Student Experience: “Historical Fiction & the Makings of a Canadian Identity”

Last year I was looking for a class to finish off my degree at UBC.  I’d heard of Student Directed Seminars but hadn’t really perused taking one until I received an email advertising a SDS in History (my minor) entitled “Historical Fiction and the Makings of a Canadian Identity”.  It immediately caught my eye and I decided to register, it was my last term at UBC after all, might as well give it a try.  It ended up being one of the best decisions I made academically at UBC, and sticks in my mind as one of my favourite classes I took over my 5 years at university.  The class was small, only 10 people, which I loved, and was filled with students from various backgrounds.  There were several History majors of course, but additionally there was also a Poli Sci major (me) as well as people studying Art History, Canadian Studies, Creative Writing and more.  What each of us brought to the class was unique and very valuable.  Looking at various works of historical fiction from the perspective of a writing student was fascinating for me, hearing about trends in Canadian art in different periods was completely new.

Through this class not only did I get the opportunity to read some fantastic works of fiction and examine turning points in Canadian history, but I got to learn from and engage with my peers in a way I had never had the opportunity to do before.  We became close as a group, getting to know about each other’s personalities and ideas as we explored the authors’ works.  The honesty and open environment that was fostered in our classroom was not only refreshing, I found myself inspired to stretch my views and to give back to my classmates all they had given me.

My SDS was completely unique in my academic career and an integral piece of my time at UBC for the holistic learning it offered.  Combining the new territory of novels and fiction with Canadian History, something I would consider to be well within my academic comfort zone, resulted in the class being fresh and challenging.  It offered me a new way to study familiar topics, and left me with a deeper understanding not only of specific events in our history but about the power of stories and the blurry area between fact and fiction.  As with many SDS we were responsible for giving a lecture, marking each other’s work and determining the direction of the class, all under the unfailing leadership of our excellent student coordinator Richard.  The work load was comparable to my other upper level courses but I never found the reading or homework a chore.

Each SDS is different, depending on your student coordinator, faculty sponsor and department but I promise the experience will be completely worthwhile and allow you to see academics in a new light.  To explore what Student Directed Seminars are being offered this year visit the SDS website in the fall and watch for updates from your department.  Most classes run in term 2, which will give you time to check them out and decide which one is right for you.

Posted by Kalenne Thors

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