First Day of Class

Folks, it’s that time of year again, yes that means the new school year. It feels like just yesterday when I was writing my finals and yet here we are on a mild Monday morning, the first day of classes. Now for those of you who do not have class today, you’re truly missing out. This day is ever so special as you get to witness friends reunited, first year students searching endlessly for their classes, and of course the staff and faculty buzzing around.

Now that O-Week has come to an end we begin to focus on the main reason we’re all here at Western, yes that’s for an education! I’ve truly realized this past summer how lucky we are to live in a society that encourages studies in the Arts and Humanities; one that understands the importance of our rich art history, english literature, the languages and women’s studies to name a few areas. I’ve taken my fair share of business courses and while they have helped me immensely I truly believe that the Arts and Humanities can create an appreciation for the world that surrounds us and an understanding for the importance of art and culture. 

So as to avoid becoming “too deep” on a Monday morning, my point is while you’re here to get an education so to speak, in the Arts and Humanities you gain so much more, it becomes a frame of mind, and sometimes it’ll take some convincing when people ask you what you study. Trust me, I’m studying Art History and if I got a nickel for every time an individual (including myself)  asked me “What do you plan on doing with that?”, I could stop worrying about getting a job when I graduate (I’m kidding!). In all honesty, I take it upon myself to help others understand the importance of what I study and encourage other students to take at least one class in the arts department, and I’ve only seen positive results come from this.

So what I’m saying is be proud of your area of study, no matter how common or uncommon it may be, and if you truly love your area of focus good things will come your way. 

Tegan

A Western Summer

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As I write this we’re only seventeen sleeps away from the first day of classes, and I know that for the majority of students the last time you were on campus was your exit walk after your last exam. You got to walk away for four months, work, sleep, relax and probably don’t really give much thought to school. But here on the other side of the Western world exists the students who take summer courses, work on campus or simply choose to be here because they love it so much and can’t bare the thought of being away, I’m pushing it, I know. But here’s the thing while most of you went home for the summer, many students including myself stayed here, in beautiful London Ontario. Now you may ask what we did all summer, and you may be surprised at the amount of activity on campus during the summer months.

I am lucky enough to work on campus, in one of the residences as a Conference Assistant, and also as a Research Assistant, another very unique and exciting opportunity. I also took a french course this summer, a requirement for my Art History module. There are many perks to being a summer student and I’m certain anyone who spends their summer months here will agree. During the summer here at Western, you can actually go to Weldon and find a good spot, you don’t have to wait in line for nearly anything (unless you go to Tim Hortons!) and you get to experience the campus during the height of its beauty. The flowers have bloomed, the greenery is plush and the people are cheery and not to get too corny but honestly, you gain an appreciation for the busy months on campus. Don’t get me wrong, the peace and quiet is nice, but you begin to miss the excitement and energy that Western is so well known for. More specifically, the building where I spend a majority of my time, the Visual Arts Building, can become quite deserted during the summer months, and the absence of student art makes me realize how wonderful it is to be a part of a department that appreciates individuality and displays creativity.

Not only was I working on campus, but I was living on campus, so I spent nearly every waking minute at Western. I got the opportunity to work with dozens of international students, assist them in their transitioning period and guide them around London. Seeing how truly amazed they were at the trees and space, something we take for granted, made me realize how beautiful London really is. My summer on campus has opened my eyes to the possibilities here at school, they seem to be endless and available to all students and I think it’s safe to say that during the summer months, you realize what it takes for a University of this size to operate. Now you may think that things settle down for the staff and faculty, but it seems quite the opposite; this is the time to catch up, and prepare for the coming school year, because as we all know September creeps up on us quicker than we ever expect it to.

So to all the Arts and Humanities students, and the students of every faculty, when you’re back on campus take a moment to appreciate the beauty, the people and how lucky we are to be a part of this experience that will hopefully help guide our lives. Most importantly, try and get involved, whether it be through a club, a work study position, a summer job on campus or writing for the school paper, nothing will be more satisfying than giving back to the school that gives to you year after year.

 

Tegan Hadisi

Honors Specialization Art History and Criticism

A Fresh New Start

Coming back to school after the holidays can be difficult! After swapping novels for textbooks and hanging out with your friends for study sessions, getting back into the swing of things is tough. There are a few ways that can help ease the transition back into school:

1. Remember everything you missed

There’s something magical about Spoke bagels, and nabbing a good study spot in Weldon is always great. When you remember all of the great things that you left behind to go home, it’s a lot easier to come back! One of the greatest things about Western is that it’s a home away from home. Even just saying “hey!” to people you recognize as you pass them on campus is a really nice feeling.

