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The value of pushing our individual boundaries

How my current schedule allows me to push myself academically

<p>Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

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I’m not thrilled about my schedule this semester. In fact, I’ve been dreading the start of the spring semester since I enrolled in classes in November.

As an English major, I primarily gravitate towards modern and contemporary literature. In other words, I don’t like reading old books. This semester will be different though, as I’m taking a class entitled “ENGL 3515: Love and Death in the Middle Ages.” I enjoy reading novels that are relevant in the context of our current lives or the recent past — not works from the 12th century, for example. I feel far removed from older literature, because the language of the texts is so difficult to follow, and I don’t feel any strong connection to the content. 

On the other hand, I'm taking another English course entitled “ENGL 4560: The Modern Memoir.” The reading list for this course only includes memoirs written in the last 30 years, which aligns with my interests. However, it’s a seminar course. English seminars typically have between 16 and 20 students, and rely on whole-class discussions of the texts. Small, discussion-based classes have always been anxiety-inducing for me, and this class is a 4000-level course that hinges on my active participation and discussion of the books. I’ve taken many discussion-based courses during my time at the University and I’ve done relatively well, but sharing my thoughts in class has never been an easy task for me.

While I have struggled with reading older literature and participating in discussions, I understand why they’re staples of the English curriculum. There’s value in reading literature from all time periods — it’s particularly important for learning about different literary traditions and historical perspectives. Similarly, smaller classes create a more conducive learning environment to delve deeper into literature of all time periods. Thus, it makes sense that two requirements for the English major include one course in literature before 1700 and a 4000-level seminar.

Essentially, I’m taking these courses to fulfill my major requirements, which is not surprising. However, these requirements serve only as general guidelines, as there is otherwise quite a bit of freedom involved in the courses one can take. Ultimately, I’m willingly taking these courses. 

After experiencing these classes for a couple of weeks now, I feel that both of these courses will be manageable this semester. They’re not drastically different from previous classes I’ve taken, but I’ve been avoiding them for the past two years, instead deferring to classes that I anticipate will be more enjoyable, but more importantly, safer.

Oftentimes, college students are encouraged to take classes that lie within their interests or classes that they know they won’t struggle in so those classes won't hurt — or even boost — their GPA. Students are even told to avoid certain classes or subjects that lie outside our areas of study because they’re more difficult. I’ve personally joked about how I’ve never set foot in the Physics Building because it’s not the place for me, but it speaks to the nature of academic settings where distinct spheres of study exist. The College of Arts and Sciences’ general education requirements in particular then force students to take classes that they wouldn’t take otherwise — this can be frustrating for many of us, because we’re not actively thinking about the positive aspects of taking a class outside of our comfort zone.

However, I think it's important to push myself to try to take these new courses that may bring up anxiety. College is a highly structured environment, so we’re encouraged to take the set path that has been forged for us. I can only grow academically if I take classes that I’m uncomfortable with, and attending this university provides me with an unique opportunity to branch out and explore different areas of interest outside of my comfort zone.

I hope by the end of this semester, I’ll be more confident in my discussion sections and have a better command of literature from the Middle Ages. It may be challenging at times, however, I can take any new skills from this semester and apply them to classes I’ll take in the future. I’m fortunate that I already love my major, and I can only develop a greater appreciation for it.

It’s important that we continue to take risks and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow as individuals. Taking a class outside your comfort zone is a great way to start.

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

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