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So… you wanna be a King's student?

Course registration started earlier this week. This is a time of opportunity and dread. Deciding what to major in is one of the toughest decisions you’ll make—ever. But don’t worry. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again. Here is a collection of advice from upper year students on your degree program options at Dal and King’s.
Early Modern Studies – Justis Danto-Clancy
I chose to study EMSP because I loved the Descartes lecture given by Neil Robertson in my first year. Although this seems like a rather silly reason to settle on a degree, I learned over the subsequent three years that I had made one of those storybook decisions. My initial interest in the doubtfulness of some French guy blossomed into an incredible exploration of the way that we learned to think in modernity. Not only did the interdisciplinarity of EMSP keep me interested and invested in class, but it also gave me the ability to write a thesis that combined my interests in Arabian history and in French Enlightenment thought. Consequently, my undergraduate thesis became a work for which I cared very deeply and, upon its completion, felt as though I’d actually accomplished something significant. Working with the roster of professors in EMSP was a great pleasure, and I am confident in saying that EMSP not only informed my degree, but also my life. I have built lifelong friendships agonizing over impossible Hegel and I have understood my own hypotypotic memory through Voltaire. I have understood motivation and teamwork in new ways through Robespierre and I’ve understood my own capacities for patience in trying, repeatedly, to plow through Montesquieu.
German & EMSP – Noah White
I started to study German in second year as a language credit, and it just so happened to fit perfectly with EMSP, they even share several professors. I am very interested in just about anything German now, especially Goethe, and EMSP has provided an incredible foundation, as well as historical context for all thought around that period. Both departments have complimented each other better than I could have imagined and have allowed me deeper insight to aspects of my studies I may otherwise have missed completely. I can’t imagine a interdisciplinary combined honours degree better suited to me.
Music & EMSP – Lauren Bryant-Monk
Music and EMSP are a really great fit because the Early Modern period encompasses the three major time periods in music history (Baroque, Classical and Romantic). Since music often reflects what’s going on in society, EMSP helps to put the music that you study and perform into a historical and philosophical context, which really enriches the music.
However, music classes require a lot of time to do well. You’re required to be in one or two ensembles and to attend noon hour recitals, department performances and master classes if you’re taking applied study, and you’ll need to devote several hours a week to practice and rehearsal. It takes a lot of dedication and, figuring out your degree requirements can be a little tricky, but it’s a really rewarding and engaging degree if you’re ready to put in the work.
History of Science and Technology – Charles Bourne
I have always been interested in capital-S “Science”— the thing that sits at the centre of technology news stories, popular science magazines and sci-fi novels. Yet my abilities in math and science courses dwindled as I aged; I knew I would never be able to produce those cool
things I so enjoyed reading about.
Then I found HOST— the History of Science and Technology program. Without needing an inch of math skill, I could learn, write and think about science. I had the pleasure of studying the long and fascinating history of an institution that increasingly dominates our world.
But HOST surprised me. My profs asked me to think about science in ways I had never imagined. I found myself more on the outside looking in at science, rather than entrenched in its depths. Seeking to understand and represent science as a kind of intimate outsider carries a lot of responsibility. While scientists are often trained almost uniquely to plough into their specific specialty and produce papers, historians and philosophers of science are tasked with understanding its many complex
relationships with the rest of the world. Sometimes I envy the focused nature of scientists’ work.
But while it’s neither as simple nor as flashy as the Science I imagined, HOST has given me a deep appreciation of the meaning of science, its role in our world and, perhaps most importantly, a lesson that I will always have more to learn.
Contemporary Studies – Davis Carr
The rule of thumb is that if you liked Sections 5 and 6, you’ll like CSP. For me, CSP was like a breath of fresh nihilistic air. In CSP, we get to turn the tradition on its head, and launch into some serious critical thinking. CSP covers the modern world, from Hegel onwards. Political Science, IDS, History, Anthropology, English, and Philosophy are some of the most common degree pairings. The nice thing about CSP is that it will compliment pretty much any combination. It gives you a good background in theory, but its intense writing-based nature will give you an advantage in your Dal classes (and make you look great at cocktail parties). The core classes are very challenging—in my year, almost half the class dropped it the day the first paper was due. Keep with it. CTMP 2000 is a necessary evil if you want to get into the upper year programs, which are considerably more intersting. CSP is a program that benefits greatly from shopping around. I suggest going to all of the classes you’re even slightly interested in during the first week. Most CSP classes are open, so you don’t have to worry about them filling up. Get a sense of the prof, the reading list, and the work load. Sometimes the most random classes are actually the most fun. Once you find your philosophical niche in CSP, take advantage of directed readings courses. The CSP thesis is also significantly shorter than the other King’s programs, so get ready for your friends in HOST and EMSP to resent you come fourth year.
CSP & English – Siobhan O’Beirne
There is a lot of overlap between the theory that I do CSP and the literature I do in English. It’s great to be in a program that lets me take what I learn in one and apply it to the other. CSP is great for that because you there is so much freedom in what we do. Having said that, English was a bit of a cop-out. Not that it’s a bad program—like any program, it has some good classes and some bad classes—but I don’t know if it was the right program to take. I think people, especially first-years, should take the time to really think about what they are interested in before they just go ahead and decide “yeah, that’s got some cool-sounding classes in it”. Talk to advisors, take a class or two in that department, and then choose what you want.
Journalism – Ben Harrison
So you’re a FYP journalism student. You’ve slogged through every bleary-eyed Tuesday morning class (or most of them) while your weary FYP companions slumber on. You’ve crammed for every news quiz with your faithful Chronicle Heralds in Prince Hall.  Hell, you may have even written a story for us, or at least learned to discern between The Watch, The Zine and The Gazette. Now that you’ve got first year under your belt, you may as well slap on a press pass and get right into the thick of journo work, right?
Slow down, Speed Racer.
In second year, you’ll learn how to use all the gear: voice recorders, video cameras, and a whole mess of online multimedia. You’ll figure out how to blend them together online to tell the best story possible.
The profs will teach you how to make professional-looking media, and at times, spending an entire semester doing this will seem very tiresome. But the first time you fuck up an interview because the volume levels on your Zoom recorder were too low will be all the motivation you need to practice, practice, practice. In second semester, you’ll work with the Peninsula News. This means you’ll be venturing outside of King’s to hunt for stories. My advice? Strike up a conversation with someone you’d normally never talk to. A conversation with my plumber led to my first story with the CBC.
Third year is great because you get to pick from a range of useful and interesting electives, like Narrative Non-Fiction and Photojournalism, along with the required Ethics, Research, and News Media and the Courts.
They say fourth year kills you, but makes you much stronger. With workshops, the honours project and the internship, it’s a busy and productive year intended to prepare you for the ‘real world’. Stick it out and you’ll be ready to scrum with the best of ‘em.
Bachelor of Science – Anna Bishop
It’s an unusual phenomenon— when I’m at King’s I feel like I’m a Dal student undercover, and when I’m at Dal I feel like I’m a King’s student undercover. To those few of us working on our BSc’s while still being officially King’s students, it’s a common feeling.
I’m still unsure whether being in FYP-Science preserved or eroded my sanity during that whirlwind year. Though it made my workload even crazier, what with the extra midterms, finals, assignments and labs, I still found it extremely refreshing to be able to crack open a textbook and use a completely different part of my brain. When you’re exhausted from debating about whether Nietzsche’s morality is nihilistic or life affirming, memorizing plant reproduction methods is strangely comforting. I used my science textbooks as a refuge of facts in a world where nothing made sense anymore. Unlike FYP, where there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer, my science courses gave me the comfort and satisfaction of knowing that there was only one answer, and if I studied hard enough I would probably get it right.
A time that really stuck out for me was when we did the Darwin lecture at the same time that I was learning Darwinian evolution and genetics in my first year bio class. Compared to the FYP lecture, which spent two hours on the social, historical, scientific and religious implications of Darwinian evolution, the first-year bio lecture which was lackluster: composed of PowerPoint slides, it had one devoted to Darwin, the main point being that he ‘discovered evolution on the Galapagos.’ I suddenly realized how much was lacking in the teaching of contemporary science. There was no context, no background, no appreciation of why that scientific view came when it did and its repercussions in society, no critical reflection on evolution itself. There was merely a name and a picture on a lecture
slide, and a couple of notes to memorize for the final exam.
Sociology / Social Anthropology & English – Sarah Wilson
I use a lot of the same theories and writers for both my English and SOSA classes, only in English I use them to talk about books and in SOSA I use them to talk about social interaction, people’s
stories, and their communities. For me, it’s easier doing two degrees easier when one leads into the other. SOSA covers Sociology and Social Anthropology; in first year, I didn’t know what either of
these subjects were, let alone how they were different. Luckily, the professors are very helpful, the classes are interesting and accessible, and you don’t have to commit to one side of SOSA or the other until your third year. Take the time to shop around, ask questions, try some electives, and see what interests you.

