Contemplation: The Best Classes from College

As a note:  I got the idea for this post from a Reddit discussion which can be viewed here.

Within the next week it will be exactly four years since I graduated with a BA in English Writing from Plymouth State University.  When I think about this four-year period, which up through my college years denoted another transition from another educational period (Elementary school to Middle School to High School to College), I am amazed that so much time has already gone by since I left Plymouth with a degree in my hand.  I know that it is kind of clichéd to say so, but I credit so much of who I now am to the four years I spent in college.  Not only did I learn a lot in the classrooms but I further defined myself, created some amazing friendships, and really began to view the world with an adult perspective.  All around it was great (even considering the times when it wasn’t that great).

A question I get sometimes (and occasionally ask myself) is “what was the best class you took in college?”  When asked this I often begin to respond and then have to stop myself, because I am not sure that I have a specific answer.  In my four years at Plymouth I took a wide variety of classes.  Everything from introductory theatre classes to advanced writing classes to forensics down to Tai Chi.  I love to learn and so for the most part I enjoyed all my classes just for the thrill of getting to know new things.  Certainly some classes and professors were less enjoyable than others but there were some classes that really just stood out above and beyond and have earned a very special place in my memories of college.  Here are a few of those.

Note: I cannot recall the exact names of all these classes so they might not be exact. Furthermore, I cannot remember exactly when I took each of these but will try to get the times right (I guess I could check my records, but come on, this is one of my blog posts, do you actually expect me to do in-depth research? HA!)

1. Advanced Technical Communications:  I will start with this class because I think that if I am being very honest, this has been the most lastingly beneficial class to my actual work life since graduating to college.  Sure, the name doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but this class really let me experience some real life challenges and projects and taught me skills that I continue to utilize to this day.  A little background first:  Advanced Technical Communications was, as the name suggested, a very advanced class.  It only came around every couple of years and had a prerequisite of Technical Communication.  It was offered for the first semester of my senior year and sounded like a great opportunity of a class, especially because I was not planning on doing any internships.  There was one catch however.  I had never taken Technical Communications.  Fortunately the professor teaching the class was my Advisor and he, knowing how I’d been doing over the past three years, and having not actually taught me in a class himself, worked it out that I would be able to take Advanced Technical Communications.  I am so glad that I did.  The class was small, only five students including myself, and the basics of it was that we had a client with a project (ours was to make a learning website to teach students how to use Adobe Photoshop Elements) and that we’d be graded as a group on the end results of the project at the end of the semester.  The class was very labor intensive.  As a group we had very little knowledge about either website design/development or Adobe Photoshop Elements.  We busted our chops spending many additional hours outside of the classroom using supplemental technologies like blogs (I actually got introduced to WordPress in this class) and wikis to record progress and maintain documents.  In the end we had a fine and functional product that achieved the desired needs of our client.  It was an exhilarating and wonderful experience.  And today very much of what I do is create technical documentation and use a lot of my personal experiences from this class to help me in my day-to-day work.

2. Advanced Poetry Workshop: I think I took this class my second semester of my junior year (maybe it was first semester, I can’t remember).  This was another small class, maybe about ten students at most.  What was further great was that a lot of the students in this class had taken the normal Poetry Workshop class with me and so we all had a degree of familiarity with each other’s writing styles.  Unlike the normal Poetry Workshop (which was really great too) this class really just opened the door to our creative abilities.  Besides continuing to produce poetry to be work-shopped and engaging in the work-shopping practice itself, there were no real assignments besides our final project, which was to compose a final poetry chapbook.  The atmosphere of this class was very personal and many of us developed strong friendships throughout the semester we took the class together.  I loved workshop classes in college because not only did I get to write a lot (which was my major’s focus) but i also learned how to take constructive criticism and improve upon my own skills.  Poetry has always been a favorite writing style of mine, and so getting to work in the close and intimate setting of an advanced workshop was wonderful.  While I admit (sadly) that I have not kept up with my personal poetry writing as much over the past several years, I still look back fondly at the work I created during this class and the people whom I got to share it with then.

