Writing Memoir

Which college courses had the most impact on you?

projectile-point
My first perfectly intact projectile point find, on the job, at the Ute Mt. Ute Reservation. [Cortez, Colorado, circa 1995]
As some of you already know, I didn’t take high school very seriously, so I had to go to community college first. At the time, I was embarrassed because my friends went off to major state universities all over the country. Looking back, I’m glad I took the cc route. Community college was a very cost friendly way for me to figure out what I wanted to do and get my grades back on the right track. I also had to get myself academically sorted out by taking pre-college courses. (I hate math.)

I told myself that I would just bide my time until I could transfer, but I learned to love it. Suddenly, I felt like I was doing what I wanted to do in high school. I was taking interesting course like Astronomy, Philosophy, World Religion and eventually I’d discover that I wanted to major in Anthropology. I worked part-time at Little Caesars Pizza, lived at home and saved money for my plane ticket out of state.

Contrary to what high schoolers (and maybe others) think, community college instructors are great teachers. Honestly, I’d rather teach at this level because it was so honest and refreshing – so “Good Will Hunting”. Folks were real, you know what I mean? Because after I transferred to Fort Lewis College, I ran into a big something called A Professor’s Ego and how thou shall humor them. Love them all though, love them all…

So, because the courses I remember most were from my general classes, I’m a fan of liberal arts education. I remember them over my concentration. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy Anthro/Archaeology. I thought field work was fascinating. I was really into human evolution and burials and even did archaeology after I graduated. But if I think back on the courses that had the most impact, Anthro isn’t in the mix.

climbing-mt-babcock-001
Climbing Mt. Babcock [Durango, Colorado]
Now, we, Anthropology majors liked to snub our noses at Sociology majors, but I had to take a Socio 100 course so I chose Social Issues. I remember sitting in that auditorium and feeling like I was participating in the world for the first time. We read Food First, a thick paperback, filled with depressing facts on how we feed (and don’t feed) the planet. It was important, nevertheless, for us to understand how the business of food works.

In African History, I quickly learned how little the US cares about Africa and how much Africa is insanely massive, diverse and rich in natural resources. Our blond haired slightly Muppet-like professor was passionate about Africa, made us memorize where every African country is, and challenged us to find Africa in everyday news.

He also brought back a wife from Chad and I was forever intrigued what beauty he managed to snag and bring back to the mountains of Colorado. It was a good class to take. We should certainly be educating our youth on world histories especially now when I feel we need a deeper compassion and understanding about what’s going on in the world we live in.

I should not have been allowed in Shakespeare. Technically, I was still a freshman and Shakespeare was a senior level course, but somehow I managed to slip in the door. It was also horrifically scheduled at 7.30 in the MORNING during the winter trimester. Our dear professor moved it to 7.45, but it still was brutal to study Shakespeare that early in the morning.

He was a great teacher though and we covered many of Will’s plays and sonnets. What was memorable though was my end of the term paper. We had to choose a play to analyze and I chose The Winter’s Tale. And while my friends went home for Thanksgiving break, I was too far away so I chosen to house sit or trailer sit during one of the craziest winters Colorado had seen without any heat (the heater broke). I threw myself into my paper and was rewarded an A+ along with the words, “Lani, this is by far the best Shakespeare paper I have seen in years…”

The bestest cat there ever was. I hope you are enjoying succulent deep fried fish in cat heaven, Big Boy.
The bestest cat there ever was. I thought it was terribly adorable when I found him like this. I hope you are enjoying succulent deep fried fish in cat heaven, Big Boy.

Philosophy of Religion was a class that I took my senior year with a friend. She hated it, but I enjoyed it so much I considered double majoring. Dr. Garcia even called me into his office to try to convince me to double major, but I was so close to graduating I couldn’t imagine sticking out another term or two. It was in this class that I cried, much to my embarrassment, but I couldn’t help it.

