In first year, all my classes had over 100 students, generic content and little to no room for creativity and individuality. Intro to Philosophy, Intro to English, Intro to Writing Essays….get the pattern? Introductory courses usually attempt to give you a brief introduction to the different kinds of issues in a certain field. In PHL100, I remember we covered everything from Philosophy of the Mind to Political Philosophy. In fourth year, however, there are entire seminars just on Hegel or Machiavelli. First year courses focus on increasing general knowledge of the subject matter, whereas fourth year courses aim to foster meaningful understanding of the subject matter.
I stand before you now as a fourth-year student LOVING everything about her course load. All my classes have under 25 students, are focused and are super hands-on. My fourth-year courses below, except for #5, are all seminar-style classes where the focus is on establishing a shared understanding of concepts through dialogical action. I don’t even take notes in any of them because the focus is not on memorization but on understanding or critical engagement with the readings. I love it! I feel more confident speaking in these classes than I ever did in tutorials for large intro lecture classes because these seminar-style courses value my individuality and unique perspective.
My course load this year consists of the following AMAZING courses:
1) A creative writing workshop (To which I wear only outfits hip English Majors would wear)
Last week in my creative writing workshop course we did a little visualization before a freewrite. We all closed our eyes, and our professor guided us through a simple meditation to help us explore our feelings. At first, I was like, wow, this is hilarious. But after, I realized that through that exercise, not only did the quality of my writing improve, I unlocked a different kind of learning style. For the first time in my life, someone allowed me to feel instead of telling me to be rational and logical. By understanding how I felt, I gained a deeper appreciation for who I am. And by doing so, the quality of my writing improved exponentially!
2) A Law Workshops Seminar (13 students and we get to participate in workshops at UofT’s Faculty of Law!)
A friend of mine who took this course last year noted how it really helped her prepare for law school. This seminar is taught by Dr. Theresa Miedema (one of the BEST professors at UofT according to me). She makes the world of law so accessible and so FUN! The best part about this course is that we get credit for attending workshops at the Faculty of Law and writing reflections on our experiences.
3) An Ethics Seminar (around 20 students and lead by my Program’s Director)
And my Ethics Seminar has NO reader or textbook—not even journal articles! It has links to Youtube, documentaries, book reviews etc to help us understand the issue from a practical perspective before we delve into the world of theory for our research papers. The fact that the course content is so accessible makes class discussion so much more fluid and enjoyable—and definitely less intimidating. For the first time in my life, I am not nervous about giving a presentation. Because of the small size of my program, I personally know everyone in the class! I’m excited to rock my presentation on Thursday!
4) A Service Learning Course (I get credit for community service!)
But the course I am most excited for this year is my service learning course! The professor connects us with a high-level institution or organization in the community to help us gain experience in policy-analysis. Can’t get cooler than that! And the prof keeps reiterating that this opportunity can even help us land a post-grad job! Lectures consist of REAL-LIFE talk. No theory—only solution-oriented language which emphasizes skills like listening and experiential learning to improve diagnostic and briefing skills. It is just such an amazing opportunity! As we say on Twitter…. #onlyatUofT
5) A few lame subject post requirements I’ve been avoiding since second year
I don’t know if I lucked out with such an amazing set of courses for my final year at UofT or this is how it is for everyone in Arts and Science. I just know that…..
IT GETS BETTER!!!