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Fall 2015 (2A): Term Summary

Hey Guys!
January 20, 2016 

Welcome to my second article in the Term Summary series. This article will be about my Fall 2015 term. Again, I'll mainly be outlining the courses I took as well as giving you guys my opinion and thoughts on these courses. I'll also include a bit on what's been happening in my life, and also give you guys a idea of what I'm planning to do in the future. 

So let's talk about what's been happening for me. After having a great Winter 2015 term, I was certainly looking forward to my second year at Waterloo. During my summer off, I worked as an assistant supervisor at an amusement park in order to make some money and also to gain some experience. The hours were pretty long (I oftentimes worked 12 hour shifts), but my staff were really cool people and we all got along well. I also started studying for the logical reasoning section (commonly known as the arguments section) of the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) in preparation for when I take it in third year. I remember when I first started, I was scoring absolutely terribly (bottom 20% of test-takers), but I can now can consistently get around high 80s to low 90s, scaled score of high 160s to low 170s on this section, which translates to approximately the top 0.8-4.2% of all test-takers (took damn forever to improve!). 

But onto this term! Fall 2015 for me was the first term I was officially a PSCI student. I began to meet new people in my PSCI classes and shared multiple classes with many of them. Instead of having 150 students per class, as I had in my first year PSCI courses, I only had about 60-80. This term for me was sort of my testing ground. It was my chance to see if I had picked the right major, and to also see which areas of Political Science I wanted to specialize in. 

Classes

In total, I took 5 classes this term. I took 3 PSCI courses this term, as well as 2 electives that I took out of interest. One elective was from the Faculty of Arts, while another one was from the Faculty of Science

PSCI 252 - The Global South: An Introduction to International Development

After taking PSCI 150 and learning a lot about global inequality, I decided to take this course out of interest. PSCI 252 focuses on the development of current third-world countries. It examines issues such as poverty, the consequences of colonization, poor infrastructure, challenges to development, and also covers multiple theories of development. For this course, we had mandatory weekly tutorial sessions, with each tutorial consisting of a discussion on a certain topic or question. Excellent course overall, and certainly raised a lot of questions and concerns about global development. My professor was Dr. Mariam Mufti. She was probably my favourite professor this term. She presented the material clearly and enthusiastically. The best thing though was that she was SUPER intimidating. Like she would call out students by name in class to answer questions. You might think that's a bad trait, and I initially thought it was too. However, it really allowed me to critically think about the material and kept me focused and interested during the lecture. Course evaluations consisted of easy quizzes held every week, as well as a large essay and 2 smaller in-class essay tests. The quizzes were mostly knowledge-based and designed to make sure you actually paid attention during lecture. A significant portion of the mark was also dedicated to tutorial attendance and participation. I scored mostly low 80s on my essays, but the quizzes and participation brought my mark up significantly, allowing me to end off with an 88%. 

LS 101 - Introduction to Legal Studies

So I took this elective out of pure interest. It seems that many students actually choose to take this popular elective. Although this course was also offered online, I elected to take the in-class version. Depending on which professor you have, the material generally stays the same as the online course. This course was pretty much a review of Grade 11 and 12 law, plus a bit more. It covered areas such as theories of law, theories of social control, criminal law, tort law, property law, and the history of law. This course also examined issues in current Canadian law, such as prostitution and drug legislation. I had Dr. Fred Desroches as my professor. This man seemed like a great guy, and he also has some pretty nice academic publications, but I felt that his lectures were exceedingly boring. There were no slides so it was just him talking for the whole duration, usually adding in some of his life stories. I skipped almost of the lectures, and studied off the material from the online course. Evaluation consisted of a 40% weighted essay and 60% weighted exam. There was a large amount of choice for essay topics, but the assignment was poorly designed. The biggest problem was that it had a 4 page limit, which made it hard to coherently and fully present all your points. The exam was significantly easier and consisted of multiple choice, short answer, and some longer answer questions. The exam was mostly knowledge based. I got an 82% on the essay, but somehow scored like 99% on the exam. Ended off the course with a final grade of 92%. 

