Trade summer vacation for summer education


It goes without saying that when it comes to course work, general education requirements usually get the short end of the stick.

No matter what your area of focus ­is — be it chemical engineering, Spanish, underwater basket weaving — it’s almost guaranteed that courses in your major are where you spend most time on homework and studying.

Even so, it’s a pillar of the liberal arts philosophy that you achieve an education well-rounded in arts, humanities and sciences. What happens if — read: when — you don’t have the time to be so well-rounded?

Although many University students might find themselves too burdened by their major courses to give their non-major courses the attention they require, enrolling in summer courses allows students to explore new areas of study during a time when their educational schedules are far less hectic.

There’s a web page on Facebook for easy classes at the University. Students share their experiences and make requests regarding easy courses that fulfill their general education requirements, such as the natural sciences or the quantitative reasoning II requirement. The gist of this page implies that gen-eds, or non-major courses, are an inevitable evil and should therefore be dealt with as painlessly as possible.

While I, too, am guilty of putting my random-philosophy-course-that-satisfies-quant-I last on my perpetually growing list of priorities, I had a very positive experience last summer that quite altered the way I went about my undergraduate studies. By taking advantage of summer courses and allowing myself the time to delve into areas outside my comfort zone, I was able to explore new interests and learn about topics I would have otherwise walked past.

Having not stumbled upon any exciting adventures abroad or a snazzy internship to occupy the approaching summer, I chose instead to remain on campus. I enrolled in two courses: atmospheric sciences 120 and history 171; both satisfied two of my final general education requirements.

Now don’t get me wrong: I regularly scan the Weather Channel’s Urbana page to see whether it’s capri-pant appropriate weather before leaving for class, and I had every American Girl Doll there was to be had as a youngin’ to sneakily teach me history.

However, if a gen-ed required weather or history class had to compete with the rest of the 19 credit hours I, for some reason, volunteered myself to take, they probably wouldn’t stand a chance to get the attention they deserve. In the end, I would allot a significantly lesser amount of attention to these classes. Because at the end of the day, the average college student’s schedule is often too tightly structured to offer very much time to subjects outside his or her main area of focus.

And though I might pass these secondary gen-ed classes with a remarkably average C-, it’s doubtful that I will retain any of the information I hastily crammed into my flustered head the night before the exam.

What I discovered over the summer, however, was that when I had only two classes upon which to focus my attention — instead of, say, seven — it was much easier to give either class my undivided attention.

Subjects upon which I would have directed a compromised level of attention were suddenly the main attraction, and so I had no choice but to focus my full attention on these extraneous courses. In so doing, I finally reaped the benefits of a “well-rounded” education.

If even without the added burden of regular classes you still find yourself rather busy over the summer, the University offers a wide variety of online courses as well.

The way I view these is that they yield all of the educational value with none of the putting-on-pants hassle. According to the University’s home page, there are currently over 200 courses available to students online over the summer with subjects ranging from Anthropology to Criminology.

While it might seem appealing to completely abandon one’s academic pursuits in the classroom between the months of May and August, it is incredibly useful and rewarding to take advantage of the summer session courses the University has to offer.

Carly is a junior in FAA.

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