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Thoughts On This Past Semester

January 2010 marks the beginning of the Winter semester at university.  If all goes well, this will be my last and final semester as an undergraduate student.  This winter semester will mark the end of the security blanket I have wrapped myself with for the past five years or so.

However, I do want to comment on the goings on of last semester as I hadn’t posted anything regarding it in quite some time.

Last semester was good and bad.  On the good side, I actually made quite a bit of new friends.  I met some great people, fun and full of life.  I had some great times with these people.  They actually made university more fun than it should have been.  On the downside though, the workload I had to endure was utter hell.

For some of my classes, I had assignments due literally every week.  I rarely had any down time for myself.  I didn’t have much of a mental break at all.  I was constantly on the go and constantly studying.  It actually took quite a toll on me.  I had a few major assignments that I had to do which I felt were totally unnecessary.

For example, in one of my geography classes, Latin American Geography, I had to draw up maps and write reflections on what we were learning in class.  I can understand why the professor would want us to do this.  She wanted the class to be constantly engaged in the class material in the hopes that we would retain the information.  But given that this was a senior level class, I find assignments like this to be an utter waste of time.  These reflections on class lectures and material hope to have the student critically analyze the material but in reality this does not happen.  It’s basically regurgitating the information that we have already learned and adding in “I”‘s and “I think”‘s.  They do not force the student to think about what they are writing about.  They only force the student to mind vomit all over their keyboard, print it off and submit to the prof an illusion of what may or may not be going through the students heads.  These reflections were a big part of our grade and I felt that I didn’t gain anything out of this part.  Moreover, as the text book we were using did not provide any maps (regarding the commodity trade in Latin America), the prof forced us to construct our own maps and illustrate the travel patterns of commodities such silver, sugar, cocaine and others.  In theory this sounds like an easy assignment but in reality it was horrible.  The prof wanted us to construct detailed maps, more than what normal maps detail.  I had no idea what the prof actually wanted for our maps, what she wanted us to include and exclude.  Again, I found no benefit to this assignment whatsoever.   At the end, I was pretty disappointed in the class and its structure as I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as I thought I would.

I also was not satisfied with another geography class of mine, cultural geography.  This class has some amazing concepts to it.  The jist of cultural geography is looking at a space from a political point of view.  So  we would look at a space and analyze how it was used, who it was meant for, what power differentiations existed in the space and so on.  The material itself was very interesting but the structure of the class was as such that the information was not readily available.  Notes weren’t posted online and the text book that we used was sub par at best.  Moreover, the prof was good in certain respects but I don’t think she knew how to actually teach the class.  She was actually a grad student who was paired up with a TA who was also another grad student.  Together, they had labs that were bi-weekly.  These labs were alright except for that the TA’s marking scheme for these labs were pretty horrid.  It was almost designed so that the best one could do was get a B on it.  Most people that I talked to in the class got an average of a B- to a C.  Small things like punctuation and spelling were given more weight than the actual material itself.  Moreover, the marking scheme was rigid and there was no room given to explore or extrapolate our own ideas from the content that we learned.  There wasn’t any real academic freedom when it came to these labs.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed with respect to these two particular classes.  Although I had three other classes that went really good, these two classes that I had pinned a lot of my hopes on with respect to interesting and increasing my GPA ended up being disappointments.  Because of these two classes, my GPA isn’t what I was hoping it to be.  This means that I have to now drop classes which I was hoping to take for the sake of interest and take classes where I know that I will get a GPA in.  Considering this is going to be my last semester, I am not really happy with that.

The only thing that will make this semester worth remembering are the extra curricular activities that I am involved in.  With all the clubs and initiatives I am involved in, it is going to be a semester that I know will fly by fast but will be packed with a lot of fun.

I hope you guys had a very merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.  Good luck to everyone this semester.

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New Beginnings

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This month has marked the beginning of a new year; the beginning of the new school year that is.  Just as how the Chinese have their own calendar, the Muslims have their own calendar, university students have their own calendar as well.  The University Calendar might not be the best one out there, but it will dictate our lives for the next eight months.

So it’s the start of the new school year.  Students have been running around, trying to find their classes, buying books, returning books, and creating massive traffic jams in hallways talking to friends they haven’t seen all summer.  There are many new faces floating around and many more old faces.

Personally for myself, it marks a new beginning.  I officially completed my political science degree in the winter semester.  I tried to find a job in my field but it was quickly evident that that wasn’t going to happen.  So I planned early on to return to school and up my GPA.  In August, I came to a realisation of sorts.  I did a bit of research and talked to a few people and came to this conclusion:  Rather than taking a bunch of random classes to up my GPA, right now is a perfect time to add another degree to my undergrad.  I spoke to my advisor at university and came to the conclusion that based on the classes I’ve taken previously, it would be best if I did a minor in geography.

Why geography?  For a few reasons.  One, I did very well in my previous geography classes.  That is actually something that I didn’t expect.  I don’t love geography but it’s not something that I totally hate either.  Second, I felt that if I take the right classes, a geography minor would be a unique way for me to compliment my minor.  Third, a normal minor requires a student to complete 10 courses.  I had already taken four geography classes and so I only needed six more classes to officially have a minor.  Taking that and a few other things into consideration, I spent a good month researching my classes, researching profs and the material that they were going to teach.

These are the geography classes that I am taking this semester:

  • Cultural Geography
  • Environmental Geography
  • Geography of Latin America
  • Geography of AIDS/HIV

If I don’t change around my schedule, next semester I will be taking:

  • Political Geography
  • Economic Geography

Based on these courses and what is being taught in them, I think it will go really well with my political science degree.   The AIDS/HIV is especially a good class in that it is a seminar type of class.  It’s not a regular lecture format.  Rather, the professor encourages the class to be interactive and allows students to delve into the various academic aspects the disease.  Moreover, it gives me a good idea of what classes will be like at the Masters level, which I hope to persue later on.  The only downside is that the class requires a 30 page essay which is due at the end of the semester.  This will officially be the longest essay I will have ever written in my university career.

I am also taking a few other electives to further boost my GPA so all in all I have a full course load; 5 classes.  I have already become stressed out.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a good type of stress.  Oh yeah, I’m also working at the same time.  It’s going to be quite a busy semester.

When I first began university I didn’t plan on geography at all.  It wasn’t even on my list.  But its funny how destiny directs you to certain paths.  The good thing about the path I have chosen is that nothing bad can come out of my minor.  I’ve added another qualification to my degree and I am confident I will have a whole new perspective to view the world when I am finally done my undergrad.  So really, nothing bad can come out of this.

In the spirit of this new beginning, you may have noticed that I changed the theme of my blog.  I added a few songs on the sidebar from soundcloud.  I intend to add more as soon as I have some more time to surf the site.  There are some amazing songs on there that I would definitely love to share with you guys.  I love this theme.  The colour schemes are perfect and it gives that nice “bloggy” feeling.

I wish the rest of the students out there a fun, happy and prosperous school year.