psychology and Neuroscience. After my second year, I realized I wanted to take courses where I can do more writing and socio-cultural anthropology really interested me so I decided to scale my psychology major down to a minor to make space for an anthropology minor. As a student who is heavily involved on and off campus, I found the course load to be very intense. After my third year, I decided to do another minor program switch and scale psychology back up to a major, do a minor in biology (since I almost finished it while working towards Neuroscience major) and kept the anthropology minor. I always stuck with courses I enjoyed and kept checking back to see which program would these courses count towards. Therefore, I am finishing my degree without doing any extra courses than required for completion of a degree.

Elyana Tahiri

Majors: Health Studies – Health Policy (BA) and Psychology (BSc)

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

Factors that contributed to choosing my program was my personal and career interest, flexibility of course offerings, the advice and testimonials from my long-time peer academic coaches at the AA&CC, and the opportunities that professors of each program could provide to enrich my educational experience in that program (research or being a learning facilitator or helping to critique and improve the curriculum for future students).

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

Health policy is quite the opposite of what I thought it would be! In first year, I had the expectation that all of my health studies courses would have a very narrow focus on how health policies are made. UTSC Health Studies actually begins by providing students with a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of many factors outside of biomedicine that contribute to making health policy. This helps the student to be informed and critically think about how and why certain health policies are or are not created and to learn the benefits of what other sectors outside of healthcare can offer to make sustainable policies that address social inequities (for example, access to healthcare). I was surprised that I would take a course in health humanities and health informatics, and learn how very relevant they both are for creating health policies that are not limited to improving a hospital environment, but for making health system-wide changes for our future. Psychology is great for its flexibility with courses! You can choose between a social stream or a more natural science route of the program. The great thing is that you can still access courses from each stream, and mix your interests, for example, by taking courses in social neuroscience. Many psychology courses are also offered in the summer, which helped with the irregularities in course offering of my other major.

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

Health Studies: Pay careful attention to what interested you in part one and part two of the foundational health studies courses which all Health students take together. Keep an open mind before committing with the stream you entered in from high school (for example, feeling that you have to stick with the health policy stream because that is what you entered in with from high school). Notice whether you get really excited to talk about disease outbreak and surveillance, public health interventions, statistics, and more anthropological and biological factors that affect health. And notice how passionate you are about discussing social factors such as, access to health care services, addressing poverty and economic insecurity, and having a career in the Ministry (as an example). This tip will help you to choose which stream of health studies to declare on ACORN by the end of first year! If you still love the sound of both of them (which happens quite often), no worries, because you can declare the stream you like more as your major and still pick up courses from the other stream as electives. Regardless of which stream you enter, I would also advise all new Health Studies students that you should consider taking an introductory biology course to prepare for an integrative approach to health studies.

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

The double-edged sword of a Health Studies degree is that you have many doors open for you after graduation! But of course, we do need to narrow down. Gaining a diverse range of research and work experience during your undergraduate career will help you to calibrate your focus and interests. This also involves jumping outside of your comfort zone, and for me, this was having my share of research experience. I personally plan to have a career involved in improving the current medical school curriculum to have a more holistic perspective of medicine, not limited to traditional biomedicine. Effective and powerful health policy involves a great deal of physicians being advocates of their patients! By improving the skills and theoretical knowledge palette of incoming and current medical students, targeting them during their education can help them to prepare for having the strategic perspective that is necessary for tackling the new challenges that face our health care system such as mental health and sustainability of the health care system as a whole. You can only get this creative with what you will do with your degree when you accumulate EXPERIENCE! I was inspired during my research experience at UofT's Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation. I was simply seated around other program administrators and developers and had an open mind to their work at the school and thought creatively about how I can do the same kind of job, while still connecting my background in health care, and... voila!

