Mentorship Program

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Ask A Sociology Student #1

Hi!

I am one of your USSU mentors for this year. I am writing to introduce myself as this is one of the ways we will connect. 

My name is Vikki. I am a fourth-year international student, and I am graduating with a double major in Sociology and Criminology.

Sociology has expanded my horizons as an outsider in the West. My favourite courses involve Sociology of LGBTQ+ Families, Gender Relations, Quantitative Methods, and Social Control (quoting myself from https://ussu.sa.utoronto.ca/about/executive-team/). 

I wish I took advantage of the resources I had in second year, including mentors, professors, and office hours back then. My favourite thing about the resources on campus is meeting the tutors in the Writing Centre. I also like using the printer in my college (before COVID-19) because it is cheaper than library printers on campus. 😊

You are welcome to email me at any time: gz.huang@mail.utoronto.ca.

Stay well,

Vikki

Ask A Sociology Student #2

Hello Everyone!

My Name is Ummai, I am a third-year student majoring in Sociology and English. In hopes of pursuing a career in teaching, I am planning on completing my Masters in Teaching and Education at UofT with OISE.

I particularly enjoy contemporary sociology courses that study current events and social issues, I enjoy being able to relate with them as well as use them in better understanding the diverse range of people and cultures around us here in Toronto.  Some of these courses include “Ethnic and Racial Diversity” “The Sociology of Criminology”, they really challenge you to think “outside the box”.

Some of the resources I found extremely helpful in my first year were the writing centers, speaking with my TA, and office hours with Professors. I know it can be daunting, but I strongly believe that working up the courage and scheduling a one-on-one is 100% worth it!

My favorite study spots off campus in this Covid-world is basically someplace in my house where there is lots of sunlight and a quiet atmosphere (the latter may be hard to achieve for some of us!). I tend to shift between 2-3 study spots, mainly because this helps eliminate the robotic feeling experienced when I repeatedly use the same space over and over again.

Please feel free to email me at ummai.dadabhai@mail.utoronto.ca if you want to reach out about anything! I would be more than happy to help you out 🙂 

Best of luck!

Ummai

Ask A Sociology Student #3

Hey everyone! Hope you are all hanging in there and staying healthy.

My name is Audrey Steinburg, and I am one of your USSU mentors this year! I am in my fourth and final year of study at the University and will be graduating with a double major in Sociology and Psychology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I’ve loved each of these programs, and the fact that there is a fair amount of crossover in the content and concepts I deal with in each of them. My favourite sociology courses so far have been SOC353 – a new topics course with Professor Vegeulers that focused on contemporary sociological theory – and SOC367, Race, Class, and Gender. I loved the content in both of these courses and especially the fact that the content in SOC367 overlapped with a lot of the topics I was learning about in my Women and Gender Studies courses.  

While I’ve done well in the program and have really enjoyed my time in each sociology course, looking back, I really wish I had taken advantage of the resources we have as students earlier on. What’s really helped me as an upper year student has been attending office hours with professors and TA’s. My advice is to make these appointments whenever you find yourself stuck on a paper topic or idea, confused by content in the class, or interested in learning more about a particular topic that has been covered. It can definitely be daunting to approach your teaching team, which I think is why I waited until my third year to do it regularly, but it gets easier with time and practice. Your teaching staff really want you to succeed and enjoy learning, and so are generally more than willing to provide the feedback or insights you need. Even when I don’t have a well thought out question to ask, I always leave office hours with more clarity or confidence in my ideas. I cannot recommend this practice enough.

Outside of sociology courses, I have had fun getting involved with student groups and projects related to the program. This year I am a copyeditor for the USJ (Undergraduate Sociology Journal) and one of your USSU mentors! Both of these groups have allowed me to meet new people in the sociology program and engage with the UofT community, which isn’t always easy to do. Another group I’ve been involved with for a couple of years is the volunteer-run café at Victoria College, Caffiends, both as a volunteer barista and now as a Co-Director of Volunteer Relations. While the space isn’t open this year, we’re still running student events semi-regularly (subtle plug, check out our instagram), and in the future, I highly recommend going there to caffeinate and study, as the café is one of my favourite places to study and hang out on campus.

