top of page

Geographer ? (Part 1)

"And you, what do you do for a living? »

“I am a geographer. »

"Ah... So you know all the capitals? »

"...*moment of silence*... That's not really what I studied actually..."

How do you make a geographer? What is a geographer? What is it for? Why does it still exist?

This is no longer the era of great explorations, however!? But what is this strange bug whose function hardly anyone knows??

Let me start with a little exploration of my non-linear journey that landed me on a chair in a “Geographers and Geographies” class at the University of Montreal in 2010.

What do i want ?

Like many children, I imagined myself becoming full of things when I grew up. I wanted to do like Indiana Jones, then like Scully, in the X-Files series; I wanted to solve mysteries and understand how things work. I also wanted to become a thanatologist because the human body already fascinated me and, again, I wanted to understand how it works. I wanted to become a mathematician, a physicist or even a fighter pilot, so that in case space travel developed in time, I could participate and see the planets up close.

I also had more artistic phases. I wanted to be a visual arts teacher, but I was told that the profession had no future and that the courses would no longer exist when I got to giving them. I wanted to be a sculptor, painter, designer, potter, and several other types of artisans. I finally opted for artisanal woodworking, a trade for which I completed professional training in 2005. But as is the case with many trades, an entry-level job required 5 years of experience…

Huh!? Well, I think I'll continue to university maybe?

Direction AEU (access to university studies) to compensate for my fragmented CÉGEP not having concluded on a DEC. I discover new possibilities and go for a major in anthropology, a science that exists solely to understand human beings! Wow! It must be exciting! Yes. But there was not enough room to challenge paradigms and evolve theories. Disappointed, I took some time to reflect.

And if I went to see, how is it over there?

Without any outdoor experience, hiking, camping, traveling, without having ever flown or left the province of Quebec, I decide to go to Iceland with brand new hiking boots, a tent and other freshly purchased equipment. Well, maybe it was a little crazy, but I wanted to go on an adventure, to see if I could find myself on the way.

That's where I fell in love. To see the Earth in its wild state, with its harrowing movements still visible in the landscape like a dramatic portion of a symphony. All this power, these colors (I'm a huge fan of colors), these smells of sulfur and life that bring back the primary essence of the human that we are. I saw phenomena that I couldn't explain to myself, and I wanted to understand!!

Some of the phenomena and landscapes that marked me:

*NB: It was 2009 and my camera was only 8MP and some photos were taken through a bus window.

When I came back, my head full of questions and wonder, I wanted to find out what to do, what to study to understand these phenomena. Unfortunately, like many people, I knew next to nothing about geography. I had not yet been really introduced to it, having only seen it in its political form and rarely in depth. By luck, chance, or destiny (depending on your beliefs), I came across a short article in L'actualité which presented a professor from the University of Montreal, Mrs. Lael Parrott, a specialist in complex systems (the links and dynamics between elements of a system, its whole and its parts). Her laboratory employed a true multidisciplinary team. I devoured the article, then I searched the University of Montreal website to find the courses that talked about complex systems or similar and, I hoped, courses given by this professor.

Biology? Hmm… Maybe, but I would have to take some refresher courses.

Back to anthropology? No, I don't think so, no.

Physics? Yes, but that would be even more refresher courses and that wasn't really it either.

Suddenly, I saw it! I even heard the little triumphal music of the epiphany.

Every class looked so interesting! I didn't even need any refresher courses (yeah!). I could enroll right away and embark on this academic adventure that would help me explore and understand.

That's what I did: I enrolled in geography!

At that moment, I remembered a moment from my secondary three when, during a discussion between the class and our homeroom teacher (guess? yes, yes, a geo teacher), he had spoken to us about his academic background, how he had studied geography by chance and how much he loved it.

It makes you wonder if all geographers find themselves in geography by a combination of circumstances!

Is it a secret profession whose students are chosen by an owl who announces that they will become geographers? Sorry to disappoint you, that is not the case. But it feels a bit like a class of its own when hardly anyone really knows what you're doing, hehe.

So, I started my training as a geographer that fall. My choice of classes included, among others, “Geographers and Geographies” which explored the history of geography and the great geographers, as well as what geography is used for and how it has changed over time. All my classes were exciting and given by passionate people. I no longer wanted to do anything else; I had found my way. Today, I can combine my different interests and go my own way. And you know the icing on the sundae? I was even able to take a course with Mrs. Lael Parrott. *Joy*

How do you make a geographer?

The recipe is simple, but the results can vary greatly.


  • A sufficiently adult human

  • A healthy dose of curiosity

  • A keen interest in why and how

  • Strong resistance to the elements (to be able to take readings during the end of a hurricane for example)

  • Minimum one mud bath (the more the better)

  • 2-3 awkward interviews (minimum)

  • A few beers (optional)

  • A hint of sleepless nights

Brew all the "dry" ingredients into the student's head and this one into the "wet" ingredients (except the beer which goes into the student). After about 3-4 years, the shapes of a geographer should emerge.

More seriously, there are several branches to geography as it is studied now. Personally, I chose environmental physical geography (at the University of Montreal, the other branch is human geography). My training was therefore more focused on the systems of the planet, the phenomena of formation, the interactions between systems, understanding how things work, causes and effects, our planet in all its glory. The subjects are grouped into thematic courses (example: hydrology, climatology, geomorphology, etc.), but links are created from one course to another. I will explain some concepts in more detail in future blogs.

So, what is a geographer?

He is a scientist who studies the planet from every angle including the interactions between individuals (human or other species) as well as between these individuals and their environment. We ask ourselves questions – and we try to find the answers – such as: how does an ecosystem work or what is the role of this little critter compared to this big one (example: a bee vs a human)?

What is it for? Why does it still exist?

We will explore all of this in more detail soon.

See you soon and thank you for your visit,


For the curious, the article from L'actualité mentioned:


bottom of page