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.