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

Year 1 - It was especially difficult since I am a First Generation Student. Being the first in your family is tough since you don't have as much insider perspective of what university is, what are your courses like, what a major and minor is, how to change them, and what the campus life is like. Thankfully, I had an amazing Get Started Coach, and as soon as I stepped foot on campus, other senior students can identify you right away and are willing to help you through the transition and share their knowledge and information about services that can help you address specific concerns (which led me to AA&CC where I developed a rapport with my coaches until my 3rd year, when they both graduated).
Year 2 - You've got the feel of the course load, the pace of the semesters, and what extracurricular activities you're interested in. Now you are more comfortable reaching out for a work-study position while studying full-time, you understand that professors love to see you in office hours and developing a rapport with them early is important for them to have an accurate and strong understanding of your aptitude so they may write your reference letter for graduate school, you know how to distribute your readings and are clear about individual responsibility in keeping up with the workload.
Year 3 - After experience with many general and introductory courses, you may start to narrow your career interests and graduate education interests. This will also help to inform what courses you should look into taking in your senior years that will reflect your specific interests and help you prepare for your next education plans.
Year 4 - I attended the graduate school fair on campus and got a feel for where I will finally choose to apply! My programs happen to require 3 years of work experience after graduation before I can apply, but many of my friends are applying to medical school or graduate programs right now that accept students directly from undergrad. I am much more content with my courses since they are more specialized and I can get more immersed in my interests. It also might be painful realizing you are not as interested as you once were in your other major, but I am trekking through them as best as I can. I'm also studying more efficiently and smart after many years of experience with how to improve the quality of my course work (thanks to the Writing Centre and feedback from professors and teaching assistants), and I find myself studying and reading more aware and actively (connecting concepts in readings and imagining an exam question).

Amanda

Majors: Cultural Anthropology & Psychology

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

I chose my program because it felt right for me. When I went back to high school at age 22, I wasn't aiming for grades or university, I just wanted to make sure I could get a diploma so I could get a job to support myself; very quickly I realized that getting good grades felt important in social science classes, specifically culture-based classes, and I knew it had to be the path for me. It has been the best decision I ever made, and I truly have never been happier than I am in Cultural Anthropology.

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

The Cultural Anthropology program at UTSC is one of the best support networks of professors and TA's a student could ask for. At this point (in my third year) I have met nearly all of them, and they all lecture with the utmost passion and love them for what they do: not only that, but they all appreciate questioning class materials, personal discussions after class and referencing you to any subject material you may be curious about. The class materials are often very down to earth, with 'textbooks' very often being novels and online articles. Any classes taken after the intro(s) are usually lecture mixed with discussion, and very quickly become 50/50 in third and fourth year. I have learned so much, both within class material and by doing research surrounding class materials. Culture affects everything and everything affects culture - it is truly amazing to watch around you once you begin to understand the structural makeup of what makes culture and society what they are.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. Do what you love, and worry about the money later. I realize this can be difficult to do, but if you love a subject, and you continue to love it after a second class of it, pursue it! You only have one life on this earth: do you really want to just become another high paid individual who hates what they do, and feels there's no other option? As long as you are doing what makes you happy, financial gains and stability are always achievable.

 2. Stand up for what you believe is right. This takes form in many ways. Do you disagree with a grade? Approach the professor about it. Disagree with an author you read for class? Discuss it during lecture. Disagree with a professor's lecture point, structure or assignments? Tell them. Classes can only improve with good input from students, and if you never question anything you're learning, then you're not learning to your fullest potential.

3. Don't feel rushed to pick a program. This is another difficult idea, but definitely worth mentioning. At UTSC, you have 2 years to decide on a program (which is actually a really long time!), and you can change it at any time. Don't pick a program if you don't feel it is right for you to do so – make sure you explore all options and you get a feel for what you want the remainder of your time to be like at university. The average student takes between 4 to 6 years to graduate and that will feel like an extremely long time if you aren't doing something you enjoy, or picking something because someone else said you should. Live and learn for yourself, not for anyone else, and you'll be proud of the choices you made in university.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

