When I asked first-year English student Hanna Colbert if she was willing to be interviewed for Words in Place, I had no idea that she was already blogging on behalf of the university, or had previously contributed to the Ottawa Citizen. Not that knowing these things would have raised my expectations any higher: Hanna had already distinguished herself as a fantastic writer and thinker in English 101. Thank you to Hanna for participating.–JLH
JLH: What made you choose UWaterloo?
HC: I get asked that quite a lot! When I tell people that I’m from Ottawa, they’re often confused as to why I chose UWaterloo – a university so well known for its science, engineering, and mathematics programs – to study English and Psychology. It wasn’t an easy choice, especially since I’m pretty family-oriented, but two main selling points for me were: 1) Waterloo’s co-op program; and 2) its flexible programs. Finding ways to make my degree marketable after graduation was high on my priority list when looking at prospective universities, and it’s pretty rare to find co-op offered so widely at a university, especially in Arts programs. So that impressed me right off the bat. Waterloo also has a very open-minded approach to degree programs. I knew I wanted to continue with both English and Psychology, and while it seemed like it might be overly complicated at other universities, Waterloo assured me that it was not only doable, but also a very common choice for students here. The March Break Open House sealed the deal – every student I met, from the Residence Ambassador giving me my tour to the department representatives, seemed humble, hardworking, and accepting. It was definitely refreshing.
JLH: You’ve been blogging for the university: can you talk a bit about that?
HC: Students in our year have a Facebook group where we share events, ask questions, verify deadlines, and so on. It’s been running since summer of 2015, and around mid-summer I saw a post from the Marketing and Undergraduate Recruitment Office looking for student bloggers. The main requirement was that you liked to write, which I do. Plus, I thought it might be a good way to get the ball rolling with extra-curricular activities. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it: I love answering questions from potential students, especially now that Tumblr (the blogging website/platform I chose) has upgraded their “private message” options. My early posts were quite long and “list”-y, and although I do enjoy that style, I’m hoping to mix it up in the New Year with shorter, more accessible posts, in addition to the longer, “advice column”-like posts (because from feedback I know many people do find those helpful).
JLH: Has anything surprised you about UW or your courses?
HC: Regarding English, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn about the different “specializations,” if you will, that one can choose from when declaring a major – things like Digital Media Studies or Professional Writing and Rhetoric. I love the fast pace of university courses in general. With my psychology courses, I’ve been very impressed with the integrative approach to course material. Because there’s so much going on research-wise at UW, the studies in which you’re required to participate for course credit often correlate with content covered in class. It’s incredibly interesting.
JLH: Are you already thinking ahead to career options?
HC: Definitely! As I said, English and psychology are my two loves, so I hope to work in both of those fields at various points in my life. Within the next couple of years, thinking in the realm of co-op jobs, I’d love to do some editing or technical writing. However, my eventual goal is to go into therapy work, which will require me to pursue further education in psychology at the graduate level (I’ll have to decide between sticking with just a Master’s, or going for my Ph. D. as well). Mental Health is an area I’ve been really passionate about for a while now, and the amazing things I’m learning in my classes right now reassure me that I made the right decision where majors are concerned.
JLH: Finally, did you read anything for fun over the December break?
HC: This winter break, I was lucky enough to be able to read Wally Lamb’s beautifully written I Know This Much Is True. It’s a whopping 800-something pager with a lot to say about forgiveness and connecting with an inner sort of “spirituality”, whatever that means to you. Lamb is a really nuanced writer, and he handles heavy subjects with humour and admirable frankness. When I have some time for pleasure reading this semester, I also plan to read Lamb’s debut novel, She’s Come Undone. If the reviews are any hint of what’s to come, I’ll end up loving that one as well!