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I Took a Small, 20-Person Seminar & It Became One of My Favorite Classes at UCLA

When I decided to take a seminar class to fulfill a requirement for my musicology minor, I was intimidated by the size of the class. I have previously taken seminars before, but they were so large that they felt like normal lectures. This time, though, the seminar was only about 20 people, so I felt pressure to participate and contribute to create meaningful discussion. I had previously taken the professor for another class, so I was comforted in her familiarity. In this previous class, she had proven that not only was she exceptionally knowledgeable in all that she talked about, but she was also a great lecturer who was patient and valued curiosity for the sake of learning. This particular course was an interesting topic about music and fandoms, so I was already fascinated. The class was basically set up to be fantastic, but I was still nervous because talking in class always makes me anxious. 

woman in a gray sweater taking notes on white paper
Anna Earl on Unsplash

Nevertheless, after the first class, I was relieved to find out that in this seminar, talking in class was not always required, and if we had things to say, we could bring them up in our weekly journals. Overall, that first class soothed a lot of the anxieties that I had. In fact, we were instructed to reveal our own personal fandom for a musician or band and play the class a song. Everyone brought in their favorite tunes, ranging from old to new, popular to obscure. The professor seemed genuinely interested by what everyone had to say and pledged that the class would be a judgment-free zone. It was easily one the coolest and most fun first classes that had ever had because it was just listening to music and hearing people be passionate fans about the songs that they had loved.

On top of that, we had made a class-to-professor pact to always do the readings so that when it came time to discuss them, everyone would be on the same page and could contribute their own thoughts. I really liked this because it meant that there would be a variety of opinions and perspectives that gave the reading more life. It made me feel more encouraged to participate, and I was less anxious about it.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Furthermore, this seminar’s biggest project was a presentation and essay project regarding a music fandom. When I say that I have never worked harder on a project in my life, I truly mean I have sincerely, never ever worked this hard on a project in my life. I sifted through academic articles, I did autoethnographic research and I was getting feedback from my professor all at the same time. My professor even made it mandatory to come to her office hours and review the paper with her to offer additional guidance. This meant that not only was this professor exceedingly helpful, but she actually cared about us. She got to know all of our names, and although a minor thing, it feels so good when a professor knows your name, especially at a large school like UCLA. 

person using laptop at a desk
Photo by Christin Hume from Unsplash

This project ended up being such a fulfilling experience, and it was an assignment that I actually ended up loving. I had the opportunity to talk about a fandom that I personally enjoy so much, and that made it all the more fascinating. I was excited to give my presentation and share my research because I was proud of myself for working so hard. As a matter of fact, this was one of the first times that I had felt incredibly proud of not only the work I had done, but also of myself. As someone who has been struggling with imposter syndrome at UCLA, it was so liberating to finally feel secure in my intelligence. I felt smart, and no one could take that away from me.

Although the seminar initially seemed scary, it ended up being a wonderful experience amongst my classmates and professor. I learned so much about the topic through the readings and through collaborative class discussion. Even more so, I learned a tremendous amount about myself and my capabilities as a student and as a person. I am so happy and grateful that I had the chance to be in such a rewarding class that boosted my confidence and my skills!

Emily is a UCLA graduate with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Musicology. She is a huge skincare enthusiast as well as a fashion and makeup lover who likes to experiment with her style. When she has some free time, she can be found obsessing over music and musicians, painting or going outside to enjoy the sun.
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