Huan Liu talks about 4th year

A day in the life

Huan Liu talks about 4th year


There’s great interaction with the professors because the classes are small. The professors are friendly, passionate, and really do care about the students and their futures.

Finding the right environment

When Huan Liu decided on a university to attend, she knew she wanted to study planning but she also wanted to get away from home. Doing that meant a bit more than hopping on a short plane ride, though.

“Dalhousie is on the other side of the planet from my hometown, which I find to be really interesting,” she says. “The Community Design program is also accredited by the Canadian Institute of Planners, and that was important to me.”

Moving from her hometown of Shanghai, China, with a population of over 23 million, to Halifax (with about 400,000 people), Huan has noticed little things that most locals would take for granted.

“I like that it’s very close to woodlands and the waterfront,” she says. “There are so many birds on the streets and they act amazingly like human beings: they can walk across roads, use stairs, wait in front of coffee shops, and they’re not afraid of people!”

Her curiosity and eye for detail are put to good use in the Community Design program. Since it’s such a multidisciplinary field, Huan says it allows her to be constantly exploring new things. After two years in the program, she realized she had definitely made the right choice.

“By then I’d finished various required classes like history, design, computers, and environment, which I found really interesting,” she says. “And I finished my second internship back in my hometown. That’s when I realized the importance of planning (especially environmental planning) in small communities in developing countries like China. Proper environmental planning can positively and significantly contribute to a better-preserved natural environment, a more suitable living environment for local residents, and more opportunities to those communities.”

Huan is now graduating from the program with an honours degree in Environmental Planning, and a minor in Environmental Studies. She received the Community Design Achievement Award in second year and a Community Design Alumni Scholarship the following year. But one of the highlights for her was her Environmental Planning Studio class.

“The whole class developed a vulnerability analysis of future sea-level rise for the Town of Mahone Bay,” she says. “I’m now doing my honours thesis in mapping potential vernal pools within the Williams Lake Watershed, Halifax, which is under potential development.”

Huan plans to go on to graduate school to study urban design or landscape architecture—programs that would allow her to translate her ideas into real designs. Whatever she studies, she’ll be drawing on what she learned in her Community Design classes. Her favourite has been Cities and the Environment in History (PLAN 3005) with Dr. Jill Grant.

“I was amazed by how ancient city form and buildings are different from today, and how these differences change our life dramatically,” she says. “And I learned how some ancient civilizations failed as the results of ignoring the environment. The class inspired me to think about what we’re doing today, the challenges we’re facing or will face in the future – and what we should do to avoid detrimental consequences.”