Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fun Classes to Take at UVA

One of the great things about signing up for classes is being able to peruse the many interesting topics  each department has to offer. Especially during your first and second years at UVa, you have the time to broaden your horizons by studying some subjects you might not have thought possible. Although general requirements and major requirements can sometimes leave you feeling bogged down with regimented schedules, it's important to make sure you're taking at least one "fun" class from time to time. These can be off-the-wall, nothing-to-do-with-my-major classes or maybe even ones that can count towards your degree requirements! Either way, make sure that during your time at UVa you search for those hidden gems that allow you to learn and have some fun while doing it. To get you thinking, here's a list of classes that represent just a few of the quirky and interesting subjects you can study during your college years here:

1. Salem Witch Trials (RELC 3150)
This class is one of the most interesting and engaging classes I have taken at UVa. It covers the history of the trials during 1692, paying careful attention to the origin stories and primary individuals involved in the whole debacle. From there, you move forward into modern day to explore literary and documentary interpretations of the Salem Witch Trials. You also get a close look at some of the primary documents that have been preserved throughout the years, reading for yourself the transcriptions of the court proceedings.

2. How Theatre Works (DRAM 1010)
This class is so incredibly fun. You get to read scripts from classic plays, watch plays that the UVa Drama Department puts on twice each semester, and work with a group to develop your own skit that is performed at the end of the year for the entire class. Not only is it fun and lighthearted, but you also learn about public speaking and how to work as a group to devise your own masterpiece. This class can bring you out of that proverbial shell and help you become more at ease with speaking up, speaking out, and being excited while doing so.

3. Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe (ASTR 1270)
For those of you more intrigued by matters of science, this is a class that gets great reviews from students who have taken it. You get to learn about black holes, extraterrestrial life, dark energy, the nature of time, and so forth. Who doesn't want to dabble their toes in learning about things like this? Whether you're a science or non-science major, this class could offer you some great excitement during the weeks when your other classes are feeling a little heavy to bear.

4. Dracula (SLAV 2360)
Yes, you read that title correctly. There is a class offered at UVa that is focused on the literature and folklore surrounding the figure Dracula. This class is another one that gets great reviews from students, with its discussion of slavic literature and the western misconceptions of vampires. The course is self-described as being interdisciplinary, meaning that it discusses a number of topics while exploring the subject of Dracula: religion, folklore, film, history, literature, and even disease.

5. Mass Media and American Politics (PLAP/MDST 3140)
This class explores the ways in which media and politics intersect over a broad range of issues: war, elections, political campaigns, and more. The lessons you learn from this course are both fun and useful to aid you in navigating the media/political realm of American society. You get to explore the nature of political advertisements, media ownership, and the effects media has on its viewers. You certainly learn a lot, and the professor always makes the lectures entertaining and engaging.

Obviously this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of classes left untold by this blog post, but hopefully this will get the gears in your brains turning and thinking about the types of classes you would be interested in taking throughout your years as a student at the University. Whatever you decide to take, though, remember to have fun while you're learning something new. College is a chance to explore your interests, pursue your tastes, and learn a little bit of this and that along the way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Class Selection

One thing seems to be on the minds of everyone this time of year: what classes should I take in the fall? It's an exciting and stressful time for everyone, but especially so when you're an incoming first year hearing horror stories about not being able to get any of the classes you want and being stuck in class purgatory. So first off, I'd like to say to everyone, take a deep breath. It will be fine. You may not get your first pick of classes but you will end up taking really cool classes, some of which might surprise you. No, you will not get into criminology your first year (or probably your second or third year either). Popular classes fill up fast and the waitlists are long. Look around at other options.

Now, you're probably wondering when exactly you will get to sign up for your classes. That will be done during orientation over the summer and you will have orientation leaders there to help you create schedules and navigate sign up on SIS. However, you should have a general idea of what sort of classes you want to take before you get to orientation to make the whole process easier on yourself. Keep in mind any AP/IB credits you come in with and the requirements for your school/potential major. For example, in the College of Arts and Sciences there is a foreign language requirement if you, like me, stopped Spanish as soon as possible and didn't place out with the knowledge you retained 2 years later. A good place to look at all the current classes, and how full they are, is on Lou's List. Focus on 1500 and 2000 level classes, which are geared more towards first and second year students.

One of the other important things to keep in mind is timing. Think about when you like to get your day started. If you're not a morning person, try and steer away from 8ams to make actually getting to class more likely. Also remember to block out time to grab lunch/ a snack in the middle of the day. Food is very important and should always be scheduled around. Lastly, when actually creating your schedule pay attention to where your classes are and how much time you give yourself to get there. If you want to get from Gilmer to Wilson in 10 minutes, keep dreaming. The orientation leaders will be really helpful with this so don't be afraid to ask.

Lastly, don't be afraid to take something weird and out of your comfort zone. You have a limited number of semesters to fit in all the classes you need and want to take and there are some surprisingly weird and interesting classes. For me, the class out of my comfort zone was an astronomy class called Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe. While definitely challenging, we got to talk about things like black holes, alternate dimensions, and dark matter. Plus the professor was a really great lecturer, so I highly recommend it. It was the first of 3 classes that I've currently taken geared toward outer space and I have no regrets.