If you have any other questions or want to talk with me about my experience as a sociology student, I would love to be in touch. You can email me at audrey.steinburg@mail.utoronto.ca. Good luck this semester, and remember to take some time to rest your brain and relax.

Audrey

Ask A Sociology Student #4

Hi everyone!

My name is Ana Brinkerhoff, and I am one of your USSU student mentors this semester! I am really excited to be involved with this program, especially during the pandemic with classes being online, it will be really great to get to know you and create an online community of support and resources! 

I am a third-year undergraduate student minoring in Sociology. I am really interested about studying social inequity within Canadian society and the roles that institutions play in upholding different oppressions. Some of my favourite courses that delve deeper into examining social inequity are SOC212: Sociology of Crime and Deviance, SOC376: Sociology of Race, Class, and Gender, and SOC211: Law and Social Control. All of these courses offer unique explanations for social inequity and its institutionalization.

I found the writing centre to be really helpful during my first year, and I have continued to rely on it for guidance with assignments. Another way to assist with understanding course material and assignments is by dropping by your professor ‘s or TA’s office hours. This may seem like an obvious way to get help; however, it can be intimidating and I didn’t reach out to my professors until late in my second year. Especially because of the nature of courses this year and learning online, virtual office hours are less nerve-wracking and are a great way to get to know your professors.

If you have any questions about Sociology courses, or anything else, please feel free to email me at ana.brinkerhoff@mail.utoronto.ca! I remember my first year and can’t imagine how hard it would be to begin university online. I’m very excited to be a part of the USSU mentorship program and wish everyone the best of luck this semester!

Ana

Ask A Sociology Student #5

Hello!

My name is Jadine Ngan and I’m a third year majoring in Sociology and Diaspora Studies, with a minor in Writing and Rhetoric. 

The most important advice I feel like I can give you, is to remember to treat yourself like a person. That sounds strange, but for most of my first two years of university, I felt like an exhausted, anxious machine—wake up, chug coffee, study, collapse into bed, repeat. I can imagine that things may be even harder for you as you adjust to university without any of the normal routines or in-person supports. 

I know getting involved on campus is less straightforward this year, but remember that it’s good to balance your studies with extracurriculars you enjoy (I really like writing and photographing for The Varsity). You’ll still feel productive, but you’ll have the opportunity to make some new friends, learn important soft skills, and exercise your creativity. If your funding and plans for further study allow, don’t be afraid to take a lighter courseload, because there’s no shame in extending your degree beyond four years. Many of my friends are taking five or more years to complete their undergrad! I’d also recommend that you invest in your mental health while you have guaranteed access to support—if you’re in Ontario, you can contact U of T’s on-location counsellors, and outside Ontario you can check what your insurance covers or try MySSP. You’re literally paying for these services, and you don’t need to wait until you’re facing a crisis to seek out mental health help. I believe everyone can benefit from speaking with a counsellor to process difficult emotions and build stronger thinking patterns—for example, the on-location counsellors can walk you through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which teaches you to process your daily challenges in a healthier way. 

Apart from that, I have a few other miscellaneous recommendations to share. If you’re like me and want to fulfill breadth 5 without doing any math, DTS300 is a fantastic option—there’s no math or scientific knowledge involved, and all of the assignments are essays. If you have any questions about student life, academics, or extracurriculars, Innis College’s Askastudent blog (https://askastudent.utoronto.ca/) is a great resource. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at jadine.ngan@mail.utoronto.ca if you’d like to chat or have any questions! I’d love to help you in any way I can, especially if you’re interested in any of my programs or curious about getting involved in campus media.   

Jadine

Ask A Sociology Student #6

Hi!  

Just a little bit about myself — My name is Ashley and I am currently a fourth-year student double majoring in Sociology and Cinema Studies. 

