Monday, March 31, 2014

Fears for my First-Year Course

Our First-Year course

I didn’t get my top-ranked first-year course. Or my second. Or even my third. I ended up in my very last choice class: Introduction to Islam. The description sounded fine, but I just wasn’t thrilled about this class. During Orientation I plastered on a smile when people asked what first-year course I was in, feeling a bit of dread as everyone else spoke with enthusiasm about their classes.

Introduction to Islam was a nonresidential first-year course, so I hadn’t had much casual interaction with any of my classmates. We met with our class during Orientation, and I sat down quietly. We all introduced ourselves, and then our professor talked about the course, himself, and college in general. I left without talking to anyone and resigned myself to taking a class I would just have to endure.


With that attitude, I slunk into the classroom on the initial day. The first thing the professor did was recite everyone’s name. I brightened a bit. Obviously he’d put some effort into remembering each person’s name. He smiled a lot and asked questions about things we said—just chatting, but it was such a reassuring gesture. I couldn’t help but like him.

The chit-chat was nice, but I didn’t change my mind about the course until the professor began to lecture. Not only was his presentation filled with extensive details, it was dynamic and interactive. Questions were discussed and answers analyzed. Puns were made. I walked into class thinking, “Please just let this class be over,” and left thinking, “I may be able to enjoy this class.”
By the end of the semester, my thoughts were more along the lines of, “NO WAIT, THE SEMESTER CAN’T END, THIS CLASS MUST GO ON FOREVER AND EVER.” I enjoyed everything about the class. The other people in the course became my friends. We studied and did extracurricular group activities together. The material I thought would be useless ended up fascinating me. For the final paper, I wrote about a topic that I love to ramble on about. (Ask me sometime about Azerbaijan.)

The professor is not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, he is also among the kindest, most helpful, and most genuine. The class I thought I would have to endure became one I looked forward to attending every day.

Ironically, plenty of other students ended up having less positive experiences with their first choice classes than I did with my last, often because they didn’t like the subject as much as they thought they would. But you know what? That’s fine too. Better for them to find out right away that they shouldn’t major in that subject.

In the end, very few Macalester students regret the first-year course experience. It’s a chance to try something out, to get a feel for college classes, to meet people you’ll run into in the Campus Center for the next four years. Those who sign up for residential first-year classes get to know their classmates especially well.

As for me? Well, I liked the class so much that when second semester registration came around, I signed up for another class with the same professor on a similar subject. And to top it off, I just declared a concentration in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, something I’d never even considered before taking that first-year course.

Needless to say, I am really, really glad I didn’t end up with my first choice. Or my second. Or my third.
- Ashley '17

I got a little excited for my final paper.  (i.e. the library’s entire collection on Azerbaijan)