One of the most marked differences between my high school and college experiences is motivation. In high school, I cared less and less as the years went by. But in college, I get more and more excited about school as the semesters pass. Not only do the classes get more involved and delve deeper in to specific subject matter, but you start to realize that, in a few short years, you will be equipped to go and do this stuff in the real world. This semester, I’m taking private pilot ground I for helicopters, private pilot flight I, COM223: Intelligence Writing, LCH101: Chinese 101, and SS110: World History. I have definitely been the most excited about my classes this semester than any other before. I’ll tell you about my two favorite and most involved classes this week.
Intelligence Writing, taught by Deanna Austin, is easily my favorite class this semester. It’s a great class and Austin is such a great professor. I will take anything she teaches. In this class, we chose a country at the very beginning of the semester and have been assigned various subsequent writing assignments pertaining to it. Every other week, we do “Milestones”, where we collect information about the issues going on in our country. We use these to brainstorm ideas for Intelligence Briefs that we write about once a month. We write briefs on any issue of importance to the country and its relations to the US and the world. The cool thing about these briefs is that we submit them to our school’s intelligence publications, Eagle Eye, so there is a chance your brief could be published! During lectures, we talk about all sorts of topics relating to intelligence writing. Right now, we are going over key assumptions and how to become aware of them in your writing. One of the things that I really love about how Austin structures this class is that we do a lot of in-class activities where she will show us a method of, say, brainstorming, and then we will all take half an hour to practice it and turn in a mini-assignment. It really helps the method stick if you have an opportunity to try it out yourself and then get feedback.
Chinese 101, taught by Yang Li, is a very demanding class. We follow our textbooks very closely in this class, which are broken into lessons that are structured around a dialogue between two people. In each dialogue, we learn a specific skill, like how to ask what date and time it is, or inviting somebody to the movies. Normally we spend one day per week just going over new vocabulary words, one day a week where we give an oral presentation to the class, and one day a week where we are quizzed over the current lesson. One of the things I like best about the structure of this class is that we spend a lot of time speaking out loud, sometimes alone and sometimes together. But the times that we speak individually give the professor an opportunity to correct individual mistakes in our speech, which is very helpful.
This semester has also taught me that the professor can make such a difference in your success and enjoyment of a class. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is to put some real thought into your schedule each semester. Not just when to take which classes when, that could be its own blog post. Do not write off the opinions of your peers. They can tell you which professors are great and who to avoid, which might be the difference between a semester that you thoroughly enjoy or the one that you spend hitting your head against the wall.