Linguistics at University of Western Ontario
Joyce (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.
One of the main reasons as to why I chose Western was because it offers quite some space for academic and social exploration. There are a wide variety of courses that are provided — ranging from financial modelling to museum and curatorial studies, so the students have the flexibility to choose courses under their primary academic pathways, as well as for electives that appeal to their personal interests. Western's flexibility also lies in its module type options. One single area of study might provide major, minor and/or honours specialization options, but aside from that, there are also a lot of programs that allow you to combine your degrees, such as Ivey HBA with civil engineering. They also offer non modular programs, diplomas and certifications depending on the specific area of study you're pursuing, so there are quite a lot of options to mix and match your degree and program combinations according to your needs and interests. Although Western has a large campus and a lot of established clubs, it can also be easy to feel a bit disconnected at times.
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.
Linguistics at Western is a comparatively small program. On one hand, the program's staff are always there to provide academic advice and feedback to the best of their abilities. Depending on the specific pathways you're taking within the program, most of the classes you take are small to medium sized (ranging from 30 to 100+), so it might be easier for the students to get to know each other and connect with the professor if you have questions about coursework, academic pathways and research opportunities etc. The program offers two first-year courses; the first one covers more technical knowledge of linguistics, such as phonetics and semantics, while the second course focuses more on the application aspect (eg. languages' connections to gender rules, words that are common or uncommon in children's vocabulary) and featured a creative project when I took it. The courses offered a relatively engaging and comprehensive view to linguistics itself. However, there are a limited number of specialized pathways and courses that you can take within linguistics, especially with the international language courses that are specific to the program, since it's pretty much French and Spanish-related courses for that category. One of the biggest advice I have would be taking the time to look at these different pathways in the program through the module requirements sheet, and make sure you are registered in the necessary first-year courses (eg. taking PSYCH 1000 in order to have it as a prerequisite, if you want to go into a more psych-based pathway within the program) that are related to the pathway you might want to go into. This way you can minimize the risk of regretting your course choices later on, and avoid the hassle of having to take these courses during the summer instead.
What was your favourite university experience?
My best experience at Western is made up of many little moments I had while living in residence. Besides meeting people from different programs and cities, I also enjoyed attending events that were hosted there, as they offered a lot of team challenges and fun de-stressors throughout the year. Since I lived in a living-learning community floor, it also allowed me to form a closer bond with others living on the floor, and spending some quality time having lunch or dinner together after heading back from some of the same courses we all took.
What was your least favourite university experience?
I don't have a particularly bad experience at Western so far, but as some of the other posts have mentioned, travelling within and outside the university campus can be an issue. The arrival speed and times for the buses can be a hit or miss, and some of the routes that extend from the city to the campus itself can have very spaced out intervals. This became a problem especially during winter, where travelling on and off campus can become time-consuming and difficult.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
The hardest part about my program would be the jump from specific to ambiguous questions in the coursework. For the courses I took, they had homework assignments that featured questions that were very straightforward and were simply adapted from some of the content we learned in class. However, some other questions that appear later on in the homework assignments are more ambiguous in the sense that they can be interpreted in multiple ways and mislead you into writing the wrong answer, or you don't know how much to write for a short answer question that relates to something you've learned from class, since you don't want to end up writing too much, and the TAs and/or professor can be very specific in terms of the things they are looking for in your answers. Some of the strategies I used include working with a classmate to share ideas with each other about questions we're uncertain about, and going to your TA or professor's office hours to ask them for clarifications, which really helped clear out my confusions and avoid the pitfalls of ambiguous questions.
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?
My favourite course would be LING 1027A. Even though this is the very first introductory course that you take in the program, I really enjoyed learning the different technical aspects of linguistics, such as breaking down sentence structures by drawing syntax trees and understanding the specific environments that a certain sound appears in based on a given data set, and the reason behind them. Memorizing the chart involving all the different sounds and their places and manner of pronunciation were a bit challenging, but I had a lot of fun transcribing words and sentences based on these sounds that I've learned.
Challenge yourself by trying something new or you haven't done before! This can be joining a club or council, making a personal master-list of campus resources, taking the initiative to connect with professors during their office hours, or even just by making small changes to your current study strategies! Sometimes one small difference can build up to a big meaningful one.