Course Experiences [First Year]

ENGL 109 – An introductory course to writing.

You’ll probably have varying experiences depending on the professor or faculty that you are in. Since I’m in the Arts, I assume that’s why we didn’t focus as much on the actual mechanics of writing, and went straight into forming arguments and analyzing texts. Passing this course counts towards the ELPE requirement that most undergraduate students need. Again, I found that it didn’t really help in terms of technical writing, and that the way we wrote was highly catered to the what the professor wanted. On this note, I would highly recommend looking into the professors themselves on things like UWFlow (for any course), because the course content is very dependent on the teacher. Our professor was very keen on participation, and we used a different textbook compared to the majority of students.

I want to address a piece of “advice” the professor gave me in front of the class. It’s difficult to take courses you have no interest in, and even harder to do well in them. If financial benefits is the motivation for your education in a specific field, and you can do well with that, that’s great! Personally, English is one of my few passions, and I can’t see myself dedicating myself to something I don’t enjoy (and am probably mediocre at).

ENGL 101a – An introductory course to literary studies.

This was a course that I highly enjoyed. It had a basic overview on how to analyze poems, short stories, and novels, but the professor made it very easy-to-digest and straightforward. There was a reasonable amount of assignments that weren’t very long, which were relevant to what we would be tested on later; making it easy to receive a good grade just for attending class. The assignments also let you explore poetry and narrative writing, so there was definitely room for creativity.

ENGL 101b – An introductory course to rhetorical studies.

This was another course that I highly enjoyed. I can’t stress enough how much the professor influences the courses you take. The professor that taught this course was engaging, relatable, and made the class enjoyable; while maintaining a fair grading system, which they always left up for reviews. The assignments were expected, in the sense that there was an emphasis on recognizing rhetorical devices, and analyzing different texts using various perspectives. However, we also had a “Twitter Project”, to incorporate digital media, making the course content applicable to the real world. There was always an element of choice incorporated into our assignments; we could choose to work independently or in a group, and there were different texts we could decide to analyze.

CS 115 – An introductory course on the fundamentals of computer science; learning Scheme.

I imagine all the different sections of this course are pretty consistent because the material is taught from slides. There were weekly assignments, which took awhile for me to complete, but were very satisfying once I did. The most frustrating part of the assignments was that you couldn’t really measure progress. You could be working on a problem for days and be nowhere near the right answer. It was very interesting, and it made sense that the course was completely different from my Arts courses. Studying for computer science exams was a challenge for me, but being able to complete the assignments (which are more difficult than those on the exams), prepares you well. In my personal opinion, Scheme is not a pleasant language on the eyes. I didn’t go to many of the tutorials since they weren’t mandatory; I would say to go for the extra help if needed.

CS 116 – A course to build skills learned from CS 115; learning Python.

The course is similar to CS 115 in terms of learning style. I was very thankful of the change to Python. The professor I had for this course was more engaging than the one from CS 115. I found that learning Scheme first simplified the switch to Python, and it made it easier to understand new concepts. I felt that I was more comfortable with CS 116, and didn’t spend as much time on the assignments once I had a better grasp of computational thinking after CS 115. I think the tutorials were more helpful, but again, they weren’t mandatory. Since I was able to figure out the solutions independently (even if they took some extra time), I didn’t feel inclined to go. In hindsight, it probably would’ve helped with preparation for the exams.

PHIL 145 – A critical thinking course.

I took this elective with a friend. The professor was funny, and the course was based on the readings from the textbook. My friend and I had explored a lot of similar topics in high school (including logical fallacies and metaphysics), so it was more of a refresher, and a course for him to take a break from Math. Most of the assessments were multiple-choice, and not at all opinion-based writing.

PHIL 283 – An introduction to great works in ancient and medieval philosophy.

This is actually a second-year course, so the professor had higher expectations. However, I think courses like these are very arbitrarily ranked in terms of difficulty; although, maybe it’s the writing-skill expected that is taken into consideration. I took the elective with the same friend, and I didn’t know what I was getting into. The course had a very small class (~10 people), and was discussion-based. A lot of the mark comes from participation (which isn’t my strong point). I didn’t find myself particularly interested in any of the texts we read, but took the course because I wanted to start developing a knowledge of well-known, ancient texts. We wrote the standard three essays for writing/argument-based courses, responding to prompts that were given to us. There’s a lot of room for sharing your opinions on the texts, and the students come from a variety of faculties.

PSYCH 101 – An introductory psychology class; covers the broad topics in psychology.

I had a quirky professor, the classes were short, engaging, and provided a general overview of cognitive studies, behavioural studies, social psychology etc. I’ve taken a psychology class in high school, so this was another refresher course for me. Reading the textbook and attending the classes are pretty much enough for a good grade. Course assignments included participation in psychological studies, and I took part in the required amount as soon as I could. They were very simple, and the most effort it takes is just getting to the on-campus location. Multiple-choice exams were questions straight from lectures and readings (open-book too). Long-answer questions are given to you prior, so it’s hard to get a bad grade unless you put in no preparation, don’t attend classes, and don’t read the textbook. This is the class I threw-up in unfortunately (had nothing to do with my views on the course).

INTST 101 – An introductory course to international studies.

I took this course solely as a requirement for my faculty. I had very little knowledge of all the content that was mentioned, and I relied on memory for exams. Despite that, the professor knows and expects the students to only be able to develop a shallow understanding of the material, so the final was multiple-choice, and I finished with a solid grade. The course explores historical and present-day international conflicts, climate change, and other worldly issues. We watched a lot of movies, but discussion was pretty dull considering no one really wanted to participate (since it was a large, lecture-style class).

KOREA 101 – An introductory course to the Korean language.

If you’ve read my first-year experiences, you already know that this course was hell for me. The professor was great. They would repeat what they were teaching to anyone who needed it to be slowed down, and highly encouraged questions. However, the classes were still very overwhelming to me. Everything felt very crammed since we only had one 3-hour lecture every week; half of the time would be dedicated to learning, and the other half we would jump straight into tutorials for what we learned that day. I had a hard time once it came to verb tenses and sentence structure. I’m not sure how I did okay in this course, but I think I’ll attribute it to a bell-curve of sorts? The oral communication aspect of the course helped boost a lot of grades I assume. The professor and tutor were great, I just underestimated the dedication it would take to learn the language.

Disclaimer: These are just my opinions and everyone’s experiences are different. The professor plays a large role in how courses are delivered. The year that you take the courses may also affect course content. I hope my reviews help anyone reading gain some general knowledge about the courses mentioned.