PSCI 100 - Introduction to Government  

I was actually supposed to take this course in my Fall 2014 term, but I was still in CS at that time. This course is highly similar to the format of 150 in that it is split into 2 distinct halves. The first half is a general introduction to Canadian Politics. Topics such as elections, the constitution and charter, parliament, governmental duties, and also the role of political parties were discussed. The second half discusses the policy-making process in politics. Topics included stuff on how policies are designed, how they are implemented, what makes for a successful policy, and also who contributes to the policy-making process. My professors were Dr. Anna Esselment and Dr. Gerard Boychuk. Dr. Esselment was certainly an excellent professor. She was great at explaining the topics and outlining the assignments/tests. She also encouraged a lot of class discussion. Dr. Boychuk was also great. Super enthusiastic guy, and also great at answering questions. Side note: apparently this guy is considered the most attractive male PSCI professor (according to my female classmates), so the front row was naturally filled with females. Course evaluations consisted of a research assignment, tutorial participation, 2 midterms, and also a paper. I scored mid-80s on my papers and first midterm, but did quite poorly on my second midterm due to lack of preparation. Ended up with a final grade of 83%. 

SCI 237 - Exploring the Universe/Introduction to Astronomy

Whaaaat? Astronomy? I know, you guys probably didn't think that I'd ever take a course like this. Well, I actually have a pretty deep interest in astronomy, especially on topics about our solar system. This course seemed like a great way to learn more stuff in this area. Topics consisted of the following: the history of astronomy, the solar system, stars, exoplanets, galaxies, theories of the universe, and also some stuff on extraterrestrial life. If you're worried about any complex physics and math involved, don't be afraid! This course was designed to contain virtually no math. I had Dr. Michael Fich as my professor. This guy was pretty cool and funny in an eccentric way. He's told some pretty entertaining stories of his adventures as a field researcher way back then, and also showed cool documentaries and videos during class. The timing of the class (6:30-9:30 PM) was pretty bad, and a lot of times I felt the urge to fall asleep. However, the films and videos kept the class relatively interesting. Evaluations consisted of many easy assignments (mostly just researching and writing a short response on some topic), a midterm, and a final exam. Assignments were marked mostly for completion (if you did it, you pretty much got at least 80, and in most cases 100). I forgot the exact numbers, but the grading scheme was designed to give you the highest mark based on your performance on the exam. Thus, if you did poorly on the exam, your exam would be weighted less, and vice-versa. I ended off with an 87% in this course by just studying over the slides. 

PSCI 281 - World Politics

Again, I took this course out of interest as I found PSCI 150 to be an excellent course. However, I think that PSCI 281 was not as great as I thought it would be. Topics mostly consisted of theories of world politics including realism, liberalism, neoliberalsim, marxism, constructivism, and post-structuralism. I felt that the classes covered too much theoretical material, making it relatively dull to absorb. I thought that this course would instead focus on the current issues regarding world politics, but I was clearly wrong. The course have been greatly improved with some good present-day case studies. Again, I had Dr. Veronica Kitchen as my professor. She ran some interesting tutorial sections, and was certainly quite helpful during the extra exam review session she held. The course evaluations consisted of a large group project, class and tutorial participation, some map quizzes, 2 small essay assignments, and a final exam. The essays were marked quite hard (I only got mid 70s on both of them; few people got above 80). Luckily, my group members were all amazing people and we scored quite high on our final project. Although I did well on the map quizzes, I felt like these were quite unfair to students. The quizzes were not based off any course material, but instead tested you on knowing the geographical locations of countries on a world map. You could be tested on an easy country like China, or you would be expected to know the exact location of an obscure country like Guatemala. Luckily, I happened to be a whiz at remembering locations of countries, but many students performed extremely poorly on these quizzes. The final exam was marked quite easily, although it covered a broad range of topics. Dr. Kitchen also gave out up to 4% extra credit through various small assignments. I managed to score a 91% as my final mark, but I suspect that the extra credit and possibly even a bell curve helped me greatly. 

The Future & Concluding Remarks

In this term, I mainly took courses on international politics, but I will probably focus more on some domestic or North American politics courses in my 2B term. Initially, I was scared that my Winter 2015 term was a fluke and that my marks would go back down this term, but this was certainly not the case. I ended off with an GPA of 3.9/4.0 (88.2%, A) average this term, slightly lower than the 3.92/4.0 (89.8%, A) I achieved last term. I think next term I might try to aim for a 90%+ average, with a GPA of around 3.94 to 3.96. 

As an Honours Political Science student, I was also allowed to enroll in the Co-op option and I am certainly looking forward to gaining some real life experience in my field. My first work term starts Spring 2016, and I have already started looking at the job postings right now on Waterloo's Co-op job bank. Next term (Winter 2016) is another study term, so I'll probably be holding off on studying for the LSAT analytical reasoning section (more commonly known as the logic games section) until summer.










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