Freya (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.
I wish I had known that adjusting into UofT from high school can be rough when it comes to mental health and that there are not a lot of mental health resources available on campus. The resources they do have tend to have a long wait time to access. The main negative criticism that people have about the UofT St. George campus is that it has a very stressful and competitive environment, and I can attest that this is true. During my first year of university, there was a suicide at Bahen centre which is a building I walked by every day on my way to class. I wish I'd known about the stressful environment before so that I could have prepared myself. I struggle with anxiety and depression and I could have taken extra precautions to protect myself, such as making sure to have a therapist, taking medication and taking care of my general health.
I really don't hope that this scares anyone who is planning to go to UofT however. UofT is an amazing school with a great reputation and so many opportunities to explore. I chose the St. George campus because of the endless clubs and volunteer opportunities there are to really find something you're passionate about. Toronto is such an exciting city and there's something there for everyone. If your dream is to come to UofT, then just remember to take care of yourself mentally and physically. You can't attend all those club meetings that you've always wanted to if you're too exhausted. Make sure you have a strong support network and remember to take advantage of the Good2Talk mental health helpline for postsecondary students if you ever need to talk to someone. The number is 1-866-925-5454.
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.
I am a linguistics student and I love linguistics. UofT is the best school in Canada for linguistics and also has wonderful research opportunities if you are interested in that field. I am currently enrolled in a research program for studying African languages such as Yoruba. In high school I already knew it was something I wanted to study, however I wish I'd known the amount of analytic skills and scientific thinking it required. In linguistics, it is possible to either get a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science.
I have always been the creative type as well as someone who loved the humanities/liberal arts subjects. My favourite subjects in high school were English and history. Math and science were my weak point. To all incoming linguistics students who are like me and are stronger in the humanities, I encourage you to still try your best in math while you're in high school because the logical thinking skills will definitely help you later on if you're planning to study linguistics. Of course, it isn't a prerequisite to study calculus or anything. But linguistics does have a lot of intense problem solving and analyzing patterns and data. I've met people who do double majors in linguistics and computer science.
My second major is called literature & critical theory. A lot of people haven't heard of it, and I didn't either before first year. I thought I would be majoring in English, but I realized I enjoy LCT more. LCT has a greater emphasis on philosophy and literary theory. It includes texts from a variety of cultures and requires the study of a second language as part of the program. The LCT program at St. George also has the option of taking graduate classes at an undergrad level on advanced topics such as translation.
What was your favourite university experience?
Getting involved with extracurriculars as well as general events in the city of Toronto was great. I love writing, so I wrote articles for publications. There are many student-run publications on campus. I also went to protests and fundraising events for causes I care about- such as environmentalism. I went to the Toronto climate strike. I joined some clubs and student unions. If you are the type who loves clubs, volunteering, research or job opportunities then definitely check out the CLNX website which lists everything going on at U of T that is worth getting involved in.
Most of my classes were huge. My anthropology class had 1000 people. But an experience I really enjoyed was getting to take some small seminar classes with only 25 people in them. You should definitely consider enrolling in seminars as they help you develop your skills in first year. At U of T, check out the "Ones programs." There are many different Ones programs depending on your interests and they basically let you take small classes in whatever topic you're interested in. There is an application form to fill out online. They are a lot of fun and my One program was where I met my university friend squad.
What was your least favourite university experience?
I already mentioned I struggle with depression and anxiety, so feeling lonely, anxious and confused was a big struggle for me. It is important to remember that there is some support for you. If you take a small seminar class, your professors will usually be approachable and willing to talk to you if you book an appointment to talk about course selection or career pathways. There are a number of helplines to call if you're in the middle of a breakdown. The important thing is to have hope that times will get better. Having clarity about your courses and programs is also helpful, at least for me. I was very stressed when I didn't really know what to major in and felt much better when I figured it out. Now I'm studying something which I really love.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
Linguistics has a lot of tough problem solving. But the linguisitcs department offers help labs and tutoring services, especially around exams. I was at almost every one of these sessions. I was also active during tutorials and asked a lot of questions. If you don't understand something, you should really take initiative to ask for help.
When it comes to LCT, there is a lot of reading. Sometimes it can be impossible to do all the assigned reading at university, but you must do your best. Get all your required books early on in the course and read them. Try to be an active reader by taking notes and bookmarking stuff you have questions about so you can ask someone about it later.
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?
I loved all my courses, but a really memorable one was ANT100 (introductory anthropology at U of T). There were 1000 students in my class and it took place at convocation hall which is a huge building at U of T. The course has three different professors who specialize in different topics: evolutionary biology, archaeology, and sociocultural/linguistic anthropology. It is a wonderful course to take and not very difficult but it provides you with a really broad scope of knowledge. I found the archaeology part to be particularly fascinating and I remember visiting my prof during her office hours to tell her how much I enjoyed her class. You should definitely go to office hours. Don't be shy. It's a great way to express your passion to a professor in a field that you are interested in.
Here's a random useful tip. At the beginning of your course, you get a syllabus that lists all your deadlines on it including your paper deadlines. Not all courses have papers of course but generally humanities students have to write a lot of them. As soon as you find out your paper deadlines, go on the Writing Centre website and book an appointment around that time. You can always cancel it later if you change your mind. But do not wait until the time in the semester when papers are usually due. Writing centres can help you at any stage of the process and really helped me with my papers because papers in uni are different from the way you write in high school. Good luck and I hope you enjoy your time at UofT!