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Honours Life Science - Biology at McMaster University

Malavika (Year 2)

What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university. 

Before applying I had the opportunity to visit the campus first hand, which really became the main reason I made McMaster my first choice. The campus wasn't too big where I got lost, yet it was big enough to have all the amazing facilities it had. And it had a balance of buildings and nature which was a plus point. Additionally, the Life Science program itself was very welcoming, the options and even the opportunity in the second year to choose a specialization. Being the Honours Biology program gives me the ability to have control over my education as I can choose which course I want to take on top of the required courses.

What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program?  List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.

One main trouble I had was having a smooth transition from high school to university. Being an international student, I not only had to learn to adapt to a whole new country and their ways but also learn to live alone and manage my studies by myself. There is honestly no other way to get out of this but to learn from your experiences, but additionally, I wish I had learned to adapt quicker. Overall, within the second semester, I learned how to balance things and it was pretty smooth.

What was your favourite university experience? 

Community. Welcome Week really showed me how McMaster itself is a big and welcoming community, and I felt accepted from the beginning. But even within that the small group of people I met and learned from really changed my experience in university as a whole. Being away from home for the first time is hard, but I am glad I found the people I have now who helped me overcome the fears and downfalls, and just be there when I needed them.

What was your least favourite university experience?

Navigating the transition. While it felt somewhat systematic in the beginning, because everyone was coming from somewhere and trying to get used to this new place, it seemed harder for me. It took me a while to understand this new life I had to navigate through. However, sooner or later I found myself figuring out how each situation needs to be handled, and also the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?

Life Science being a gateway program, gives you a lot of options up front but you have to complete a basic set of Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Math courses. On top of that, you can alter your schedule to take whatever electives you like depending on what you prefer to specialize in later on. While most of the first year courses are pretty self-explanatory and should be easy to score in, there were some bumpy roads here and there. One main difficulty I personally felt was the pace of the teaching. The content was covered in a quick manner and while during the lectures I felt like I understood. In terms of succeeding in midterms and finals, I really had to spend a lot of time reviewing and studying so that I can actually do well. There is a lot of grunt work you need to do but if you are dedicated, you can make it work. Likewise, most professors have office hours which you can use to your advantage to clear up doubts and get further information on how to study and such. But honestly, for most courses, if you put in the work you can see the results yourself.

If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?

Some of the courses I took first year that I loved were the Psychology Electives - PSYCH 1X03(Introduction to Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour) and PSYCH 1XX3(Foundations of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour). The professors were amazing, both Dr. Joe Kim and Dr. Michelle Cadieux made the course super engaging and easy to understand. I highly recommend these two courses.

Another course that I loved was the Biology course BIO 1A03(Cell and Molecular Biology) taught by Dr. Rosa Da Silva and Dr. Lovaye Kajiura. While I was kind of skeptical of this course being memorization heavy, I was wrong about it. The best part about this course was the application based lectures. While it is boring and meticulous to just learn each part of the cell, this course also focuses on applying those into ongoing studies and other phenomenons being done right now in the world, which made me very much interested in this class.

Additional Comments

Take your time to learn about your surroundings and the people around you. If you need help don't worry about asking people around you because you are not the only one transitioning. University is a fun and great place, it will also be a place where you learn a lot about yourself so use it to your advantage. Make sure that while you are getting your grades to also enjoy the other parts of university, but also remember your priorities. Overall learn what you need and cater to it. 



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