Although I talk about Cultural Anthropology here as my main focus, I am also focusing on Psychology because it is ultimately the subject I want to learn most about and expand into after university. I am planning to attend a 3 year college after graduation to get a Social Work degree and work in Child and Youth Services, specifically teens at risk, addiction and rehabilitation. As one of my tips said above, it is important to question things you disagree with, and I believe there are still issues within Children's Aid Services that need re-adjustment and re-structuring. I want to be there for children who, like some first year students, feel unsure of their future and want advice and resources to find out where they are going, and how to most succeed within it.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
During my first and second year(s), I enrolled in a Cultural Anthropology major paired with an Art History major. I very quickly realized that a lot of what I wanted to learn within art history was not going to be offered on our campus, and so I switched to Human Geography. Human Geography was extremely interesting, but because of the similarities of content between it and Anthropology, I had trouble with changing the terminology and approaches I had already learned in my main program, and switched to Psychology after speaking with an Academic Advisor in the AAC. I have always wanted to go into social work, and when I decided to go to UTSC, I threw away that dream because I didn't think it would be possible. When I found out that I could still pursue it through Psychology, I immediately began taking the introductions and am now pursuing my dream career. There is an immense joy, knowing that I'll one day be helping others in the field I always dreamed I would work in. Do what you love. It truly is the most important thing you can do.

Anum Ahmed

Majors: Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease and Psychology.
 

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I actually started off my first year aiming for the Human Biology Specialist. But after exploring first year life science courses, I wanted to study Psychology as well. I was also interested in pathobiology and disease transmissions but there was no direct major/specialist for it at that time. By my second year, the Molecular Biology, Immunology, Disease was formed and I immediately picked it along with Psychology. I have to admit that having majors instead of specialist has its perks and flexibilities. I got to explore and learn more of what I like, instead of focusing on just one: which was both the fields of Immunology and Psychology. After I graduate, I have a diverse range of courses in my transcript which allows me to go in a different direction if I want (career-wise).
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Molecular Biology and Immunology major is not very different from the Human Biology major except for a couple of courses based on immunology. I really got to learn a lot about the immune system, pathobiology, human anatomy, body functions. The holistic concept of the human body is coupled with learning about the smallest parts that make it, which is cell systems and microbiology. The courses required do not delve deep into plant systems. The Psychology major was definitely an interesting experience. UTSC is definitely proud of its Psychology program because of the most wide range of interesting courses, professors and even research opportunities. Within a Psychology specialist/major one can pick stream of studying human behavior, culture and social environment or studying human brain, mental disabilities and mental health. Beyond these two specialties there are even more courses in Psychology one can explore.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1) Keep in mind of Carpe Diem- Seize opportunities that come your way. Apply for international volunteer positions, explore clubs, and attend recreational outdoor trips. University will be 4 of the most memorable years of your life and you cannot relive it again.
2) Networking is KEY. Network. Network. Network. Attend department mix and mingles. Talk to your professors and TAs. Get to know them. This is one tip I really wish I was told in first year. Having connections really helps you get jobs and volunteer positions throughout your years on campus.

3) Focus, Organize, Plan- Focus on the certain jobs or volunteer positions you want, and tailor your resume to get those positions. Organize what courses you will take each year. Plan your time to juggle your social life, work schedule, lectures, study time, and leisure time appropriately.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
There are many ways I can go with my degree. Medical school and pharmacy are always obvious options for life science students. But with Psychology I could do a Masters in Counseling, Clinical Psychology, Teaching, etc. This could lead to careers in counseling, teaching or a further PhD to become a professor. I could even head into Masters of Biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology etc. and head into research, or a further PhD to become a professor. There are also post-graduate diploma programs in colleges that vary from 1-3 years that train you into specific careers like Research Assistant, Lab Technician, etc. There are programs that come up every year, like Masters in Science Management or Translational Sciences at UofT. My point is that medical school and pharmacy are not the only ways to go, there is a lot more to the field of life sciences. My current plan is to take a year off, get more work experience and head to grad school in the field of Psychology.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 

First year- Getting to know the whole concept of "university life". Understanding how course enrolment works, resources on campus and the difficulty level of courses. I really took my time to get to know UTSC so I could exploit all resources to my advantage. You have to do some basic life science courses like biology, chemistry, psychology, statistics/math, physics etc. which will be very similar to high school concepts. Second Year- Slightly higher B level courses specific to the major/specialist. For Immunology, concepts of human physiology, human anatomy, cell systems and many lab courses. For Psychology, more specific courses in human behavior, social theory, prejudice and stereotypes, etc. Third year- Higher level of C courses along with B level courses. But there is more flexibility in choosing what C levels you want to choose. More lab opportunities available due to experience. Fourth year- By now, most requirements for the program will be complete, so taking electives to complete degree requirements as well as D level courses that involve presentations, debates, more participation, research papers as well as research-thesis courses.

