Meet Sophia Hou
Sophia Hou is an Applied Human Nutrition student at the University of Guelph, with a planned graduation in 2022. In the Summer of 2019, Sophia took part in a Yukon Field School though Guelph Institute of Development Studies and Dr. Lauren Sneyd at U of G, where she learned first-hand from local food system stakeholders, resulting in a published academic paper. She learned about the impact of climate change on the northern food system, through the lens of international development and policy. Sophia shares her experience with us as well as why she thinks Experiential Learning courses are beneficial to U of G students, no matter if it’s in the field, or working from home.
Can you tell us about the Field School and its structure?
“We started the field school with a week of lectures on campus in Guelph to prepare some background knowledge and readings before we headed off to Yukon territory. We had 22 students in total, most of which were third or fourth years in international development. Our days in the Yukon usually began with a breakfast at either our accommodations or at a local cafe/bakery. We then proceeded to have conversations and experiences with local food system stakeholders, either by visiting them on-location (e.g. farms, grocery stores) or during the 2-day intensive workshop at Yukon College (now Yukon University). During the field school, I kept a comprehensive journal and took notes during all our sessions – this served as a method of primary data collection for my final paper. Our final grade was determined from a combination of our pre-departure assignment, engaged participation in the field school, blog entries we submitted throughout the field school, and our final paper.”
“We did everything together – wake up, eat, learn, and explore during free time. I definitely made some amazing connections and friends that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was great being able to connect with others that weren't in my year and who came from a very different area of study.”
What was your favourite moment from the Field School?
“I think the most enjoyable part of the field school was visiting the various farms and learning first-hand from the food producers. My favourite moment was when we visited the Klondike Valley Creamery and got to play with the calves.”
What skills did you learn or develop during this experience? What was your biggest takeaway?
“This experience definitely helped me to broaden my worldview and taught me a lot about food systems and food security issues. I learned so much about challenges of the northern food system and how big of an impact climate change has. My field school experience helped me to see and analyze problems from an international development and policy-centered perspective, rather than a focus on the individual person.”
What was the process of publishing the paper like?
“It was a long process, mostly because other aspects of my life were quite busy. However, both Dr. Sneyd and Stephanie Settle from SURG were incredibly supportive and helpful in getting this paper published – I definitely could not have done it without them. Dr. Sneyd helped me to fill in those extra gaps where my paper was lacking to really make it fit for publication. You can read the full paper here: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/surg/article/view/5438
What would you say the biggest advantages of taking an Experiential Learning course would be for a U of G student?
“The biggest advantage is simply to get a learning experience that you wouldn't be able to have any other way. Often, I think students get caught up in trying to complete readings, make notes, and cram for exams. Information is learned for the sake of doing well in a course, to raise a GPA, to get into graduate programs, and that appreciation for knowledge can get lost. However, being able to learn in the field shifted the focus of the course from coursework and final grades to learning for the sake of learning itself.”
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
“Even if you can't travel for a field school next summer, I highly recommend taking courses outside your area of study! Learning how to critically analyze problems in the context of different disciplines will help you to develop new skills and see your own discipline from a different perspective.”