2. You don’t have to dive right back into your work

Take some time to reconnect with your friends here at Western; the last time you saw them was probably in the midst of exam season! Having a support system of friends is a great way to feel at home again.  After getting comfortable, academics become a lot easier to manage. Another idea is to join up with an academic club (like French Club) to mix together your social life and your academic life. Bonus: French Club members get 10% off poutine at Pierre’s Poutine downtown!

3. Keep in touch.

Missing your friends from home? Don’t despair! With Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s easy to keep up to date with all of your friends from home.  You can even do the “group chat” feature on Skype to have an all-night gab session with your friends. You can also try physically mailing a letter to your friends to try something different. Getting something in the mail that isn’t a flyer or a bill is always a fun surprise!

Students here are lucky since they have two homes – one in their hometown, and another here at Western. I hope everyone has a great second semester!

A Day in the Life

What’s it like being a student in Arts and Humanities at Western? While my typical day doesn’t involve scaling down government buildings or taking tea with the Queen, each day there’s something different and fun.  I think that’s when you know you’re in the right spot – when you’re excited to wake up and see what the day has to offer.

For myself, this is a usual Wednesday:

6:30: Wake up! I like to grab the bus early so that I have time to stop by the Spoke  before class. Trust me, a cinnamon raisin bagel is the best way to start your day.

 8:30: French class. One of the best things about being in Arts and Humanities is the small class sizes. My class only has 30 people! The professor knows all of our names. We usually start the class talking about what we did on the weekend or what’s been going on in our lives – in French, of course! We usually follow this with a grammar lesson or a look into French culture.

9:30: French lab. The language learning lab that Western uses is amazing – once a week for an hour, we use the lab to be fully immersed into French using radio stations, interviews, film trailers – anything! It’s nice getting a hands-on perspective.

10:30-12:30: Arts and Humanities Student Council (AHSC) office hours. Each member of the AHSC holds office hours – drop by and say hello! We’re here in our office (UC 112F) to answer any questions that students might have. The AHSC holds many events throughout the year, my favorite being the coffee houses. It’s a chance to relax with friends and enjoy some good music.

It’s easy to find a great place to study in-between classes!

12:30: Lunch! Most buildings on campus have some sort of food available in them. It’s impossible to pick a favorite spot to eat, but nothing beats grabbing tacos in the Natural Sciences building.

1:30: Global Literature class. Once again, my class has only 40 people in it, so everyone has a connection with the professor. Today we talked about how films relate to their movie format, and why people usually like the book more. The professor brings up so many interesting points that it’s impossible to not leave the class without a new perspective on the book.

2:30: Narrative Theory class. The best thing about this class is how involved everyone is. Everyone throws out ideas and bounces them off each other. The class is a combination of lecture and discussion – it’s the best of both worlds!

3:30: LAMP Peer Mentor office hours. The LAMP program is one of the best things about Western: it pairs up first-year students with upper-year mentors to help students survive first year. They hold professor meet-and-greets, movie nights, and other awesome events throughout the year.

5:30: Study session at Weldon. Studying doesn’t seem bad at all when you’re with a bunch of your closest friends, eating nachos (seriously, they are amazing) and laughing.

After that, a short bus ride home completes the day! While each day might follow a pattern, there’s always something new. I wonder what will happen next Wednesday?

The Humanities from a French Perspective

I’ve been abroad in the south of France for almost two months now, and in school for two weeks. At first I thought studying English literature in France would be like studying English literature at home. Boy was I ever wrong…….

Learning about European history and architecture the best way possible — in person, in the midst of it all.

Here’s a brief insight into what it’s like to study the humanities as a foreign student.

In many ways, it’s a lot less advanced. You may initially find yourself thinking that these classes will be the easiest ever. For one thing, they only read a maximum of two required texts per semester per class. (Compared to the ten sometimes fourteen-ish novels I read per semester last year in my English classes, that’s a breeze.) In addition, though, many of the students in my classes are not fully fluent in English, so you can imagine what a challenge it is for them to read books like Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe or Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf! Many of the teachers cater to the French students’ difficulty with the language and spend a lot of time on vocabulary, literary devices, spelling changes in old vs. modern texts, et cetera… which is all stuff I learned way back in high school.

