What Do Geography Majors Really Study? Meet Emilie: The Polyglot with a Plan

Meet Emi: She knows over five languages, and has a love for culture, travel and urban design. Emi is a student studying Geography and Environment at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

I first met Emi years ago through an artist’s community site called DeviantArt. We became fast friends, and eventually pen pals! (Yes, we actually sent snail mail to each other).

Emi has taken her studies to a whole new level, and just finished up her final thesis while in Beijing, China! Find out more in the interview with Emi below!

Emi Picture (2)

Photo of Emilie (Emi Li).

(Web Transcript)

Debuccino:  Hi Emi! So what made you want to pursue a degree in geography and environment?

Emi:  Well, first off, I wasn’t sure which degree to choose when finishing high school. Since geography was a subject that I was good at and interested in, and also because I love to travel and am interested in countries and cultures from all over the world, I thought “why not choose geography?” In addition to that, I was interested in landscape architecture and urban design, and taking geography could lead me to a masters’ degree in these fields.

Debuccino:  I love to travel too! You were born in Hong Kong right? Have you always lived in Switzerland, or did you live elsewhere for a while?

Emi:  Haha yeah exactly! My mum’s from Hong Kong and my dad is swiss! But I was born and grew up in Switzerland. Though I go back to HK once every 2 years usually because I have family there.

Debuccino:  What is your native language? How many languages do you speak and how did you learn them?

Emi:  So my native language is French and Cantonese (dialect of HK), but at school I also leaned German, English, Spanish, and a bit of Korean. I also took Chinese classes for a few years outside of school.

Debuccino:  Wow you know so many languages! No wonder you love travelling. Is geography your passion? If not, what you are really interested in?

Emi:  I don’t think I’m interested in geography itself, but more in the fields related to it, such as travel, languages, urban design, landscape architecture. But I think learning about geography itself can be a useful base to start with.

Debuccino:  I see. What were some of the topics or subjects you studied specifically?

Emi:  Cultural geography, human geography, historical geography; well all kinds of geography actually, just to show that geography can be studied from many different angles, each putting emphasis on one area of study. I also had compulsory classes in political science and economics, not my favorite but still interesting to know about!

Debuccino:  I know you have just finished your final thesis! Congratulations! What was your thesis about?

Emi:  [Thank you]! It was about “How ambiances (atmospheres) can influence sociability (the extent to which people have a sociable behavior) in public spaces, specifically in public squares”!

Debuccino:  That is really interesting! You mentioned prior to this that you attended University in Geneva, but you wrote your thesis while you were in China correct? How did you end up writing your final thesis in China? Was it planned or…?

Emi:  Oh that’s a very long story, but no, it wasn’t planned at all! It was actually due to a lack of planning haha! I was supposed to work on it and finish it way before going to the Renmin university summer program, but due do overload of work in my student society, I didn’t get enough time to finish it before going to Beijing so I had to drag it there! However, the Beijing summer school program was planned from the beginning of the year, and is completely unrelated to my thesis. I applied to it to in order to take Chinese courses during the summer.

Debuccino:  Oh wow, that’s great you had those opportunities! Emi, you told me in a previous conversation that after you graduate, you plan to take some time teaching English in Beijing and you hope to pursue a master’s degree in either urban landscape or architecture. Why would you like to pursue this?

Emi:  Yes this is correct! I am now doing a certification in Beijing called “CELTA”, which teaches how to correctly teach English language to non-native speakers. It’s because I really love the English language, and I’d like to teach in china for 1-2 years after that. It’s a good opportunity for me to improve my Chinese, travel, earn money and meet new people! And yes, I’m interested in these two degrees, thinking of taking them in Edinburgh’s college of arts, but the application procedure is quite strict. I need to prepare a portfolio or have 2 years of experience in the domain, so I’m thinking on working on that while in china as well.

**For those who aren’t aware, CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is very similar to TESOL. Steve Patton mentioned in one of his articles that, “you can think of TESOL as a product, and CELTA as a specific brand of that product.” They are very interchangeable these days, but make sure when you are applying you know which one your specific program requires!**

Debuccino:  That’s so great Emi! Oh portfolio work and experience? I know that in the past you’ve volunteered for this art and music festival called the Paléo Festival Nyon. How did you get involved in that and how was the experience?

Emi:  Wow you did see a lot of info! Haha! Yeah I helped at this local music festival 4 years ago, I was in a team in charge of checking the entrance, managing the flow of people and checking the tickets, it was fun! My friend talked to me about it, so we took part together.

Debuccino:  I got to know you through our mutual passion for art. And you also helped out at the Paléo Festival. Is art something that you still have a passion for today? Or something that has influenced your studies at all?

Emi:  Art has always been a passion for me since I was a kid, though I mainly developed my drawing skills when I was I middle and high school. I love to draw, it’s something that takes the stress off my mind, and it helps to express one’s feelings I guess. It has influenced my studies in the sense that I would sometimes draw instead of work on my assignments haha! However from uni onward, life has been so busy that I’ve put drawing aside, sadly. I would like to get back to it though!

Debuccino:  Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked about your studies, or your career goals? (And then answer the question if there is one!)

Emi:  Hmm…not really? Or maybe about my hobbies, if someone asked me “Do you want to do an art collab?” then I’d reply “Yes!! Of course!!! But I need to get some free time first!” haha!

Debuccino:  A personal question, I remember on DeviantArt that your username was midorange or something similar I believe? Is there a meaning behind this name??

Emi:  Haha, yes it’s “midorange”, a mix of “Emilie” (my name) and “midori” (green in Japanese) and “orange”, two of my favorite colours! Just random though!

Debuccino:  Is there anything that you would like to say to those interested in doing research abroad in another country, or studying your particular discipline (geography/environment combo)?

Emi:  If there’s anything I’ve learned in uni, it’s that if you want to do something, take your courage in both hands and do it! If you want to go on an exchange, just do it! If you want to join a student society, do it! It’s not as complicated as it seems, and it’s definitely a rewarding experience! As to geography, well, if you take this subject, be prepared to do a master’s degree, because specialization is definitely required!

~end interview~

Thank you so much Emi for sharing your experience at university studying urban landscape and environment studies and with traveling!

If you would like to speak with Emi more about the University she has attended or her studies abroad, please e – mail me! debbieali42@gmail.com

References/Sources Used in Article: https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-celta-and-tefl

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