We were listening to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who is best known for her book On Death and Dying. She did her life’s work on near-death experiences and what struck me were the recounts of what people went through after they died.

You have to understand that this topic has been a lifelong study ever since I lost my father when I was six. And so to hear about what folks see, hear, do when they are heading over to the other side, and thinking about my father was too much as I often wondered where he was and what happened to him, if that makes any sense, and so I started crying.

I excused myself, but when I returned I was surprised that Dr. Garcia had stopped the tape and waited for me to sit down and start it again. Nope, no avoiding it now. Yes, I sure know how to act like a fool in public. This is the problem with being a senstive person.

History of Art is another major I wish I could have studied further having wanted to work in a museum since I was in high school. Museums are quiet, peaceful and filled with curated goodness. I need more art and history museums in my life. Art is music for the eyes. We only studied art until the Renaissance, but it was enough for me to discover artists you never learn about in school, especially as an American. We are not art educated and with the arts no longer (?) taught in public high schools, I suppose a saving grace is the Internet.

Which higher education courses transformed you?

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47 thoughts on “Which college courses had the most impact on you?

  1. Oh, I miss my time as a student so much! I absolutely loved high school and I couldn’t choose a favourite subject. Our teacher were all so cool and we always had a great time in class (apart from learning, haha). I studied humanities so I had Latin, Art History, Philosophy, Classic Greek… this kind of subjects are supposed to be “useless” but I learned a lot and especially Latin and Greek set me on my path to become a translator.
    Later in University I also had many good courses, but if I had to choose one I guess it should be Chinese… because I ended up moving to China!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OOoooo. I’m going to love these comments if they are anything like yours. Humanities! I think I’m interested in mostly everything since yours sounds so appealing. How long did you study Chinese? Was it just one course? Just enough to get you going? 😛

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      1. I studied Chinese at University in Spain for 4 years (2 years of language, 2 years of Chinese-Spanish translation). But then I went to Beijng and found out I could hardly speak in real life, and I didn’t understand at all when people talked to me in Chinese haha.

        But I also had other cool courses at Uni: Chinese Literature, Dutch, Terminology… I think the only course I didn’t like was English, the teacher sucked! Luckily I only had English during the first 2 semesters, then we moved on to Translation.

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      2. Wow. 4 years and you still had to struggle in real life. How interesting and frustrating it must have been for you. But surely you could read and those classes helped in another capacity?

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      3. Yes, I could read more or less ok! Those classes were useful, but I definitely wasn’t able to learn to speak Chinese while in Spain.

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  2. BTW, it SO cool that you studied Archaeology! I did an online course from Brown University a couple of years ago through Coursera and I absolutely loved it! The teacher was so enthusiastic, she really transmitted her love for the subject to all the students.

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    1. Thanks. At the time, not sure if this is still the case, we could only major in Anthropology, but I chose to do a concentration in Archaeology because I thought it was more interesting to study dead people rather than live cultures *rolls eyes*…I’m so cool. Not!

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  3. I would say that art history and statistics stuck with me the most. I loved history in general, but art history kept me coming back for more, it always enthralled me. Statistics was tough, but I loved learning about how one can manipulate numbers. It was also a class that I had always thought I would do badly in, but ended up doing well, so it built my self confidence. 🙂
    Always love learning more about you. 🙂 xoxox your american friend in the south.

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    1. Hey, thanks! Statistics!!! Aggggg. I hated Stats. Even though we learned that statistics are all lies. 555+ But I’m horrible with numbers. It’s a language I will never conquer – at least in this lifetime!

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  4. Good choices all.

    But Astrology classes?

    Personally, I didn’t take college or high school seriously enough. I think some screenwriting classes influenced me in a good way.

    Japanese — though not related to my major — was always the class I worked hard on, though I rarely get to use it. Did help me learn the basics of Chinese characters at least…

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    1. OMG. Did I say Astrology? I meant Astronomy. Hahahahahahahhahahaaaa. Will fix. 😛

      We had a choice to take Japanese in high school since I grew up in Hawaii, but Spanish seemed far more interesting to me at the time. Cheers ^^

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  5. I really never liked my study time so I am happy that it over (for now as I plan to enrol for my Master degree next year).