It’s interesting to hear the European perspective on British, American, and Canadian idiosyncrasies. One of the funniest things we discussed in class today was the British/American/Canadian hesitation with speaking curse words in public, and the fact that they’re banned in schools. Apparently, this is not a big deal to the French, and they view swear words as really cool. Often French kids who write a song title that has a swear word in it would write it with the stars (as we do in America, Canada, and Britain), and then write the actual swear word in brackets beside it, for clarity’s sake! French students don’t get suspended for swearing or for having a swear word on their t-shirt (although it’s not considered polite or appropriate to swear in front of a respected adult such as a teacher). This is just one example of how the French view of Anglophone culture is quite different from our own perspective of our culture, and it’s neat to see why and how foreign people interpret the different cultures of English-speaking countries!

Upper-year classes are typically entirely comprised of discussion groups. Discussion is usually pretty rigidly directed and is encouraged to follow a specific train of thought. Independent and creative thinking is not really commonly appreciated. My classes taught “lecture-style” are centered on listening to the professor and eventually regurgitating that information. My “discussion-style” classes, while much more open, still follow a guided conversation on set topics, and the teacher typically steers the discussion/thought process to a specific perspective of the text. Creative thinking is not really encouraged; students are usually told there is a “right or wrong” answer. Conversation is also usually very rigid as the teacher marches the students through a set list of questions. This is one area of the French education system that I find very disappointing- because no matter what level of understanding a student has of a language, I think free and independent thinking should always be encouraged. (But, this perspective is obviously the product of a North American society and educational background.)

Learning about French heraldry and genealogy representations from an old book store. Is there a better way to take in the history?

A happy surprise… there’s no essays. The French don’t really do a degree in English literature, they do a degree in English- so the focus is more on English as a language rather than the body of Anglophone literature. While it doesn’t seem like a big thing, it kind of is- mainly because developing students into skilled writers isn’t the main idea. Instead, the focus is on wholly understanding a text, then taking steps to analyze and criticize it. In many cases, there is no written aspect to an English literature course, because the final exams are often oral. In the exams, students are given an excerpt from the text they studied and are simply asked to comment on it in any way, and on any aspect of that excerpt, that they want. This is very different from our system of examinations and evaluations, of course, and it makes a lot more sense when you think about the fact that in the French education system, studying English is more of a practical skill based on levels of proficiency in oral, auditory, and comprehension areas.

Influences on the text such as the historical, social, religious, and political undertones of the time period are not considered very important during the study of English literature. As I mentioned above, the focus is primarily on simply understanding the text, then making observations about the text within itself. While some historical understanding is often required- especially concerning terms no longer in use in Modern English- there’s typically no “background information” given about the texts. The French are all about diving right into it and getting down to the nitty gritty. While this is probably a relief to the French students, I always feel like they’re missing out on a lot, especially because most of the texts studied in literature courses are from a much older time period. I think it’s important to note the differences between then and now.

While school in a different country can sometimes be annoying- I can honestly say right now that I miss the Western-style education I receive at home- I think this is one of the most important and interesting facets of study abroad.

If you have ever studied abroad before, did you find the education system very different from at home? Was it better or worse?

If you’re interested in following more of my study abroad adventures, hop on over to bonjour-provence.blogspot.com and take a look at my personal travel blog!

The Western Buffet

“What should I do with my life?”

This last weekend over 118,000 students came to the Ontario Universities’ Fair in Toronto over a three-day period to find the answer to that question. Some students came boldly marching up to the Western booth, asking direct and succinct questions. Others were more nervous about speaking up.

The moment that stands out the most in my mind is when a student quietly came up to me and asked, “Why Western?”

I was a bit taken aback. Most of the questions had been very specific, such as if we offered creative writing courses or had exchanges to other countries. This was a very broad question.

“My problem isn’t that I have nothing to say,” I told him after a few seconds passed, “It’s that I have so much to say.”

It was true. There were so many things I wanted to say, and I needed to organize my thoughts. I smiled at him and took a breath as he adjusted the backpack on his shoulder.

I told him everything.

The Western student experience is like a massive, delicious, all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s every type of dish you can choose from: academics, sports, clubs, councils – you name it, and we have it. You can choose to eat a lot from one dish, or a little of everything, or a mix in between.

I’ve always imagined Arts and Humanities as a stir-fry. We have many different programs that come together to make an absolutely fantastic faculty. Each program – just as each ingredient in a stir-fry – comes together to make the whole dish better. Everything from French to Philosophy to Digital Humanities adds a new flavor or spice

Just as the waiters at a buffet are there to help you with whatever you need, the faculty and staff in Arts and Humanities are always there as well. The professors are open and easygoing – visit their office hours!  – and the staff in the Academic Counseling Office are just as helpful. As well, it’s great to talk the class T.A.’s – they want to help, but sometimes find that students are too nervous to approach them. They’re friendly, I swear!

