Why we should look beyond 'requirements' when choosing courses

Take something that has nothing to do with your major, just because you can


This year, as my course registration appointment loomed, I spent hours on the CourseForum, SIS and Lou’s List, trying to perfect my schedule. After hours of research, I knew that Intermediate Macroeconomics should be taken with Westerfield, and I had nearly memorized the English course requirements for the major  — and my schedule was almost perfect. But it was like a game of Tetris, trying to find a “fun” class to perfectly fit in between all of my other, major-related classes and discussions. I found myself unbelievably frustrated, aggressively typing course acronyms into the CourseForum, because there were so many interesting classes that I wanted to take but couldn’t because they wouldn’t accommodate my required courses.

Classes outside of the primary curriculum, or “fun” classes, are something I’ve valued since the third grade, when I began attending my impressively nerdy and wonderfully weird elementary or middle school. North Star Academy taught all of the standard classes  — like history and math — at a faster pace than the other schools in the district, so its students would have an extra hour at the end of every school day to take an “enrichment” class. These classes covered a breadth of topics, which ranged from knitting, to rock climbing, to babysitting to fly fishing.

It wasn’t uncommon to look out the window of your classroom during the last hour of the day and see a group of fourth through eighth graders carrying rocks and dragging large branches across the blacktop. While this would likely seem like a rather unconventional way to spend class time at another school, this was pretty customary at my school. Rather than wondering what was going on, you’d simply think to yourself, “Oh! There goes the ‘Caveman 101’ enrichment class, they must be practicing building their shelters today!” Not strange at all.

I never had the privilege of being in the caveman class, but once, I did accidentally sign up for a class called “Dragons, Dragons, Dragons.” Since it wasn’t a particularly popular course, I wasn’t allowed to transfer out. Over the course of that trimester, I got to watch a dragon “documentary” that claimed dragons had avoided the dinosaur-killing meteor by hiding in the depths of the ocean, and are still alive — just hiding, today. I also got to meet a staggering number of avid dragon enthusiasts, who would draw, paint or sculpt dragons all throughout class, then brag about what “breed” of dragon they had been able to so accurately create. Not surprisingly, this was not a class where I made many friends.

I only had space for one non-major-related course during course registration this year, and I had my heart set on filling it with Buddhism, with Sonam Kachru. Prof. Kachru had been my academic advisor first year — before I was abruptly transferred to someone in the Classics department — and some recent “procrastinatory googling” had left me convinced that I may be an unrealized Buddhist. But I didn’t recognize the name of the professor that’s teaching Buddhism in the fall, and the class conflicted with one of the economics courses I absolutely needed to take. Mildly devastated, I began exploring the other classes the University has to offer — and there are a ton of them.

Extensive research left me with an enrollment shopping cart filled with things like “Introduction to Econometrics” and “Literature of the South,” but also things like an anthropology class called “Fantasy and Social Values” and a religion class called “Mormonism and American Culture.” While some might think that these classes are a waste of time, classes like these are the ones that will challenge your views, change your perspective or help you find something new to be passionate about.

One of the best classes I’ve taken here at the University was called, “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding.” It was my ENWR, and I took it on a whim because A) it sounded like it played into my hippy-dippy, crunchy-granola ideals of serenity, pacifism, etc. and B) it wasn’t full yet — mostly B. This was also before I knew what CourseForum was, so it was a true shot in the dark. Over the course of the semester, this class made me realize that I have a genuine love for writing, introduced me to some amazing friends and we got to spend time practicing yoga. Yoga! In an English class! How cool is that?

So I say, take something that has nothing to do with your major, just because you can. With all the departments and various courses that the University has to offer, pigeonholing yourself into a schedule of prerequisites and requirements can keep you from finding something you love.  

And if you ever find an opportunity to take a caveman class, please let me know.

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