Carren Ku

Majors: Psychology and Music & Culture
 

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

I chose Psychology and Music because I enjoy learning about human growth and performing/ composing music. I also have a strong interest in becoming a music teacher and music therapist, so these two programs work really well to bring me the necessary skills and knowledge. By understanding human behaviour and engaging in the expressive arts, I knew that I could become a better communicator in many areas of my life. For example, the skills that I gain from Psychology courses would allow me to interact meaningfully with others and solve problems effectively in various social contexts. Music, which brings happiness to other people, is a practice that involves discipline, concentration and collaboration. By engaging in music, I will develop more creativity, courage and holistic awareness of my present surroundings. These skills are valuable to me and I chose my program areas to learn and improve them.

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

The Psychology program is composed of different topics that students can choose to study. Some of the major areas are personality, cognition, mental health, child psychology, social psychology and neuroscience. There are also mandatary courses that help students develop research and data analysis skills. I loved this program because many of the professors spoke of their experience with clinical patients and how they used various assessments and techniques to help their clients. I also gained strong critical thinking skills from reading and writing research papers. The Music and Culture Program is very engaging. Not only are students given the opportunity to learn about music from various cultures and time periods (such as Indonesia gamelan, jazz or music of the Romantic era), they learn music theory and how to compose pieces for different instruments. Moreover, there are wonderful music ensembles on campus such as the UTSC Strings, Band, Concert Choir and Small Ensemble. These courses allow students to improve on their techniques and work with other musicians to develop stronger performance and musicianship skills. I particularly liked that there was individual coaching with professors and that made a big difference in my learning experience.

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

1) Be open-minded and try new courses. Apart from studying within your programs, try to explore other subject areas. It may be a new language, writing or science course that you were always curious about. This will help you learn more about yourself, your strengths, and what your interests are, that may be different from what you originally had in mind. It also broadens your knowledge and helps you develop new skill sets.
 
2) Stay active and involved on campus. University is a great time to meet new people and try new things. There are many clubs and events that you can join throughout the year. You may also find relevant volunteer, research and leadership opportunities by connecting with professors and going on to the Career Learning Network (CLN). To stay healthy and maintain a balanced lifestyle, I went to the Athletic Centre often and joined their drop-in programs and yoga classes. It was really a lot of fun and I encourage everyone to be active while pursuing their studies.
 
 3) Plan ahead and use campus resources. It is so important to keep an organized calendar because University life can be really busy. Make sure to mark in your planners when each assignment is due and the date of your tests so that you can manage your time better and arrange other events without overbooking. Throughout your journey at UTSC, there may be moments when you need assistance in writing, coursework or career planning. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the resources available to you such as the Writing Centre, departmental office hours or the Academic Advising and Career Centre.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
With a degree in music and psychology, there are many career options. One could study music therapy, music education, counselling, social work, research, etc. I hope to become a piano teacher and continue lifelong learning in music. I also plan to apply to some Master programs or college courses related to teaching and counselling.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
First year was the time when I learned to navigate through the University and become accustomed to the lecture hall, general course structure and workload. I explored my interests by enrolling in various subject areas and was mainly focused on keeping a consistent study schedule. In my second year, the Psychology courses became more specific and I developed better note-taking strategies. I worked on assignments together with a partner and made many new friends. I also started to join programs at the Athletic Centre and make appointments with a Career Counsellor to discuss my future career options. As I got into third year, I joined the Music & Culture Program and it really transformed my life. I went to rehearsals and coaching every week and composed several ensemble pieces. I also learned about different composers’ lives and analyzed their wonderful compositions. This was also the time when I joined more clubs on campus and kept a balanced workload of reading music vs. reading psychology papers. In my fourth year, class sizes became much smaller and there were some seminar courses. Professors encouraged us to think more critically and actively participate in class discussions.