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On the Move: Students explore meaning through their stories of travel

Prof. Ju Hui Judy Han (far left, centre row) with her students at the launch for On the Move: An Undergraduate Journal of Creative Geographies.

Bushra Nabi, born in Pakistan, remembered a trip from Canada to Saudi Arabia with her husband, when an immigration officer at Jeddah Airport wouldn’t speak to her because she was a woman. “I made sure to look him directly in the eye and very clearly said, ‘Thank you!’ so that he would know that I was there. He looked surprised, but only for half a second. He quickly went back to ignoring me.”

Christopher William Walker, a Canadian of Macedonian descent, described travelling to Greece and seeing the family village in ruins from an old war. “My grandmother pointed out the small bed she had been snatched out of, and I realized that it is one thing to listen to a story but another thing to actually be in the place of the story.”

These two UTSC students, both in third year, were among 20 who presented excerpts from sometimes dramatic essays about travel or a religious environment written for a pair of classes taught by Assistant Professor Ju Hui Judy Han in the Department of Human Geography and City Studies. The event, held in the Ralph Campbell Lounge on April 1, was the Second Annual Reading from On the Move: An Undergraduate Journal of Creative Geographies, which Han started with her students last year.

The main exercise, says Han, was designed to help students bring a deeper and more critical approach to the travel experience. A lot of the stories, she notes, are “of migration, or visiting the places of their childhood, or their parents’ home.” Many are loaded with meaning. “Students are trying to grapple with how to understand both the places that their parents are from and also the places they might consider home but are still strange to them.”

Han can easily relate. “I’m a double immigrant,” she says. Born in Korea, she emigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 12, got her doctorate at the University of California Berkeley, then moved north for post-doc studies at UBC. She came to Toronto and UTSC for her first academic position in 2012.

The essays were written for her courses Spaces of Travel and Geographies of Religion and Secularism. The full works will be posted at the On the Move site in coming weeks.

© University of Toronto Scarborough