    I always hated school as my teachers were mostly really bad. The only time when I started to like school a bit more was when I entered a Sports High school as I finaly could combine my swimming sport and school so in the end I even got a good high school diploma which would have been impossible in my old school (was hard because I had to move alone as a teenager to another city on the other part of Germany)..

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    1. I understand the moving bit. I changed high schools 3 times my freshman year and 2 times in college. It can be tough changing mid-year or anytime of the year.

      Ahhhh, sports guy. I’m competitive, but not sporty!

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  6. Loved art history, too, but I feel like I didn’t retain anything. SO many facts, so many artists covered in such a short time (although ours was a two-semester course). I still have my big fat book (somewhere. My Mom’s house? Here in the basement?), which I need to revisit. I’m going to look for it – shoot, I hope I can find it and didn’t give it away or something. It was expensive!!

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    1. Oh, god. Yes. Textbooks cost a mint, didn’t they? I remember my World Religion tome. Loved it. They were also always very heavy. You’re reminding me of those bookstore shopping days and mentally adding up the costs of the books you needed for the term!

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  7. Philosophy, especially Neitzsche, turned me on to radical thinking like I had never been exposed to. Then I took several classes related to philosophy of religion.

    Hey I was in CR Friday. Thought I saw you walking a couple of blocks from the night market around 6:20 p.m. wearing a black and white top. By the time I realized this we were speeding along a block away and no u turn in sight. Maybe it was you? The price of your growing fame, lol.

    Enjoyed your book and wrote the first review of it, all very positive of course. Keep up the excellent work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thanks. So, it was you. I was like, “Who is this???” And yes, I think that was me. OMG. I was running late for a dinner with friends so it was probably best that I didn’t see you. Yeaaa, another philosophy fan 🙂

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  8. I too went to community college directly out of high school and received my Associates degree . After that I spent the next 30 years as a wife and mother thinking very little of furthering my education-focusing on the education of my children instead. At the age of 50 I went back to college but those 30 year old credits (for the most part) were still good!! The class that impacted me the most was the English class I took as an adult. I was shocked (and somewhat dismayed) that the basics of English was lost on so many of my fellow students. I certainly do not think of myself as a particularly gifted or knowledgeable student of grammar, but the inability of so many to understand basic grammar was shocking. I also learned so much more as an adult learner. This would have to be the class that impacted me the most.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Hooray for community college. Yes, I remember being one of those students. I can’t speak for others, but I think a lot of it has to do with high school and lack of interest. We know English so we take it for granted. It wasn’t until I moved abroad and taught English as a Foreign Language did I realize how little Americans are taught grammar. But cc really forced me to get the basics under my belt. I am grateful.

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  9. I actually took and Archaeology and Native Studies course in high school! The teacher herself designed the curriculum and she took the class on an excavation. It was one of my favourite classes.

    High school in general went well for me: I was a straight A student and was agreeable and obedient. My favourite classes included creative writing and English, though, because that was where my heart was. I loved learning about other people’s stories and being able to analyze a character’s actions. It was a great study in empathy, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

    Come university, though, I struggled. I took classes that I thought were practical (or necessary for fulfilling the requirement). I started out in International Studies, and the course terrified me. The prof was intimidating and the readings were nearly impossible. As a first year student, I was scared of that class. And yet I still felt passionate about the subject; the prof was intimidating because he was knowledgeable and passionate about his work. And I think that transferred to me a bit.

    When I took my first sociology class, though, my eyes really opened to the world. My favourite classes specialized in conflict resolution, education, and emotions. And of course, I found my way back to English classes, even creative writing.