One piece of advice that I have for approaching Sociology courses is to be proactive—don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors and TAs with any questions and/or concerns! Not only are they usually more than happy to help, but it can also help establish important connections. Especially with this semester being online, it might be really difficult to feel connected and fully immerse yourself in the course content. You do not have to have a specific question related to the course content, but even having a conversation with them about how you are feeling about the course and figuring out ways on how they can help with your learning might vastly improve your learning experience. Of course, only share what you are comfortable sharing, but having an honest conversation about how you and the professor and/or the TA can work together in order for you to take advantage of the learning experience—such as finding alternate methods to participating in discussions—may help the semester go a lot more smoothly. I’ve also had professors that were open to having conversations about different career paths and graduate studies so you might want to reach out for them about those topics as well. They can offer some great insight or direct you to someone that can. 

Also, I didn’t realize this until later on, but simply having an upper-class student in the same major that you can talk to can help with questions that you may have about certain courses and ease your anxiety about school overall. Therefore, I think this mentorship program is a great way to get different help and resources as well! 

I wish you the best of luck for this upcoming semester and I hope you are staying safe and well!

Ashley

Ask A Sociology Student #7

Hi everyone!

My name is Ting Yi Lin and I’m one of your mentors this year! I am in my fourth year of undergrad majoring in Political Science and Sociology. The sociology courses I have particularly enjoyed so far have been SOC397 Sociology of Atrocities and SOC326 Social Control. I really enjoyed the way the courses were taught and the contents of these courses very much suited my interests in criminal justice and international law.

I originally chose Sociology as my major because I had intended to go into another program but realized that that program was not for me. It was only later in second year when I discovered that Sociology was really the program that I wanted to pursue, as it covered many topics that I was interested in, such as crime, law, and health care. While I am happy to be studying Sociology as one of my majors now, I wished I had asked more questions sooner and tried to talk to other instructors and students to know their experiences about the program. I believe that meeting new people and asking for help would’ve helped me know more about my program and decide my major sooner. With that said, my advise is to never be afraid to ask questions and talk to the registrars, professors, and other students around you, as I’m sure more than half the students at this university went through the same thing I did, of not knowing what they want to study, what areas they are interested in, and how their programs will get them to where they want to be. As mentors of this mentorship program, we are also here to help guide you through this program and offer any help you may need, not just within the Sociology program but in general as well! We are all here to learn!

I also understand that now is a really difficult time to interact and meet with other people. However, I find that the best way to do so is to join some clubs and activities on, or even off, campus! Outside of Sociology and this mentorship program, I am an RA in an off-campus student residence and was previously part of the club LOVE146, which is an organization that raises awareness for sex trafficking. Not only have these extra curricular activities been educational, it has also helped me gain a sense of community by meeting other people and working together on matters that we were passionate about, even if they were remote. So I highly recommend joining an extracurricular on and off campus if you can!

I hope you all are healthy and safe, and best of luck this semester! Feel free to contact one of the mentors and myself at tingyi.lin@mail.utoronto.ca. 

Ting Yi Lin

Ask A Sociology Student #8

Hello Everyone! My name is Elsa! I’m a third-year student double majoring in Sociology and Criminology. My goal is to be a human rights lawyer and (as always) a social justice advocate. I plan on attending UofT Law after undergrad, but I am also considering pursuing a Masters degree in Sociology.

My favourite courses have always been the “New Topics” courses! I’ve taken several, including “Sociology of Hip Hop”, “Sociology of LGBTQI+ Families”, and “Sociology of Violence”. These classes offer extremely relevant, real world applications of sociology, which helped remind me why I fell in love with the discipline in the first place! If you’re getting tired of theory and want to learn about niche topics in sociology, I highly suggest seeing what New Topics courses are available each term!

One of the best things I have done in my time at UofT is getting involved in extracurriculars. I know in COVID times it can be difficult to get involved and at times, intimidating, but that shouldn’t stop you from being part of a smaller community at this huge school. If you are curious about law, I suggest UofT Pre-Law Society! They offer a lot of resources for undergraduates considering a career in law, and it is a great way to find people outside of your program with similar interests!

I wish you all the best of luck this semester! If you’re interested in reaching out or have any questions, here’s my email: elsa.sadri@mail.utoronto.ca

Stay safe,

Elsa

Ask A Sociology Student #9

Hey SOC students!

