Spring 2018 (4A) Summary

September 5, 2018

Hello everyone again! Exams for this Spring term have finished and I've just started my new Co-op at Environment and Climate Change Canada. I'm looking forward to what it has instore for me as this is my first federal Co-op. Right now I'm actually living in Gatineau (right across the Quebec-Ontario border from Ottawa) as the rent is cheaper and it's closer to my work. A good thing about here is that my commute now is only 10 minutes of walking as compared to the 1 hour commutes I had back in Toronto,

This was actually my first and will be my only Spring term at Waterloo. I can very much say that I actually enjoyed it a lot. I wasn't looking forward to it initially as the last thing I wanted to do was spend a summer around Waterloo, but it was actually super nice! If anyone else has a Spring term allocated for them due to their Co-op sequence, I would really suggest looking forward to it. There are plenty of people around campus still, but there's a much quiet vibe. On top of that, Spring term is pretty short - all of my classes ended like mid to late July and I was done exams by early August. Renting was so much better too - I was really lucky and was the only person in my apartment that stayed on for Spring. For whatever reason, the other tenants didn't sublet their place out, so I was able to enjoy a whole apartment to myself. You'll also find that the rent is much cheaper if you are looking for a sublet. Prices for a $750 room in an apartment can go as low as $300.

Moving on to the courses I took, as usual I will be including a description of the course content, along with my opinion of both the course and the professor. I also like to include the grade I received in the course, to give you guys a picture of the difficulty level in case you're wondering about whether or not you should take the course.

Classes

As I had taken an extra PSCI course last term, I only took 2 PSCI classes this term, both of which were 4th year seminars. I also took another 4th year seminar in Planning, and topped my course selection off with two interest-based electives, one in East Asian Studies, and another in Sociology/Legal Studies.

PSCI 490-001 - US Foreign Policy Post-9/11

This course was probably the most intense course I took this term just by the nature of the topic. You really have a bunch of personalities in the class clashing during every seminar discussion. I would say this course is for sure great for people who have strong ideas and love to push them out, because that's exactly what you'll be able to do. As a fourth year course, it followed a seminar structure. Every week there were readings on issues related to US Foreign Policy and students would come for a three hour discussion on these issues. The content was very interesting for sure, although at times I feel like I couldn't participate as much as I wanted to as my background in International Relations was much weaker than many of the other students, some who specialized in International Relations. The course was marked primarily on short analytical 1-page commentaries, which students wrote to address topics in the readings for that week. These commentaries were quite fun to write, as they allowed you to really dig deep into one or more of the readings with a critical lens. You were allowed to submit as many as you wanted, with the top six marks being counted for. In addition, there was a grade awarded for participation as well as a final paper. The professor, Aaron Ettinger, was absolutely amazing for this course. He knew exactly how to run a seminar and get the ideas flowing in the class. He is also quite fair with his marking. He does like to "squeeze" you for your marks, especially in the first couple of commentaries, but he will always give you opportunities to improve. I ended off with a very respectable grade of 88% in his course.

PSCI 490-002 - Politics in Practice

As another 4th year seminar course, Politics in Practice was also quite an intensive course. However, as the topic was a bit lighter than foreign policy, the seminar discussions tended to be less heated. This course discussed the marketing and campaigning strategies that political parties use, with a specific focus on the 2018 Ontario Election. Each weak, there were different readings on the various campaigning strategies used and the theory behind them. I liked how this course drew upon many different disciplines in the social sciences, including areas such as sociology, psychology, economics, and statistics. Marks were based off three short papers of around 6-8 pages, participation, a presentation on the readings for that week, and a final group project of 40 to 50 pages. I found that the group project was especially difficult to do as it required you to work with others and combine all your work into one cohesive file. Group work is especially volatile at the undergraduate level because if your group members are duds then you're going to have to carry them through the project. The professor, Anna Esselment, was as usual a great professor and an expert in this area. The marking was quite fair, although Esselment tended to be on the tougher end especially when giving out grades higher than 85%. However, I ended up doing quite well in this course with a final grade of 88%.

