My Life is Average (Part 3): How Did I Choose?

by Tian-Yuan Zhao (Music & Electrical and Computer Engineering)

This year, CTSI has worked with students to explore their perspective on learning at UofT. This blog post is the third in a series showcasing a student’s view of UofT, continuing with why he chose his major.

Often times I’ve been asked, “Tian, why did you choose engineering?” and “Why did you choose to go to the University of Toronto”. There are many reasons:

  1. My father had recommended it to me
  2. I was very unsure as to what I wanted to do, but with much deliberation, I heeded his advice since I believed that it embodied both my technical and creative sides of my personality
  3. Economic stability after graduation
  4. I wanted to escape the harsh, cold and bitter winters of “Winnterpeg”, but in actuality, I wanted to escape what truly put the “plain” in the “Plains” of Winnipeg’s sleepiness to the vivacious global city of Toronto
  5. As parents want the best for their children, I want the best for my future, therefore knowing U of T Engineering is ranked number 1 in Canada, I knew I had to be here.

The thing is, I was very foolish, since I hadn’t given my career path much thought, I jumped into electrical/computer engineering without knowing what I was getting myself into. I soon found myself bitter because I hated programming, circuits and anything and everything to do with engineering altogether. I even began asking myself “why did I choose engineering?” I came into university with no plan and that was what bit me in the behind. It wasn’t even the course load that made me hate engineering, it was just material itself. I had no passion for it and that’s what made my first year so very difficult.

But, I’ve since made the decision to switch into Industrial Engineering because if there’s one saving grace, it’s the Human Factors textbook that we all had to buy for a course that we all hated for some reason called APS111/APS112 – Engineering Strategies and Practices. Even though, I look back with much pride in taking that course, for I know how useful it was to me. That book was basically the only thing I could latch onto and say, “this is something I’m legitimately interested in learning more about”.

As much as Electrical/Computer Engineering wasn’t the right choice for me, I can say that I’ve had some great professors this semester. All three of them used techniques to help students understand the concepts in their own special way! One professor brought visual aids to class, such as a wooden wheel, a bob on a string and some wooden planks to demonstrate dynamics of motion. Another professor cracked jokes in class to liven up the atmosphere, reduce tension and relieve stress. Also, he’d use relatable, hilarious and poignant metaphors and analogies when describing certain concepts. And the third professor used slides, in which the last ones were titled “100 Greatest Moments in Material Science” and in doing so broadened the scope of understanding for us in this field. We didn’t just learn cold hard facts, a bit about history, society and economics of the material science world.

It was never dull in class, as they genuinely cared about their students enough to bring their own unique way of engaging with the students. They never assumed the students knew too much than they were supposed to. They never talked down to students. They never gave off an intimidating atmosphere. They never ignored students’ questions. They never did anything that would create an unsettling, uncomfortable or unfortunate learning environment for the students.

If I was in a relationship with ECE, I’d say “it’s not you, it’s me”. But their teaching techniques are definitely noteworthy. They may be somewhat simple, but their show their passion through their teaching and that’s what truly matters.