    I still remember quite a bit from school; I’ll probably have to post about those classes sometime. 🙂

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    1. Please do. It’s funny I don’t remember being terrified in class so much as afraid that I was going to fail. Logic (don’t laugh) was one of them because it wasn’t about philosophy like I had hoped, but math. And the professor had written the book himself and I found the text hella confusing. Somehow I managed though – my lowest grade in college, a C.

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      1. I took a similar course – it was called Critical Thinking but it did involve math-like work. My prof actually made it fun and class didn’t feel like university. I did get a C in a Philosophy of Law, though. That was my lowest grade and I took it as a reminder to choose classes I’d actually like.

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  10. Just before university:
    High school: Art courses, Canadian history in my 2nd last yr. for latter. Pretty pathetic that I didn’t know of my own country’s national history in depth until I was a late teen. They changed the curriculum after I finished elementary school.

    University: lst year on Third World history and colonialism. Inspired me to take South African history following yr.
    Then later I volunteered for 3 years at resource centre on Third World countries to support teachers, students in public, high school system and preparing Canadians to work overseas in such areas. Purpose was to provide accessible information that was written at more understandable level and not stuck in academic papers. The Cross-Cultural Learner Centre volunteer work inspired me to purse graduate degree as a librarian after I realized that curating and providing information could empower people to change their attitudes, change their life.

    This course inevitably expanded and morphed my volunteer interest into racial relations, immigrant support services and advocacy…which led to me other organizations when I moved to Toronto. I also made a long time mentor-friend who grew up in South Africa during apartheid and moved to Canada.

    University course on Sociology on Gender and Roles. My first academic exposure on complex expression on self-determinism, identity and tension with societal expectations of female and male roles, transgenderism, etc.

    Course on Canadian Literature – Deep exposure and analysis of my own country’s literature from colonial times to present..fuelled interest how Canadians define themselves and their imagination in words.

    Master’s Level in Library Information Science- courses in information management, systems analysis have all been critical to every job I’ve had –in order to walk into an organization with nothing and create and market services, develop a facility and train staff from ground up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. Your list of classes has left me speechless! What amazing work you have done. You must be proud. I love all of this Canadian history stuff. Americans should really learn more about our neighbors up North. Truly.

      Yeah, I didn’t really get into Hawaiian history until I went to cc. We knew some basics from school, but we went back to migration to the Islands and it was just gritter, for lack of a better word.

      So much amazing good stuff in academia. Save our schools!

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      1. Academia does not have to be useless fluff. It just depends on having an excellent instructor and curriculum that’s presented well with mechanisms that encourage student self-direction and learning.

        The reason why I enjoyed Hawai’i so much, was not for its lovely beaches (I dived under a palm tree after several hrs. of cycling. :)), but for its cultural history that’s very different from mainland US. Being in Hawai’i, vaguely felt like to me,being in Metro Vancouver, minus the palm trees and tropical rainforest. Vancouver has a very large visible Asian-descent population with roots from both East Asia and South Asia.

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      2. Hawaii certainly is diverse and I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I left. Of course, I was very young when I left the first time, but still, I learned a valuable lesson in what it means to be in the majority and minority.

        Yes, I was pleasantly suprised by Vancouver’s Chinese population. It was great and the city is so beautiful. I’d live there if I could afford to.

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  11. I didn’t enjoy most of them, to be honest. There was a history of dance class that I liked, and they required us to attend any 4 dance performances that the school put on during the semester, which was cool. But I remember really hating statistics, astronomy, accounting, etc. lol. I enjoyed my English classes, though, big surprise. 😉

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    1. Ahhh, we finally get one who was on the other side. I can imagine not liking school. Really. But there were some eye openers for me on so many levels…Hawaii’s education leaves much to be desired. Of course, someone might argue that we did receive a lot in Hawaiian culture.

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    1. I agree. I think this is why I’ve been enjoying MOOCs. I can’t take as many as I’d like and it’s certainly different, but online course are really wonderful.