I’m Sarah, a third-year undergraduate student at UTSG double majoring in Sociology and Philosophy, with a minor in French Studies. I’m a born-and-raised-in-the-GTA domestic student, an Innis College student, an INTP, a Pisces – whatever personality representation works for you. I’m also part of the University of Toronto Vietnamese Students’ Association (UTVSA) and the Undergraduate Sociology Journal (USJ), and I’ve been a part of other extracurriculars like residence council and orientation week in the past. I’m glad you’ve decided to read this USSU mentorship blog – sorry, you’re my adopted sociology child now and there’s no going back.

Sometimes I hear people complain that sociology courses require SO much memorization. I find this to be true for lower-year introductory courses, which give you a lot of new terminology to work with, but not as true as you continue with your sociology studies. I’m definitely not one to love memorization either, but with the right tools (aka Quizlet.com) it can honestly be a blessing. I cannot stress enough how much Quizlet single-handedly carried me through my lower-year courses (this isn’t a sponsored post – though I wish it was). I recommend making your own sets from scratch rather than studying off of other people’s sets, because making the sets themselves helps drill it into your brain. If you’re a worrier like myself, Quizlet also helps by giving you a fixed goal to show you when you’ve definitely GOT it – no need for over-studying. 

However, something more important than blindly making Quizlets for every course is curating your study method to the course’s (or your professor’s) testing methods. For example, Quizlet works well for multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, or short-answer definitions; for TAs that don’t approve of the spray-and-pray method (i.e. writing everything you know in hopes that something will stick), memorizing word-for-word is the way to go. For essay questions, on the other hand, you’ll have to go the extra mile to weave these definitions into coherent thoughts and fit them into their larger context. One strategy that’s helped me study for this is just opening a text document and ranting about everything I know on the topic, as if I’m explaining it to a friend, and then cutting out the irrelevant parts. Although you might not write the exact same essay on your test or exam, you can remember the good parts of your previous ramblings to incorporate wherever appropriate. In short, Quizlet has been my saviour for the sociology prerequisites (SOC100, SOC150, SOC201, SOC202, SOC204), but some courses (SOC201, SOC251) required some extra practice to fit the prof’s testing style.

This was a very long post for a very specific topic – but if I could give any advice for a lower-year sociology student, it’s to just use Quizlet (or an equivalent digital-flashcard-game studying method). Obviously, this is just the surface of being a sociology student. If you wanna talk more about study methods, sociology, U of T, or any other extracurriculars of mine that interest you, feel free to shoot me an email at sarahtran.tran@mail.utoronto.ca or DM me on instagram (@sruh.tr)! Outside of school, I’m also just a human like you that likes good music and funny memes – please send those to me, too. 

Love,

Sarah Tran

Ask A Sociology Student #10

Hi everyone!

My name is Jerry Lyu, and I’m one of the peer mentors this year. I’m in my fourth year completing a specialist program in sociology and a minor in anthropology. 

Among the seemingly countless sociology courses I’ve taken, sociology of culture and sociology of serial homicide are two of my favourites. Soc of culture introduced me to the culturalist take on the ever-so-heated structure vs agency debate and the limitations of using culture to predict action. Soc of serial homicide offers a different angle to examine serial killers, victimization, and media coverage of serial homicide. Both courses involved a ton of in-class discussions, reflections, and debates.

There are a few things I wish I’d known going into the program. First of all, do not hesitate to reach out to professors and TAs, whether it’s for a clarification question about the syllabus, or it’s because you’re looking for a research assistant position over the summer, which brings me to my second point: it is never too early to ask about research positions! It took me until my third year to start reaching out to faculty members, and when I started my RA job last summer, I realized that half of the other summer Ras had just finished their first year. So go out there and start applying for the research positions that you’ve been on the fence about! Lastly, I find it very helpful to know about my support network. In terms of program enrolment, specifically prerequisites and completion requirements, the program administrator, the FAS calendar, and your college registrar are all great resources. Also, PLEASE. USE. THE. WRITING. CENTRE. AT. YOUR. COLLEGE. They have been incredibly helpful in brainstorming, conquering the writer’s block, and revising my work.

