The Courses We Take

By Sara Bartl

We all know the feeling: we begin a course with over boarding enthusiasm, just to be disappointed in the end; either by the content or our own slacking motivation. Or we get kicked out of that one course we were so eager to take, and get placed elsewhere seemingly at random, just to later make up our mind and find out that it isn’t that bad after all. The following are some personal experiences of the most basic mechanisms of university life: regret and surprise.

ACC230 Writing Across the Disciplines

Yes, I know that this course is mandatory, in principle. That still makes me regret taking it, though. In my first year at UCR, I was taught many things. I was forced to learn how to present on academic topics, how to write somewhat eloquently, and how to work on group projects, in no less than eight courses. I was glad to be taught the basics in ACC 130 Academic Writing and Presenting. But other than that, I mostly learned from trial and error, from experience.

But apparently, eight courses are not enough to teach one how to write as much as a research proposal, so there’s a second academic core course in which we get to learn all that has to do with academic writing – only, this time, in the most inefficient way possible.

Oh, I should learn how to cite in APA? I’m an Arts & Humanities major, thank you very much – also, there’s the general “I don’t care, as long as you’re consistent” from most professors. Apart from that, I believe I was thought how to cite, you know, in my first semester. And even then, Googling how to cite would take me less time than the two hours of class in which we were thought how to cite by hand. For goodness’ sake, in my first semester I was told to “just use EasyBib!” I should have just taken Stylistics instead.

Geertje van Raak, Class of 2019, is a Philosophy and Musicology Major from Tilburg, the Netherlands.

SCI123 Ecology and Evolution

One of my favourite courses I’ve taken at UCR has, without a doubt, been Advanced Ecology with Professor Inez Flameling. As someone who intends to work in the field of conservation, this course offered a good insight into the kinds of issues that are being tackled by current ecologists. The course adds on to the content covered in Ecology & Evolution, so there is a fair amount of repetition. However, it provides additional topics (also through a number of guest lectures) that are of definite interest to students in this area of biology. For those concerned with climate change, evolution, and interested in contemporary discussions addressing sustainability, development, and the notion of living in harmony with nature, the course is sure to be intriguing, if you’re up for the challenge. Furthermore, the professor is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and the final paper is a good opportunity to get a feel for potential future research that you may end up doing in this field. All in all, can recommend!

Kurt van Wyk, Class of 2019, is a Biology and Life Science Major from Frankfurt, Germany.

A 100 Social Science Course

In my second semester I enrolled in a 100 level course in the Social Sciences. At the time, a few people suggested the course to me, and I, not sure whether to major in that department, was all too curious to try it out. The professor of the course was by all means one of the funniest people I had ever seen, for all the right, and unfortunately some wrong, reasons. I ended up learning little to nothing over the entire semester, and I was never extrinsically motivated to fully participate. Although I tried to do better on the assignments, I was harshly graded on aspects irrelevant to the course contents.

However, a great deal of the problem was my own input. We were allowed to use our laptops throughout class, and quite soon we saw no other option than to tag each other in Facebook memes constantly during class. Although this contributed to the class atmosphere being enjoyable, and to me bonding with my classmates, I basically did not allow myself to learn anything. Although being upset with the course, I did not have an awful time, and more importantly, it definitely helped me decide that I wanted to major in the Arts & Humanities instead.

Aron van Os, Class of 2019, is a History and Philosophy Major from Leusden, the Netherlands.

A&H192 Introduction to Art and Design Practice

Since the film and media track got cancelled and I sort of enjoyed doodling in my notebooks, taking a course from the arts & design track seemed like a natural next step. I even considered making it my minor at the time, as a way to awaken the creative genius deep inside of me. Already before the semester had started I had bought new colored pencils and a stack of that thick professional kind of paper; I was going to discover the uomo universalis I truly am. Not.

What I did discover, however, is that I definitely want a bachelor of science. I am not sure why I did not switch courses, maybe because I did not want to accept that motivation for the course would never come, or maybe because sitting in the sun in the classroom wasn’t so bad when hungover. But being surrounded by artsy people who were enjoying the course, working on assignments and updating their portfolio, surely did not make me more creative. I regret taking the course as I expected it to be more structured, intense, and focused on techniques. However, I would not have wanted to miss the great quality time with my mom the course has given me: together we created and finished most of my portfolio.

Elise Mertens, Class of 2019, is a Cognitve Science and Computer Science Major from Bladel, the Netherlands.

SSC 232 The Development Encounter: Anthropological Perspectives

I first came to UCR as an exchange student. When I applied, I tried to choose courses that would be a balance of challenging and easy so I could enjoy my time abroad. However, when I received my schedule, I actually didn’t get placed in any of the classes I had chosen except German. I was placed in Law, Society and Justice, The Development Encounter: Anthropological Perspectives, and Political Theory. At the time, I was a political science major. I never dreamed of studying anthropology, and law is not an undergraduate program in the United States. Now, I transferred fully to UCR, and am following the law and anthropology tracks.

The law class that I took with Professor Tahir helped me to realize that I would like to become a lawyer and study human rights. The Development Encounter gave me a new perspective on the United Nations, NGOs, and development programs. I now use perspectives from anthropology to analyze and criticize inequalities and biases of international law. I hope to be able to continue to use these perspectives as an immigration/human rights lawyer. I am extremely happy that UCR ignored my wishes and put me in random classes instead.

Erica Con, Class of 2019, is a Law and Anthropology Major from Lexington, Nebraska, USA.

Sara Bartl, Class of 2019, Linguistics and Antiquity Major from Salzburg, Austria.

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