This blog is focused on the Criminology program as I interviewed one of my closest friends that I happened to meet during my first year in Ryerson residence. Victoria Watt just completed her fourth-year in the Criminology program, and she had the opportunity to go on exchange to England during her third year. Read on to find out more:
What is the Criminology Program?
“The Criminology program mainly focuses on learning about how people commit crimes, who commits crimes, and why people commit crimes. We also learn about the criminal justice system which includes a background on the courts, prisons, probation services, police services and really everything else within the system. It’s a very history and theory-based program with case studies being a large part of how students learn.”
Why did you choose the Criminology Program?
“I chose Criminology because in high school I took a law course, I really liked learning about the topic, and I knew it was something I wanted to pursue more in university. I’m also just really interested in helping people, and I’ve always loved the law. The choice of Ryerson mostly was due to its location, and the fact that most professors of the program are still currently working in the field.”
Are you happy with your choice? Is it what you expected?
“I am happy with my choice. It’s a lot different than high school as I get to spend my time learning about something that I actually enjoy learning. At first, it wasn’t 100% what I expected as I thought there would be more areas where I could focus on the science side of criminology, such as forensics, as opposed to mostly focusing on the art side. However, the program has given me a very overarching view of all areas of criminology, and this has been great as going into the program I didn’t know exactly which area I would want to go into after. As well, the electives I can take in the program are very broad which has allowed me to focus on what interests me more, and I have taken some courses that have a focus on science through this.
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect workload wise, and I’ve come to find that working part-time while being in the Criminology program is very doable as long as I stay on top of my school work and work at a place that gives me reasonable hours.”
What has been a highlight of your time at university?
“A highlight was when I went on exchange to Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England for a six-month semester during my third year. It was amazing! I only had to take two courses as it transferred to five courses at Ryerson, but the credits were spread out longer from January to June. The courses were pretty lengthy, but it was cool because I had a lot of free time every week which gave me lots of time to travel and meet new people from all around the world. Academics wise, it was interesting seeing how England addresses their penal system and how their system differs from ours. It was also cool to just see a different teaching method for the same program, even though our systems are very similar.”
Can you tell us a little about the application process for exchange?
“There is an application online where you can see which countries your program has partnerships with for exchanges. My options were England, Scotland and Australia. Once I picked where I wanted to go, I had to get an academic reference and write a letter to the Chair of the Department of Criminology about why I wanted to go on exchange and why I would be a good representative of Ryerson. After this was approved, I had an interview with the Faculty of Arts Experiential Learning Coordinator about why I would be a good candidate, and the faculty also looked at my transcripts to make sure my grades were satisfactory for exchange. Once that all checked out, they sent my application to the partner university which was Nottingham Trent, and they also approved it. After this, I had to go through the visa process.
Students hoping to do exchange shouldn’t be worried about the interview process as Ryerson wants students to go on exchange. The university just wants to make sure that you will positively reflect Ryerson when you are at the partner university. Overall, as long as your grades are good, it’s a fairly seamless process.”
What was budgeting on exchange like?
“Budgeting was a big part of my exchange experience. Students find out if they’re going on an exchange about four or five months before they leave, and this allows you to prepare for the upcoming costs. I would suggest earning as much money as you can over the summer. As far as accommodations go, it might be different for different universities, but I would recommend trying to find someone to sublet from rather than going through the university’s website of residences because you’ll save a lot of money. I found my sublet through Facebook groups for the university. That was the biggest money saver for me as food and other necessities costs are pretty comparable.”
Is there something you didn’t expect about exchange?
“I didn’t expect to feel so alone at first, but I just had to put myself out there and get outside of my comfort zone, which is what exchange is for. It’s definitely interesting going somewhere where you don’t know anyone at all, but I did receive an email which said that the Language Café was a great place for students from abroad to meet people at Nottingham Trent, and I ended up making friends there. I also met people through organized trips that exchange students went on, my program in the small seminars, and my roommates in my flat. It was also really nice that a lot of my friends from Ryerson came to visit me during their reading week, and we did some travelling together including a short bus trip to London. It was nice to have some friends from home when I was feeling homesick. I think my friends enjoyed it a lot as it was a cheap way to see a bit of England. As a whole, England was a nice place to do an exchange as there weren’t any language barriers, and I didn’t find it too shockingly different from Canadian culture. Of course, there were subtle differences like accents, style, and food, but I enjoyed experiencing those little differences. Overall, I would definitely recommend exchange to students who have the opportunity to do it.”
How would you describe Ryerson to someone who was thinking of coming here?
“Ryerson is a great place to go to university because of its location which allows for so many opportunities for people to grow within their programs, but it’s also a vibrant, multi-cultural, and positive place to be. Students can network with industry professionals and make lasting connections in the downtown core. It’s also really easy to make friends right off the bat in first year through living in residence and attending various orientation events and activities. I would recommend the school to anyone who is itching for the urban lifestyle.”
Speaking of residence, how was your residence experience?
“Living in Pitman Hall in my first year was a good move on my part as I’m from a small town in Ontario, and I didn’t know anyone going to Ryerson. I immediately made friends on my floor because everyone was in the same boat in terms of being away from home for the first time and looking to meet new people. It was a good living situation for a first-year student and the most affordable option. It was convenient having a meal plan and a cafeteria right in my building as I didn’t have to worry about cooking on top of integrating into every other new aspect of university. I also was able to use some of the meal plan money on my OneCard at the campus shops including the Balzac’s and the Starbucks in the Student Learning Centre.”
What’s a common misconception of your program?
“Most people think that the Criminology program is only for people who are prepping to be lawyers. This misconception is sometimes frustrating as our program doesn’t really focus on being a lawyer at all. It’s more of the opposite, which is working with people and not for people. In some senses, the program is comparable to social work as there are opportunities after the program to be a caseworker or work in corrections with youth offenders. It’s a very helping profession. I do know some people in my program that are prepping to be lawyers, but that’s not the case for everyone.”
What has been a favourite course you have taken?
“One of my favourite courses was Criminal Law, and I really liked it because it was a very fast-paced class and one of the few courses that focused on the lawyer aspect of criminology. The professor was passionate about the subject and I liked that it was probably one of the most challenging courses I had to take during university. The course had a lot of case studies like other courses, but there were more criminal cases compared to other classes which often focused on tort or civil law.”
What do you wish you knew about your program when applying?
“Going into the program, I wish I knew more about the resources available to me to get more experience outside of the classroom as it is not integrated into the program. The program supports you through career counsellors, but you do have to find the work or volunteer experience yourself. As I am graduating soon, I’m excited to be able to apply what I have learned outside of the classroom in the work that I do.”
Do you have any minors? Why did you decide to minor in these topics?
“I’m minoring in Psychology! In my first year, I took a couple of electives on the topic and I enjoyed it. It works well with my Criminology major as a lot of our case studies do deal with psychological traumas. As the years continued throughout my degree, I kept finding courses in the psychology minor that were interesting and diverse and made me want to continue with it as a minor. Some examples include the Psychology of Sleep, Psychology of Law, and Psychology of Personality Disorders. I’m hoping in the future I can utilize the information I learned from my minor in my field.”
What’s next for you after graduation?
“I would love to work within airports as an immigration officer. My next steps after graduation in terms of pursuing this career include becoming bilingual and improving my French-speaking skills. As well, there is a two-week program that I will have to go through. Another path I’m considering is working as a caseworker which I also will need French for. As I improve my French, I hope to get experience in the industry and hopefully stay in Toronto for the first little bit.”