A few words of advice…
It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in my dorm room, writing out all of the possible degree programs and courses I could take. Unfortunately it was three years ago, and for the first March ever, I am not signing up for classes. And while this fills me with deep, deep sorrow, it also gives me the opportunity to drop some wisdom bombs on all you ickle first-years.

  • On choosing your program
    Right now it feels like the rest of your life will be determined by the choices you make this week. Ignore this feeling. This feeling is a lie. The courses that you pick in March are by no means set in stone. Keep exploring your options, all throughout the summer. If you’re still interested in the classes you’ve picked, that’s great. If not, change them. If you keep refining your choices, chances are you’ll end up in classes/a degree program that you’ll love. If not, then you’ll be stuck in English just because you already know the language. If you’re torn between two classes, sign up for both and then drop one in September. The max number of courses you can register for is six. So fill up your time and then drop the class you like the least. Don’t worry about getting a job. For the most part, a BA
    is a BA. Choose a program you love, not a program that you think will get you a job. Chances are you’ll be unemployed after your graduate anyway, so you might as well have fun.
  • On going shopping
    I’ve looked forward to classes all summer only to abandon them after reading the syllabus. The only way to know for sure if you want to take the class is to go to it and get a feel forthe prof and the material. Go to classes that your friends are taking. Go to classes you’re not signed up for. Go to classes because you went to the wrong room and are too embarrassed to leave. Go to classes and drop it as soon as you realize you will be working in groups all year (I’m looking at you GWST 2800X/Y). Although you can continue to do this in the second week, it’s much harder to catch up and usually a lot more awkward. So take advantage of the chaos the first week of classes brings and go for it. As fourth-year Yamini Coen puts it, “Don’t settle for a degree you’re not interested in; you’re paying your money to have an entertaining education.”
  • On Honours
    You don’t have to get an Honours degree. If you want to do any kind of MA or PhD program, then yes, you will need Honours. But if you already know that you want to be a, oh I don’t know, teacher or something, you don’t need Honours. If you know you don’t want to do graduate studies, you don’t need Honours. Otherwise, it’s not a bad idea, because it looks good on resumes (I think? I’ll let you know if it helps me get a job—ha, good joke, CSP student) and if you do want to do any kind of graduate studies, you’ll probably need it. Sometimes the registrar’s office can push those Honours degrees hard. Don’t feel pressured.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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