Maybe I’m a big nerd, but I’ve always loved learning. When I came to UNC-Chapel Hill almost four years ago, the thing I was most excited about was my classes.
Granted, I was taking some really cool classes that first semester, and I’ve taken some much more boring courses since then. But I’ve always enjoyed school ever since I was a kid at John Lawrence Elementary.
A lot of my favorite activities involve learning; I love to read, partly because of the escape, but partly because of the real things you can learn about a given topic or place or person(s). I also really enjoy meeting and talking to new people, especially if they’re from circumstances radically different from mine; it’s so fun to learn about other people and gather what you can about their life stories.
All this is to say: I love taking in new information. And I especially love getting in depth with specific topics I care about, or topics that are less discussed, or even weird. One thing that is awesome about Carolina is the wide variety of classes offered. Even though I’m not into — or good at — science and math, I know there are some fantastic courses offered in those fields. And I have had the opportunity to take some amazing courses in the humanities.
It actually has been really hard for me to figure out my exact course of action, academically speaking, as a college student. I knew I liked to write when I got to school so I knew I wanted to do journalism; but once I started taking courses and liking pretty much everything, I wasn’t sure if I should double major, or double minor, or just take a class in every possible field for fun. I went through an English major, music minor, and religious studies minor within my first two years, because everything caught my interest.
I eventually figured out that you don’t have to double major — or double minor — to be academically “successful” at UNC (and what does “success” even mean, if we’re being real here?). Loving and enjoying the learning experience has been far more important to me than forcing myself into taking courses I loathe, all working down a path towards a career I don’t care for. As a result of taking several “fun classes” that piqued my interest, I’ve learned some really amazing things, met some incredible professors, and managed to indulge my interests in art, writing, reading, and music while still getting academic credit.
If you are someone who is interested in going to Carolina, a student interested in some exciting classes for gen-eds, or you are, more generally, just interested, here are a few of my favorite classes I’ve taken throughout my time at UNC.
RELI 104 — New Testament Literature
This may be my favorite class I’ve taken at UNC, and is arguably one of the most useful — and it also scared me more than any other class I’ve ever taken. For one thing, I heard the professor was very strict, and his exams were tough; he is a rather notable New Testament scholar who has written over 20 books on different religious topics, and his knowledgeability intimidated me as much as it excited me.
Sure enough, this class was pretty tough. On syllabus day, Professor Ehrman informed us we would be writing a paper every week in his class, and I made a note on the edge of my paper: “VISIT ADVISING TO SWITCH OUT RELI 104 FOR DIFFERENT COURSE.” But then he gave his spiel about why he felt like his class was important — religion aside, the New Testament is arguably the most referenced piece of literature in the world, from Shakespeare to Green Eggs and Ham. The English nerd in me sighed resignedly, and I decided to stick around. I’m really glad I did. I learned a ton and was excited about the material; I have since taken other RELI courses that bored me to tears, but Ehrman made his lectures exciting and relevant. My study document for the final exam was 90 pages long — and that is not an exaggeration, that is the actual number — but I left knowing a lot of things I never would’ve learned in any other course.
MUSC 143 — Intro to Rock Music
I don’t know how I managed to get into this class my first semester at UNC, but it was quite a way to start off my academic career as a Tar Heel. The first day, we watched old concert footage of Bob Dylan and compared it with one of my favorite Beatles songs. I was in heaven. I legitimately got excited every Monday and Wednesday night that semester because I got to go to this class the next day. It was unbelievable.
In class we did things like watch live concert footage, discuss music videos, listen and compare covers of famous songs, and talk about some of my favorite bands. We devoted a whole day to Elvis and spent a good portion of one lecture discussing the scandal of Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. The professor dimmed all the lights in the lecture hall the first time we listened to Black Sabbath. For me, a big nerd who grew up listening to this kind of music and was obsessed with George Harrison’s fantastic eyebrows at age 3, the exams felt like doing music trivia. There was a listening portion where you would have to listen to a selected song and name the artist, producer, year, etc. and that was like being on a game show. I legitimately could go on about this class for HOURS. If I could take it over for the first time again, I would.
ENGL 284 — Reading Children’s Literature
If you could pick any book to write an exam essay about — any book in the world, mind you — what would it be? Mine would probably be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Thanks to this class, I got to live out the academic dream of dissecting Harry’s relationship with his parents in a final essay. Unlike the other classes on this list, this class actually counted for something besides a gen-ed; this class counted as an elective towards my English minor! Livin’ tha DREAM!
We read so many amazing books in this class, which I took with Professor Laurie Langbauer. We started off with some classic fairy tales, then worked our way through Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Little Women, The Hobbit, and, lastly, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Professor Langbauer used brightly colored illustrations for her presentations, which I loved; I’ve taken way too many classes with dull, boring slideshows and monotone professors, and her enthusiasm and the subject matter of the course were such a breath of fresh air. I adored every second of this class. We also got to pick our final project. You could either write an essay on your childhood, write a research paper on a related topic of your choosing, volunteer at a local elementary school, or illustrate one of the books from the semester’s curriculum. I chose to illustrate Alice in Wonderland (pictured below), and it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing a final project. It was incredibly time-consuming and, at times, stressful, but it also was a welcome reprieve from the other stresses of college life. I would recommend this class to pretty much everyone — because who doesn’t like children’s books?