Physical & Human Geography: Student Testimonials

Justin Chander

Justin Chander

Major: Environmental Science Co-op and Physical & Human GeographyMinors: Biology

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

I have always been interested in Biology and started out with a Biology major and from that I built on it with an Environmental Science major. In high school, during my last year, my school had the privilege of having a Sustainability course. That got me really interested in environmental sciences as it was further brought to my attention that the environment is an issue that transcends generations and is very pressing for the human race to address as right now humanity is having a significantly negative impact on it. Spending more time working towards completing my undergraduate degree led me to be more interested in international relations and doing to the best to better the world at a global scale as evenly as possible. Thus, I took on the Physical & Human Geography major since I had taken many environmental science courses which were also a portion of this major and begun taking the many human geography courses required for it. Then I swapped my Biology major for a minor since I had enough credits for one. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I have been in the co-op program which I entered when I entered university, which through my hard work in the co-op program, with the resources the co-op provides, I have been able to secure placement and have had working experience working in internships in various locations, such as the provincial government and potentially, private industry as well. This has been great in getting me full-time working experience during my undergraduate degree.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

This program is great because it allows you to explore the many environmental aspects in environmental science, such as hydrology, climatology, biodiversity; the list is endless. In the human geography part of it, you get to explore the interrelations between places, spaces, and people. It’s very interesting and it shows how everything is in fact connected. For my major that is co-op, you look for three work terms to fulfill the co-op portion of that major and these placements can come from a wide variety of companies; public, private, and everything in-between. Another fantastic thing about this program is that you really get to understand the workings of the city and the environment at many scales, locally, nationally, and globally. This is really of importance when going into a future career and beyond this, and continually increases your understandings of how the world operates. There are many options in terms of how the curriculum is since both environmental science and human geography are vast; there are many options including physical, social, and theoretical, or a combination of the above.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

  1. Try as many new experiences as possible. Try joining as many clubs as you can. There are many great options available to be a part of it. Also, volunteering is another great opportunity to get some experience related to your field before actually starting a paid job. There are also many options for work-study positions that one can be a part of and/or jobs, such as on campus or off-campus, that one can find potentially transferrable skills to their program. One can apply to many of them on the University of Toronto Career Learning Network.
  2. It’s important to connect with many people smartly. In any program, in the beginning, it’s important to connect with as many people as you can; however, as you move along, it’s important to invest time in the connections which you will feel are the most mutually beneficial. You never know where you will make these connections: your classes, your work, your volunteering, your friends, your friends of friends, etc. However, keep an open mind, but play it increasingly smarter with time.
  3. Organize your time as best possible. One thing I have that helps me a lot is a calendar to mark down important due dates, events, meetings, etc. This helps a lot because it keeps how you plan things in perspective. It’s important to follow these guidelines; however, it’s also important to be flexible. Often times, things don’t go exactly as planned, so it’s important to be able to be flexible to these plans and modify them accordingly and using a calendar, to help you do this, is important. This is why organization and reorganization are both key skills to this. 

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

For the first academic year, I focused on a broad range of the sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, and introduction to human geography. A strong high school background in any or all of these subjects will assist you with making these courses as easy as possible and, in turn, you should have a smoother transition from high school to university. In second year, your courses will start involving a lot of newer information for you. This will be more interesting. You will get into specifics of biology and environmental science such as ecology or physiology, and in human geography, you will get into more specifics like sociology and urban development. Third year is where the courses get much more interesting. You start getting involved with topics that are most relevant to what you’re studying. You explore pertinent issues like climate challenge and infrastructure problems in building cities around the world and begin to start exploring solutions to these problems. Fourth year has you critically analyzing the issues in the topics you looked at in third year, but to an even greater degree. It also has you exploring potential viable solutions for these. It also is a great segway to how graduate studies will be if that route is right for you in the future. In addition, you will have co-op work terms in-between several years; they could be at almost any point in your undergraduate years; so those give you some real-life hands-on experience working in a job that you might-well-be be working in in the near future after you are finished with this journey.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

Although flexible, like I said before, my future plans include working in an NGO abroad and then teaching English abroad and traveling abroad. I would like to go back to Asia for a little while and spend some time and help there and develop myself further by garnering even more new experiences. You learn the most by having a large variety of experiences and this is something that I strongly believe in, so it’s important to be as open to them as much as possible, which is what I do. Doing this allows you the most growth in your life as you are continually growing. Around two years after I graduate, I would like to go back to school and do my Master’s degree in Human Geography, somewhere in North America, likely Canada. Following that, I would like to get into any or all of the following kinds of professions: city planning, international development organizations, and global welfare organizations. However, there are many possibilities, so it might actually be something related. Honestly, you never know what you might get into, so it’s important to keep an open mind to it. The future’s possibilities are limitless so go out and seize what you would like the most in life, but be open to the idea of that changing with time because it will evolve and one of the biggest things in life is navigating your passions for yourself.~