• Sahana Gunaratnam

#MyFirstYear In UTSC Public Policy & Political Science

I recently just completed my first year at the University of Toronto - Scarborough (UTSC). I plan to complete a double major in public policy and political science. Initially, I applied for political science, but then I attended some webinars and realized public policy offered a co-op program, unlike political science. Co-op would allow me to apply my education and give me a leg up in a competitive field. Despite being online, I still struggled with university life but managed to gain insights and tips.


STRUGGLES


Course Selection

Before university started, I struggled with choosing courses. I was freaking out because this was not like high school. Some of my peers suggested completing the breadth requirements in your first year rather than doing it later. Breadth requirements are credits one must take in a certain category in order to graduate.


At UTSC there are five categories:

  • Arts, Literature, and Language,

  • Natural Sciences,

  • History, Philosophy, and Cultural Studies,

  • Quantitative Reasoning,

  • Social and Behavioural Sciences.


During your degree, one must complete at least half a credit (0.5) in each of those categories. Choose courses that are interesting to you and are requirements for your degree. Here is a brief overview of the courses I took in my first year:


Required Courses for Political Science

  • POLA01H3 (Critical Issues in Politics I)

  • 0.5 course, Social and Behavioural Sciences breadth requirement

  • Learned about Russian, Chinese, Iranian revolutions

  • Focuses on how to think like a political scientist

  • POLA02H3 (Critical Issues in Politics II)

  • 0.5 course, Social and Behavioural Sciences breadth requirement

  • Discussed environmental politics from local,provinces to even the federal government

  • Focuses on how to think like a political scientist

Both the topics and the professors for these courses will vary by semester.

  • STAB23H3 (Introduction to Statistics for the Social Sciences)

  • 0.5 course, Quantitative Reasoning

  • Focuses on the basic concepts of statistics and the statistical methods most commonly used in the social sciences.


Required Courses for Public Policy

  • 1.0 credit at the A- or B-level in Anthropology, City Studies, Geography, International Development Studies, Political Science, or Sociology

  • I took POLA01 and POLA02. Oftentimes there will be courses that often align with more than one program. If you decide to major or minor in more than one program, always check course requirements.

  • MGEA01H3 (Introduction to Microeconomics)

  • 0.5 credit course, first you take micro then macro, Quantitative Reasoning breadth requirement

  • Focuses on the firm and the consumer with regard to economic theory

  • MGEA05H3 (Introduction to Macroeconomics)

  • 0.5 credit course, Quantitative Reasoning breadth requirement

  • Focuses on output, employment, prices, interest rates and exchange rates.

  • 0.5 Statistics credit

  • I took STAB23H3. Make sure to check course requirements.


Elective Courses

  • HISA09H3 (Capitalism: A Global History)

  • 0.5 course, History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies breadth requirement

  • Learned about different time periods and how capitalism evolved from the 14th century to the present day

  • Good course

  • EESA10H3 (Human Health and the Environment)

  • 0.5 course, Natural Sciences breadth requirement

  • Learned about different pollutants and how they affect the body

  • ENGA02H3 (Critical Writing about Literature)

  • 0.5 course, Arts, Literature and Language breadth requirement

  • Highly recommend this course

  • Learned about basic essay writing skills which I then applied to other courses

  • WSTA03H3 (Introduction to Feminist Theories and Thought)

  • 0.5 course History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies breadth requirement

  • Learned about various theories and feminisms concerning different races and sexual orientiations rather than focusing on white straight cisgender feminism

  • I made this zine for my final project



Links:

https://utsc.calendar.utoronto.ca/search-courses

https://utsc.calendar.utoronto.ca/calendar-sections



Workload, Time Management ⏰

When I entered university, I was unprepared for the workload that was required. I know some of you may be freaking out; it’s alright to freak out. A way that I manage my time is by using Google Calendar. I recently started using it, and it's a life saver. It allowed me to plan all of my courses, meetings, and assignments accordingly. University is where time management is vital. That’s why using a planner or; even Google Calendar comes in handy.



TIPS


Taking Notes 📝

During live lectures, I would take notes by writing them. When writing notes during those lectures, I would miss keywords and main ideas. Halfway through the semester, I began to print the powerpoints that professors usually posted before their lectures. Essentially I would have four slides on one page to conserve paper. (If you go to the print settings, you can adjust the number of slides, on a page) I began to notice that I retained more information when I wrote on the printed PowerPoint. Since I already had the main ideas, all I had to do was add notes that were mentioned verbally by the professor.



First Year Learning Communities (FLC) & First Year Peer (FYP)

For certain courses that you take, there are First-Year Learning Communities that come with it. Those FLC have an FLC leader, who is an upper-year student who previously studied the course. Their job is to help out students who are taking the course. FLC leaders are not Teaching Assistants; they are simply a mentor. Another resource is First Year Peers (FYP). These are upper-year students who help out first-year students with the transition from high school to university. They plan social events and send emails about deadlines to first-year students. FYP will contact you by email during the summer before classes start. Both FLC and FYP were great resources and I highly recommend you check those out.


Participate in Extracurricular Activities on Campus

In university, there are many clubs, from sciences to engineering to law. If you’re a politics nerd like me, you should join the Political Science Students Association (PSSA). In February, PSSA hosted a Model Parliament. I got to be the Right Honourable Prime Minister! We got to create motions, debate and offer various amendments. Joining extracurricular activities is a great way to apply the knowledge you gained in class to events like Model Parliament. You get to make friends who have the same interests as you.


You're probably overwhelmed with the information that I have thrown at you, don’t worry. If you have questions or concerns, join the UTSC Facebook groups and follow the Instagram pages as well. Hopefully, I will see you in the fall at UTSC!


👩🏾‍💼

Sahana Gunaratnam

Public Policy Co-op & Political Science @ University of Toronto - Scarborough

Logistics Coordinator @ LEAP Canada