PLAN 440 - Urban Services Planning

Instead of taking a third Political Science course, I thought I would venture out this time and taking a course in a completely different faculty. This course had caught my eye due to the similarity between the content in the course and the work that I did, especially at the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat. After taking a look at the syllabus and the professor ratings, I felt that it would be a good fit for me to broaden my educational knowledge beyond the Political Science department. I was well-rewarded with this decision for sure. The course content was highly interesting and student-led. Apart from the first couple of weeks, each week a student group would present a topic of their choices and create their own seminar to lead on. The topics ranged from issues such as waste from fast fashion to climate change in developing countries. For my topic, I decided to focus on something more domestic that I had really been keen on for a while, and that was the politics of the Scarborough Rapid Transit System. The marking for the course was quite lenient and the Professor, Carrie Mitchell, was understanding and flexible with due dates and assessments. Students were marked on participation, their presentation, and a case study analysis of around 15 to 20 pages. The case study analysis was quite fun to write and included a drafting and editing stage. Overall, I did very well in this course at 92%, especially as my case analysis I felt was well-written due to my familiarity with the topic of the Scarborough RT. I was very happy with my choice and would recommend this course to anyone even outside of planning. It helped a lot to branch out and meet new people in different programs, and I am still in touch with a couple of them.

EASIA 201R - Introduction to East Asian Studies

I had taken this course as an elective to round off the intensive 4th year seminar courses that I was taking. This course was designed as a survey course for people who are interested in the politics, history, and culture of China, Japan, and Korea. It focused on key points in the politics and history of these countries, such as during World War II and the industrialization of these three countries. The cultural part focused primarily on issues such as food, entertainment, and religious practices in these countries. The content itself was very interesting, with films being played throughout and various guest lecturers coming in to give more insight. Assessments consisted of four short multiple choice quizzes, discussion and participation in class, a midterm examination, and a movie review. I found the course to be quite light and the assessments very manageable. The movie review was especially interesting as it allowed you to pick the movie you would like to analyze and also what argument you would like to make. The professor, Lihua Yang, was a very nice professor with a background in Public Administration. At one point she brought baked goods for the whole class because she felt the three hour sessions were quite long. Overall, I ended up doing great in this course, with a final mark of 93%.

SOC/LS 229 - Selected Topics in Criminology

This course was another elective that I took in order to balance my courseload a bit better. After reading the online course syllabus and talking to some of my friends who had previously taken the course, I figured I'll give this course a go and see how well I like it. The course content was very interesting and focused on discussing the rationale and modus operandi behind four areas of crime: prison riots, homosexual activities in public, robberies, and high-level drug trafficking. The topics were super interesting to dive into and the modules has some excellent research in them. My professor was

Carlie Leroux, but the course itself and the content was designed by Fred Desroches. I liked how since this was an online course, I was able to pace myself accordingly. Some weeks where other courses were busy, I would not need to go through this course, and other weeks where I had more free time I could run through 2-3 weeks of content in a good weekend. The assessments for this course consisted of three online multiple choice quizzes worth 20% each, and an exam worth 40%. The quizzes were quite easy as they were open book and all MC, while the exam was a bit more difficult as it required short and long answer questions. Overall though, this could be considered a pretty bird course and I ended up with a final grade of 91%.

Conclusion

This was my first Spring actually taking courses in Waterloo and I very much enjoyed it! The weather was great and there were plenty of opportunities for going out at night. My Co-op job search also went very well this term, with seven different offers. It was a tough decision, but I figured that this time I’ll put my stakes in the Federal Government. Thus, I’ll be heading off to Gatineau next month to work as a Policy Analyst at Environment and Climate Change Canada!

I also have to deal with graduate school coming up on the horizon for Fall 2019. My plan is to spend the Fall Co-op really doing some in-depth research on the various graduate school programs I can apply to and see which ones would be best for me.