3. Sexual Ethics.  Besides my major in English Writing I also pursued a minor in philosophy (my poor mother was so worried about what I would do with my life after I graduated.  I had a full-time job with benefits in less than three months out of college.  No worries mom!).  I love philosophy and ethics in particular has long been of great interest to me.  Sexual Ethics is what it sounds like.  The class was definitely not for the prudish as the discussions and materials had a lot to do with sex and the human body.  Besides the fact that I really liked the professor who taught this class and had several good friends who were taking it with me, I was particularly fond of the diversity of other students in the class.  A lot of these fellow students had no background or real apparent interest in philosophy or ethics and yet we continually had engaging and fascinating discussions.  I also wrote one of my favorite papers in this class.  I can’t remember its title but it was about our cultures strange semi-sexual and quasi-religious practices in regards to bathrooms and bathroom use.  Really it was a fantastic contemplation on a commonplace piece of our modern lives.  My professor in Sexual Ethics strongly encouraged me to expand upon the topic more and maybe even try to write a book about it (something which I haven’t entirely ruled out.  I revisit the paper regularly).  All around it was just a great time, even considering having to sit though Salò (which, admittedly, may be the most depraved and disturbing movie I have ever seen and I certainly do not recommend it for the weak of stomach or anyone remotely uncomfortable about human atrocity).

4. The Real World.  Not the a class about the MTV reality television show (though we did to stuff with reality TV) in the class, but instead a literature class that examined the portrayals of reality through a wide variety of books, films, and television. Not only was the topic fascinating to me, but this class, which I took my final semester of senior year, was also taken by a bunch of my closest college friends.  As such it became a real fun class that led up to our graduation.  Furthermore I got to read some fantastic books like Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation.”  I also got to write an incredibly enjoyable paper about VH1’s “The Surreal Life.”

5. Literary Criticism. Admittedly I took this class long before I probably should have.  I took ti my second semester of Freshman year, before I had read a lot more of what I probably should have to be in the class.  Furthermore the professor who taught my Literary Criticism did so in what I think many would consider an unconventional and perhaps less effective way.  When several of my other peers took the same class from other professors they learned significantly different things than I did.  All the being said this class was one of my favorites throughout college.  For one thing it introduced me to a professor who would continue to be a mentor and friend throughout the rest of my college career.  It also introduced me to a much broader view of how to approach literature.  While I might sometimes regret that I did not get as much specific focus on particular literary criticism from in this class (as my friends in other professors’ version of this class did) I still felt like I learned a lot.  Furthermore, the professor who taught this class encouraged me to continue to approach my literary analysis with my own approach rather than confirm towards what might be more traditional forms.   All around it was a great and encouraging class for a young English major.

6.  Western Seafaring.  This class is different from all of the above because it was not in either my major or minor fields of study but instead was a history class which, for some reason, fulfilled my technological (basic computer use) requirement for graduation.  I knew nothing about the class when I signed up for it and admit I did so (for second semester of my freshman year) simply because I didn’t want to take a basic computer class like Microsoft Office (I was pretty good with computers and though such a class sounded dreadfully boring.  This class proved to be a wonderful surprise for me.  Basically it was an entire history of western civilization told through the lens of seafaring.  the professor was the magnificently crusty old historian who was an absolute vault worth of fascinating knowledge.  I had already really liked history at the time that I took the class but the unique perspective in which the class was presented completely reinvigorated my love of the history of western civilization.  And to this day I recall things like clinker construction, that starboard is on the right, and the Sutton Hoo ships because of this class.  Even though it came early in my college career I think that it was probably my favorite non-major/minor field of study class.

Honorable Mention: Tai Chi.  I took morning Tai Chi classes a number of semesters throughout college and while I can’t quite claim them as my favorite classes (the instructors were not the most inspiring and I really didn’t have any close personal friendships from them) I will constantly remember them as being a wonderfully relaxing morning ritual for much of my college experience.  Much like my poetry writing I often regret that I haven’t kept with my practicing Tai Chi more (perhaps that should be a goal I set.  Nathaniel, write more poetry and do more Tai Chi).  I have no regrets for having taken the classes and gotten to experience this unique form of martial arts.

As I said above I really enjoyed learning from all my classes in college and I think each and every one of them taught me beneficial and interesting things.  The ones above are the real shining stars in my mind.  it is next to impossible to name one in particular that I’d consider my favorite because I liked each for different reasons but ultimately I am grateful to them all.

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~ by Nathaniel on May 13, 2011.

2 Responses to “Contemplation: The Best Classes from College”

  1. LOVE the throwback post!

    • Been just about four years since we departed Plymouth. God it was a good time wasn’t it? After being out of college for four years are you officially an adult ’cause I still don’t quite feel like one.

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