My Favorite Class, Each Year of College

The beginning of each semester is fraught with underclassmen soliciting course recommendations through class Facebook pages. With hundreds of courses available across Columbia’s undergraduate schools — and even some of its graduate schools! — the shopping period can become overwhelming. Well, look no further! I am a senior in my final semester at Barnard, and am here to share my favorite class I took each year of college. Read on for the good (visiting The Met), the bad (sending my child off to college), and the ugly (crying in the Casa Hispánica bathroom).

Freshman Year: Developmental Psychology

Barnard offers a course in Developmental Psychology, and while I’m sure it’s great, I have not taken it. I took Dev Psych at a local university the summer before transferring to Barnard, hoping to earn a few more credits to ensure that I was completely caught up. Is this class relevant, you may ask? Of course, because I can still impart my senior wisdom to you all! I highly recommend taking a summer course; I was able to exercise my mind between semesters without feeling bogged down by four to five classes at a time. I had not again felt that much freedom to explore a subject until I PDFed a class my senior year (details to come). The highlight of the course itself was raising my own child using the program MyVirtualChild. My “daughter’s” name was Mairead, she was my pride and joy, and I had just sent her off to art school when the simulation concluded. As Mairead grew up, the parenting decisions I made became increasingly complex: from how often to breastfeed her to whether to punish her for denting the family car. I have always wanted children, but even students in the class who did not found the experience fascinating. To make a long story short: experiential learning is amazing, and I continued to seek it out as I moved through college.

Sophomore Year: AHIS BC1001–1002: Introduction to Art History I/II

Technically, these are two different classes, but they make up a sequence that is required of all art history majors and minors. Introduction to Art History I covers prehistory to around 1500, while the second half of the course is comprised of everything post-1500. The course was definitely a survey, including art from across the globe, but never going particularly in-depth. However, it was my first exposure to art history as an academic subject, and I was immediately hooked. To this day, it blows my mind that I can receive college course credit for reading and writing about art, and that visiting The Met is a “required field trip.” It was these visits to The Met that inspired me to apply for — and complete! — an internship at the museum. Introduction to Art History reminded me how lucky I am to attend school in New York City, and that Columbia provides students with unique opportunities to engage with course material face-to-face.

Junior Year: SPAN UN3300: Art and Artifacts

I initially took Art and Artifacts to satisfy my language requirement, and it ended up being one of my most challenging — but most rewarding — courses in college. I had expected the course to mimic my high school Spanish classes: grammar-based with little practice in conversation. In reality, Art and Artifacts was the exact opposite. Each class was entirely discussion-based, and we were encouraged to express ourselves in Spanish however we best could, even if grammar and vocabulary were lacking. The first few weeks of the course, I was terrified to walk up the five flights of stairs in Casa Hispánica (and not because of the physical exertion). I had convinced myself that my professor, as well as the other students, would look down on my subpar speaking abilities. I could not have been more wrong. My professor’s genuine kindness, supportiveness, and compassion are what carried me through the course. Without Jennifer’s guidance, I am sure I never could have written a six-page academic research paper, entirely in Spanish. Compared to my English papers, it is stilted and awkward, but it is the assignment I will always be the most proud of. Moral of the story? Stay in the class that scares you.

Senior Year: LING UN3101: Introduction to Linguistics

My senior fall is when I PDFed my first and only class. The experience made me question: where has this option been all my life? The day I elected PDF (more officially, the Pass-D-Fail option) in Introduction to Linguistics was the day I began savoring my professor’s jokes, tackling problem sets with abandon, and absorbing lectures for the sake of learning. Of course, I still needed to complete assignments on time and take notes, but I no longer felt the stifling pressure to perform at my highest level. Choosing to PDF this course reminded me why I love learning, and why I challenged myself by coming to Columbia. I wanted to expand my knowledge in a range of subjects from some of the brightest minds in the field, while taking a few moments to relish in the joy of learning something new. Introduction to Linguistics was one of those moments. My tip: take a course that will spark joy, and elect the PDF option. That way there are no distractions: just you and a fascinating subject to be learned.  

 

My favorite classes are those that have challenged me, engaged me, and propelled me outside of my comfort zone. Every course I have taken at Barnumbia has taught me lessons beyond those on the syllabus, lessons I hope to impart to you. Whether you’re choosing a GPA-booster, a requirement filler, or a major elective, elect courses with a purpose. As I look back on my four years of college, I am thankful to have taken a variety of classes that have challenged how I see the world and made my Barnard experience so fulfilling.