In terms of study tips for sociology courses, mine are unbelievably boring and cliché, but they work for me: do your readings BEFORE class and try to attend every class if possible. Yes, lectures can be boring, but just being there and passively taking in information is still going to help you understand the material better.

Obviously, it’s been a challenging year for all of us, and please know that the mentorship team is here for you! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can shoot me an email at jerrytianle.lyu@mail.utoronto.ca

Stay safe, stay healthy, and best of luck with everything!

Jerry Lyu

Ask A Sociology Student #11

Hey Sociology Students! 

My name is Samantha McQueen, and I am a third year student double majoring in Sociology and Criminology. I am so excited to be one of USSU’s mentors for this semester! 

My favourite courses within the sociology program so far have been SOC208H1: Introduction to Social Policy and SOC212H1: Crime & Deviance. Going into the Sociology program, I wish I knew not to be so fearful of Quantitative methods! 

A resource that I found particularly helpful to navigate my university experience are the academic course calendars and the new topics in sociology descriptions on the sociology website. The sociology program offers such a diverse variety of courses, keeping yourself updated on which ones are of interest to you and being prepared for future year enrolment can help to avoid waitlists and ensure you get the most out of your academic experience. 

My favourite places to study are on campus – usually in Robarts or the Bora Laskin law library – but I can often be found any place with coffee! 

Best of luck to everyone on a great semester! Please feel free to reach out to me anytime, you can email me at s.mcqueen@mail.utoronto.ca! I look forward to hopefully being in touch with some of you! 

Samantha

Ask A Sociology Student #12

Hey fellow True Blues!

My name is Camila Budylowski, and I am one of the many sociology mentors for this year. I am very eager to be a part of this program and even though this year is not one that we typically expect during our years at university, all of us at the program are ready to help out to try to make it as normal as possible.

I am currently a third-year student who is doing a double major in Sociology and Political Science. Some of my favourite SOC courses included: 

SOC 150H1: Introduction to Sociology II: Sociological Inquiries, 

SOC 204H1: Introduction to Qualitative Methods in Sociology, and

SOC 212H1: Sociology of Crime & Deviance

SOC 150 is the course that really set my heart into this program and helped to ground my roots into pursuing a degree in this department. Something I wish I knew going into the program is that the qualitative and quantitative courses are not as bad and daunting as their titles sound and that the professors indeed want you to excel in their course. 

There are many extracurricular activities available on campus and the best way to get to know them pre-pandemic was during the street fair, but you can also find them on the UofT website.

3 of my favourite study spots on campus include: Gerstein library, a coffee shop around campus, and outside Sid Smith (weather permitting) when the tables and chairs are set up.

If you have any questions or just want to talk, feel free to send me an email: camila.budylowski@mail.utoronto.ca

Enjoy!

Camila

Ask A Sociology Student #13

Hi everyone! 

My name is Shivani Baldeo. I am a third-year undergrad doing a sociology specialist and criminology major. I’m hyped to be a USSU mentor and am hoping to connect with you all in the sociology community amidst a time of social distancing. 

With aspirations of law school, my favourite sociology courses were interdisciplinary ones such as SOC313 Social Control or SOC212 Sociology of Crime and Deviance. These courses were extremely interesting and insightful for understanding theories of criminal behaviour, governmentality, or penology for example.

One resource I highly recommend is peers! They are helpful for discussing class content, group studying or peer editing. Try joining group chats, discords, hosting and participating in study groups, or making notetaking schedules with peers etc.All of these efforts provide academic and social support and make learning more fun and easy. I know making friends can be scary, but try your best to reach out to those in classes or in the sociology program. 

In fact, one way I suggest to do this is to join sociology clubs. To feel more connected to the sociology community and get to know more peers, I joined USJ Masthead and am a mentor here! So far, these clubs have been helpful towards both academics and socializing.

I hope y’all enjoy these posts, and if you ever want more in-depth assistance or discussion email me at shivani.baldeo@mail.utoronto.ca or add me on facebook:) 

Best of luck with the new semester! 

~Shivani 

Ask A Sociology Student #14

Hello Everyone!