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  12. One of my favorite college courses was Japanese Tales of the Supernatural, which awesomely combined studying lit/mythology and social satire. It was my first foreign literature class – which eventually led me to study Japanese. Plus, the professor was amazing. It was really my first example of what college classes should be. My other favorite was my first linguistic anthropology class, just a general overview of Language and Culture. It was a revelation, and for a long time the little corner of the world that I wanted to reign via grad school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I’d go back to study more literature and languages, I think. I mean, Japanese Tales of the Supernatural…hells yeah. Okay, next post What I learned from Japanese Tales of the Supernatural 😉

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  13. Another excellent topic. Wow, Lani, you really did a broad range of subjects in college, or university as us Australians and this part of the globe call it. I never considered taking up archaeology or anthropology or history – I was very forward minded and naive back then and didn’t want to work in a museum, preferring something more fast-paced. I double majored in Applied Mathematics (calculus, engineering maths but hated statistics and probability) and Cultural Studies in my arts degree (took subjects with titles like Everyday Life, Cinema Studies). My grades were terrible in first year but I was acing everything in the final years.

    Funnily enough, I don’t remember taking my undergraduate degree too seriously. Like you, most of it was spent trying to find my feet and asking myself what I really wanted to do. Which was why I decided to do a Masters after that – and postgraduate studies is such a whole different ballgame altogether with students actually keen on studying and I loved it 🙂

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    1. Postgrad was okay. It was all education stuff, all elementary education and so while it was fascinating, it wasn’t as interesting to me as all of the subjects in undergrad. I think I have a more “jack of all trades” appetite for learning.

      Love how different your majors were! You covered your bases, eh? And probably helped you be sane, right? 🙂 What did you Master in? 😀

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      1. Jack of trades. Yes, that is you, Lani. You certainly took on a diverse arsenal subjects in your undergrad. I did a MA, or Master in Global Media Comms and did an internship at a public broadcaster as part of it. I do wish I did the research component instead. Oh well, maybe next time.

        I did enjoy the math in undergrad but deep down knew that writing essays made me much happier 🙂

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  14. This is a beautiful post and that cat is so adorable!!!! I have been cat-less since 2006. I am having cat withdraws. 😦 Haha.

    I took writing class and I was encouraged to do a poetry reading. I was the only elementary school student who was picked to do a poetry reading at a Library while others were college students. xD

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    1. I’ve been cat-less for a few years myself. It was a painful transisition to say the least.

      Fell in love with poetry since highschool, but I don’t have the natural gift or anything close to what you can do. Seriously.

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  15. Aww, love this post because I’m currently in college. It’s exciting to know many of these courses will shape my future 🙂 I attend a liberal arts college as well, and I definitely think some of the GEs are great opportunities for exposure to a variety of different fields.

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    1. Good. Yea! Of course, at the time, I don’t know how much I could say I was getting out of it. Probably a lot, but looking back is so much fun – after all, school should be for expanding your mind! xxoo

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  16. I think my creative writing classes in college really influenced my writing and made me feel more a part of a writing community, however small and inconsequential XD After six years as an accountant/bookkeeper I’m ready to dive back into being a writer, and am looking forward to taking my first graduate-level creative writing course in the fall. I’m hoping it’ll make an impact, even more of an impact than the ones before it, because I’m older and wiser now than I was at the tender age of 20.

    (Also, heya. Jumped here from Shelly’s Cabaret. Great blog you have here! I’ll be following =))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful. I see you are from Hawaii. My home state! Whoohooo!

      I hope you will share your experiences at the graduate level. I, for one will be curious. Which school will you be going to?

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  17. Uni is so different in the UK. We just take one subject (some people can choose to do a combined honours) and focus on that for three years. Within that there might be different choices so I spent a lot of time reading Shakespeare (no sneaking in needed, we force it down every child’s throat from Primary school) and undertaking modules in gender studies.

    I would love to have had more scope to study a wider range of things but hey, them’s the breaks.

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