I spoke to the student for about twenty minutes. Gradually he became increasingly confident in talking and was asking engaging questions. He seemed especially interesting in minoring in Medieval Studies, since it’s new this year. At the end, he shook my hand, and thanked me.

“That was great,” he said, “But I’m really hungry now after hearing about buffets.”

We both laughed – and I hope to see him on campus next year.

5 Things I learned from Year 2

It’s now been almost exactly three months since I finished my second year at UWO. When I’m thinking about it, the time has really flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was about to start my first year at Western…

Sometimes I think I’ve learned all there is to know about university life. Then life throws me another curveball and shows me I’ve got a few more lessons to learn.

Sometimes the best way to make a place feel homier is to invite some friends over for a housewarming get-together!

#1: Living on your own is hard, but it’s even more awesome. Boring things like cooking and cleaning are actually important life skills you will need to implement. If you don’t, your apartment will look like a tornado/garbage dump/ant hill/nasty nasty nasty. All of those options are not fun. It’s also not fun to think about the fact that no one would notice if a serial killer got you, or what you would do if your basement apartment caught on fire, or what if your landlord living upstairs is a crazy person. Ergo, it is important that you learn to chill out and not let the crazy thoughts get to you (because really, what are the chances of any of those things happening?). It’s also kinda hard to get used to coming home to an empty house… every night for the entire year. But once you do all these things, the freedom is beautiful. You can watch whatever you want on TV. No one eats all your favourite ice cream. You can have secret dance parties to Justin Bieber and no one has to know. You don’t have to shut the bathroom door when you shower (I’m not sure why this feels so fantastic, honestly). If you want to be lazy and not clean… well, it’s not a good idea, but at least no one’s going to be complaining. There are so many fantastic things about living by yourself, so if you take the plunge, try your hardest to revel in that glorious independence and solitude. It’s probably something you’re not going to experience very often.

#2: It’s not impossible to do well academically. Plus, it feels fantastic. Sometimes those bad grades that keep piling up get discouraging, and it seems like you’re forever going to be a C student. It suddenly seems like high school was a piece of cake and university is trying to make you delusional. But here’s the thing: For just one assignment, put all you have into it. (I.e., research extensively. Spend tons of time writing and rewriting. Get lots of peer edits. Edit ruthlessly yourself. Seek the advice of professors and TAs.) Once you actually give 100% of your best effort to assignment, you’ll be surprised by the results. Chances are very good that you’ll end up with a mark far better than anything you’ve received thus far.

#3: Dreams are never impossible to reach. I’m such a cheezeball!!! #sorryimnotsorry. But even so… here’s the thing. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how many amazing people there are at Western. There are so many people doing really cool things and it’s easy for the “bad tapes” to play, questioning your own awesomeness. It’s so important to remember that you can do almost anything you set your mind to in the face of this self-doubt. Hard work and perseverance can get you anywhere. This lesson is so applicable to almost everything you do in university… from getting good grades, to landing an executive position on your favourite club, being accepted into the study abroad program, getting your dream internship or a super cool part-time job, making the sports team, etc. If you can dream it, you can do it.

Bonding with my gal pal Susan at a UWO Men’s Hockey game.

#4: Friendships are forever. Reruns of Grey’s Anatomy are not. Maybe I’m just a weirdo, but I am such a homebody. TV and movies can suck me in for hours… not to mention YouTube… and let’s not even talk about Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc. But the reality is, your time at university is one of the easiest times to meet people and making friendships and building relationships is way more important than memorizing lines of your favourite TV show will ever be. Moral of the story: Spend some quality time with friends. They’ll be there for you in more ways than Grey’s can be.

#5: It’s OK to change your mind. Maybe this is a stereotypical indecisive arts student thing, but I’ve now changed my mind about what modules I want to do approximately 1240864 times. In my defense, if you think about how many really awesome things there are to study- from English (my love) to Psychology to Mapmaking to Publishing to Medieval Life- it becomes clear that there just isn’t enough time to do it all. First year is a time for exploration. Take that time and use it well, by branching out into other areas of study you may have never considered. For me, second year was also a time of exploration. I am well on my way to completing my English module, but I stillhaven’t decided if I want to do a minor in History, Classics, Comparative Literature, or Medieval Literature (and this is the narrowed down list). Through all of your indecisive flip-flopping around, just remember that you should embrace the change!

If you’re a first year student, maybe this will put you a step ahead on the learning curve. If you’re in second year, I hope you realize you’re not alone in having to come to terms with all these hard life lessons.

Can’t wait to see what third year will bring!

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