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My Experiences with the SASAH program at Western University

By Louisa He

Hi! My name is Louisa He and I am a second year student in the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities (SASAH) program at Western University with an Honors specialization in Psychology. In this article, I will be discussing my experiences in this program and why I chose this specific university and program.

Tell us a little bit about your program.

SASAH is a new, interdisciplinary program at Western that aims to combine various modules of arts and humanities into one comprehensive program. In the first semester of my first year, we focused on literature arts and then in the second semester, we did more philosophy. In the second year, we are focusing on digital communications and visual media. The goal is simply to study and explore all subjects within arts and humanities. In terms of the point of the program, it's not like many other programs because it is not focused on preparing you for a career in the future. The SASAH program is a very academic venture and most people take it to broaden their horizons. I wanted to learn a variety of things without having to take a million elective courses, so this program was perfect for me.

When and how did you know you wanted to go into the arts and humanities?

I've always been interested in the arts. I have been drawing for 10 years, I have been dancing for 8 years and I have been writing for many years. However, as an Asian immigrant, I felt this pressure to look outside these interests and pursue something else as a career. So, I just shelved this passion for later but always kept in mind that this is something I wanted to do. Then, in grade 10, I heard about this program through a friend and thought it sounded interesting. When I applied, it was more on a whim than anything but when I got it, I just figured why not? It doesn't really interfere with anything else I want to do and it would be a nice break from the heavy business and psychology courses I am also taking.

Why did you choose your specific program and university?

The other programs that I applied to were all related to management, commerce, psychology or a combination of these. I ended up choosing Western because it enabled me to get everything I was looking for at the same time. There is no other school that offers this same kind of program and pathway. Western was the only university where I could do a program like Ivey Business in conjunction with another degree. In my academic plan, I technically only had an Honors specialization in psychology and I would apply to Ivey at the end of second year. SASAH is just an added side bonus which does not have its own course requirements. I really liked this format because it allows me to do business management, arts and humanities and psychology altogether.

What do you like about the program after having completed first year?

Like I stated previously, this program is really great if you want to learn about various facets of the arts and humanities without having to take a lot of different courses outside of your regular course load to do it. It is also really great for fostering connections with your peers and the faculty because it is such a small program. For example, I got my internship this past summer through my program coordinator directly. That said, I think this is the main practical use of this program. Other than that, I've had the opportunity to learn about a lot of topics I'm very interested in but would probably not have learned as thoroughly, if I did it on my own time. The knowledge which the professors have and the materials they have access to make this experience unparalleled to anything I would have learned on my own.

How have extracurriculars shaped your university experience?

I worked part-time throughout the year which limited the time I could put towards other extracurricular experiences and I generally had to rearrange my entire schedule because of it. In terms of university extracurriculars, I remember being so impressed with the sheer quantity of clubs I could be a part of after being used to high school clubs for so long. I tried out for a few clubs, mostly dance clubs, which I would have definitely gotten into in high school, but did not get accepted into because of the amount of competition in university. I think that was the experience that made me really understand the magnitude of university and the difference between a student body of around 1000 people in high school versus a student body of nearly 30,000 people in university. The main thing I learnt was perspective and a little bit of a reality check.

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in the SASAH program at Western University?

First thing I would advise anyone who wants to do a multiple specialty pathway is to do summer school because otherwise the workload becomes very difficult to manage. Second, I would recommend that anyone who is considering this program should thoroughly research it and talk to upper years who have been through this program. Based on the online information and things I've heard through word of mouth, I initially thought that SASAH was a well-established, competitive program but in reality, it is very new and still only slowly being developed. So, I would just advise people to really understand what they are getting into and make sure that they are really interested in such a literature heavy, almost book club-like program. If you want that, this is a great program for you!

I have only briefly discussed my experiences in this article. If you have any more questions, I am completely open to talking more about this program. You can reach me at my IG: @louisa.he_

Interviewed and transcribed by Bhargavi Venkataraman

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