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  • Constance Ruan

Tips and Experiences From a Criminology Major and An International Student

If time goes back to three years ago, I would definitely never think that I would be studying criminology as my major in university. Growing up in a typical Asian family, studying STEM subjects would always be deemed as success and intelligence. As someone without a “math brain”, it took me years to figure out my future career during high school.

One late afternoon in early January 2020 I was sitting in front of my laptop trying to enroll in classes. After finding out there were no more seats in a history class, "CRIM101" suddenly popped up in my mind suggesting I take it. With such a random chance, I met an amazing professor in that class and got to enjoy exploring research in Criminology. However, when I transferred to SFU in my second year, I encountered certain difficulties in studying. These certain tips have walked me through it.

Being Prepared Beforehand:

It would make it much easier to have a general idea of the materials before class as it will avoid confusion during lectures. I did not grow up in Canada so the unfamiliarity with famous legal cases and the justice system became the biggest challenge for me to comprehend and interact in classes. It is very overwhelming to get lost in class when I couldn't understand the social issues, pop culture, and general theories while my peers were highly involved in the discussions. Getting prepared before class gives me more time to process and the chance to figure out my confusion so that I can spend time researching those materials and discuss them with professors and classmates later.

Reaching out to Professors:

Over four years, I was always scared to talk with teachers because they seemed serious and unapproachable in my mind. However, when I finally got out of my comfort zone to share my difficulties and ask questions, I feel like they are actually empathetic and hospitable and walk me through the hard times. Reaching out to professors has helped me stay on the right track for studying and develop a clearer plan for my degree. Further, they help me get access to many valuable resources and opportunities such as volunteering in IWCDC (International Wrongful Conviction Day Committee), the application process for a research assistant position, as well as law school preparation. It does take a long time to overcome the worries, but remember, professors have also experienced being an undergrad like us!

Getting Involved in the Community:

Majoring in criminology, a typical field in social sciences, applying the knowledge learned in lecture halls in real life becomes an indispensable part of the experience. Especially for international students, getting involved in local communities will not only help to get familiar with the new culture but lead to forming a deeper understanding of the lecture content. I would never understand what “reconciliation”, “class inequality”, and “drug stigmatization” are without volunteering with candidate campaigns for federal elections. It would be impossible to build up friendships and connections if I didn’t help with the local food bank during the pandemic. It was also hard for me to figure out a career path without volunteering for the new immigrants' assistance organizations. To develop your soft skills in social sciences, one of the most important parts would be getting out of your comfort zone to get to know more people from different cultures and learning from real-life situations.


It is always normal to compare yourself with others, but self-appreciation is also a crucial part of making progress. As international students, when burdens come, try to value your courage in deciding to move to a new country on your own. The first time you volunteer, the first time you make friends with someone from a different culture, the first time you finish an academic essay in your second language; all of these experiences would become your stairway to a better self. I couldn't communicate with classmates in English properly in the first year but I have made many local friends and I am writing this blog to give you guys some perspective! We do face hard times, but just accept it calmly and keep trying your best. You and me both!

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