Sophia Belyk

sophia.pngGraduated 2021

Double Major in Media, Information, and Technoculture and the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities with a Minor in French

Hometown: Toronto, ON

After SASAH: Anti-Misinformation Science Communication and Graphic Design with the Canadian Association of Science Centres 

What attracted you to this program?

When I was in my final year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do in university. I was taking an eclectic bunch of electives and enjoying all of them. I could see myself becoming a French professor, a computer scientist, a graphic designer or a classicist. And, just when I needed it the most, SASAH provided the perfect solution. As soon as I heard that the program was interdisciplinary, I was sold. It gave me invaluable time to discover my research interests and the flexibility to pursue projects from my unique perspective. I’ve always loved learning about anything and everything, and SASAH was the best way to do that in my undergrad.  

"I used to say that we didn’t “have” to learn about these things, we “got” to learn about them, because I felt lucky to get to study something completely new each semester. Courses that you might not have picked yourself can end up being the most valuable or memorable."

What are your thoughts about life as a SASAH student? What makes it unique?

The clearest advantage is the small cohort size. You don’t have to worry about the isolation of sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of other students. Smaller class sizes allow professors to develop better connections with students, to understand each person’s perspective and foster their unique success. On top of that, the interdisciplinary structure means each semester brings completely fresh courses, which you’ve likely never studied before. I used to say that we didn’t “have” to learn about these things, we “got” to learn about them, because I felt lucky to get to study something completely new each semester. Courses that you might not have picked yourself can end up being the most valuable or memorable. 

How did your relationships with other SASAH students positively affect your experience at Western overall?

I lived on the SASAH floor in Ontario Hall in my first year, and the community that we formed played a big part in how well I adjusted during my first year. I ended up making great friends on that floor and living with them for the rest of my undergrad. Not only did the cohort study together, but we supported each other outside of the classroom as well. The extracurriculars that I was involved in, particularly student council, one of my favourite parts of my time at Western, were filled with SASAH students from all years. Each SASAH cohort was full of highly motivated students who wanted to apply themselves in and outside of the classroom. I ended up with an amazing support network, both academically and in extracurricular and social situations. 

How has SASAH prepared you for the job market and/or graduate school?

Each SASAH course you take in a totally unfamiliar topic throws you into a situation where you have to adapt your existing knowledge and experience to excel in a new area. This not only gave me an appreciation for new subjects, but (this is the important bit!) it trained my brain to be flexible and taught me that I could succeed outside of my comfort zone. My current job requires me to absorb new scientific information, and to distill it into an understandable form. Without the experience SASAH gave me by working in unfamiliar subjects, I may not have had the confidence to succeed in, or even apply for, my current position.  

What lessons and skills contributed to your success after you graduated?

The value of university, more than what classes you choose to take, lies in the soft skills that you learn. Any university course will teach you discipline, organization, and research skills, all of which will contribute to your success in any position. But what an Arts education gives you, and SASAH in particular, are strong communication skills and an empathy for other perspectives. Every workplace you ever come across will be looking for smart people who can communicate and write clearly, both with coworkers (yes, even virtual ones!) and for public-facing content. If you can quickly absorb new information and distill it into snappy and understandable communication, your skills will always be in high demand. 

As an experienced graduate, do you have any advice for current SASAH students?

Take full advantage of every opportunity you’re given! University is an amazing time to meet people, develop your interests and perspective on life, and take risks. SASAH provides you with so many opportunities – mixers, keynote talks, internships – that are just waiting for you to seize them. So go to that networking event, even if it’s on a Thursday evening and you’re tired, because you never know who you might meet, or what you might learn. Also, follow people with jobs you’re interested in on social media! I applied for my current position after seeing a Twitter post about it. Again, you never know where opportunities will arise from. And most of all, enjoy yourself and be kind to yourself. You’re in university to learn and to grow, whatever that looks like for you.