My name is Rita, I am a fifth-year student majoring in Criminology and Sociology and minoring in Philosophy. I am currently in the process of applying to Graduate school for a Criminology Masters. 

I particularly enjoy taking Sociology courses related to Criminology such as Crime & Deviance and Social Control—if Prof. Christian Caron is teaching it, I highly recommend taking this course. I also enjoy contemporary sociology which has Philosophy embedded within it such as Classical Sociological Theory and Contemporary Sociological Theory with Prof. Joseph Bryant. Qualitative Methods is also a great course as it allows you to conduct ethnographic research in groups which can be a good learning experience and fun at the same time! Something that you can keep in mind if you’re pursuing a double major in Criminology and Sociology is that some sociology courses can be used to fulfill a criminology course requirement such as Crime & Deviance, Social Control, and Intro to Quantitative Methods. 

I know that adapting to a new learning and social environment can be difficult especially during these difficult times, so I have a few tips that can help you all navigate through this. First, I highly recommend getting to know your advisors from your College Registrar; they are there to help you regarding academic and extracurricular needs, as well as financial support through bursaries. If you’re a part of St. Michaels College, I recommend seeking advice from Nawang Khangkar. I also recommend joining at least one club in your first and/or second year, it’s a great way to meet some new people and get involved. I know it can be difficult joining a club, especially by yourself, but I suggest taking advantage of virtual club meetings I find that it helps reduce any anxieties you may feel about joining a club. I’m a general member of ‘Students for Shelters’ (S4S), the atmosphere in this club is very welcoming, panel discussions usually involve access to food and nutrition, and S4S is always looking for new members! I would also recommend a learning strategist who can help you manage your time more efficiently and going to the writing centre where you can attain academic support regarding editing, citations, and more. Lastly, I would recommend taking advantage of office hours either to meet one-on-one with your TA’s and/or your Professors. I know it can be very intimidating but going to office hours can allow your Professors to get to know you and offer advice for term papers, inquiries about Graduate school, and so on. 

I wish you all the best of luck in your Undergraduate careers! If anyone has any questions related to courses, extracurriculars, applying to Graduate school, or anything else please do not hesitate to contact me: rita.samardjian@mail.utoronto.ca

Stay safe & healthy, 

Rita

Ask A Sociology Student #15

Hi mentees, it’s Vikki. Hope you’re all staying warm (if you’re in Canada).

Today, I would like to highlight the importance of finding your research allies and honour the mentorship I have gotten from various instructors in the Sociology department. Building connections with instructors is particularly important because they are essentially your mentors, and I feel like a completely different person now versus me in first and second years.  

Looking back before I got into the program, I was shy and that could cause a lot of disengagement from outside of my comfort zone. I am now way more comfortable situating myself as a member of a team working towards shared goals. Developing into this new self who is not afraid to take up new challenges is such a rewarding experience. So, let me unpack it for you.

In the Sociology program, I have learned to connect with peers and instructors because I enjoyed the subjects I was learning. During my studies, I also developed a research focus on the experiences of sexual and gender minorities, such as those of women and LGBTQ+ communities. Recently, The Undergraduate Sociology Journal has accepted to publish my two research essays, one of which is co-written with my amazing group members in the course of “Gender Relations”. I could not do this without the encouragement of my instructor, who also guided me through my transition to the fourth year.

Further back, my instructor in SOC394: Sociology of LGBTQ+ Families inspired me academically and personally. I felt grateful that I took this course then continued to take gender studies courses. I felt accomplished after taking Sol’s class because I found my research goals and was able to find my community that nurtured me as an LGBTQ+ international student. Personally, I have been more open about my identities and lived experiences because I was empowered by the instructor.

These days, I am taking a course from the Women and Gender Studies program as for my last semester in undergrad. I was always interested in research on queer diasporas, then I enrolled myself in it. I also got accepted to the MSW program at U of T three weeks ago.

As a lifelong learner, I always welcome constructive feedback between my academic work and even me as a person. I really appreciate the mentors I have met from this program and also from Innis College as I am able to thrive within the U of T community with their resources and guidance.

Thus, this is why I’m making this blog post and speaking to you now. You are never alone in your journey.

Vikki