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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

Catalog curveballs: Students find joy in unlikely classes

The beginning of the semester can be incredibly stressful for a million reasons, but one  universal dilemma Middlebury students face is class scheduling. If you haven’t frantically emailed professors about getting on their waitlist, attended a class you’re unsure if you’ll get a seat in or dropped a class and had to scramble to find a fourth, what is your secret? So much of the process is left up to luck. No amount of prior planning can help you avoid the mad-dash of clicking at 7:30 a.m. Even if you’re praying to the Wi-Fi gods that your computer will be the mighty conqueror and break through that first Banner page before anybody else’s.

There are a number of reasons why we find ourselves scrambling to find the perfect, ever-elusive fourth class. But the bottom line is that it is difficult to be ecstatic about each and every class in our schedules and avoid giving in and taking any class just for the sake of having a fourth class. 

While the process is fickle, some students have been able to find, and fall in love with, hidden gems from Middlebury’s course catalog. 

Elizabeth Bowen ’24.5 and Jean Wan ’24 both discovered their majors after the nature of Middlebury’s registration process encouraged them to take classes in new departments. 

“I didn’t like one of the classes I signed up for, and one of my friends encouraged me to join his intro CS [Computer Science] class. I remembered it being fun when I coded in high school, so [I] decided to try it out,” Bowen said.

“It turned out to be my favorite class of the semester,” she added. 

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should take a computer science class at Middlebury, it may be worth a try, according to Bowen.

“I never felt comfortable taking a CS class at my competitive highschool,” Bowen said. “The classes were heavily male-dominated, and I didn’t feel like CS was a space I belonged in.” 

However, Bowen raved about the collaborative, inclusive environment the intro class offered her at Middlebury.

“People love this class, partially because it feels empowering to be shown that you can code at this simple level that is a gateway to more complicated concepts and coding,” she said.

Wan took a film class called Fan Video during J-Term, choosing the class as an avenue by which to explore a pre-existing interest that she had not found room in her schedule for until then.

“I have always been into video editing and contemporary pop media so this class really sounded like the class I have been waiting for,” she said.

Not only did she discover her major through this class, but she explained she also found an amazing community.

“I actually had a very wholesome experience,” she said. “People were very supportive of each other’s creative work and we had a very friendly and open environment for everyone to share their own fan videos.” 

“I was surprised by how friendly and close everyone can get in an online class, and some of the people I met in the class became my best friends in college ever since,” Wan added.

Jonathan Carrol-Madden ’24 hit a distribution requirement jackpot with the linguistics class Phonetics and Phonology, a neuroscience elective which also counts as a science credit. “I […] took it on a whim, with the idea in the back of my head that maybe this could help me understand and work on improving my accent in Russian,” he said.

“It ended up being one of the most rewarding classes I have taken here,” Carrol-Madden said. “The professor was incredible and engaging. He made the course pretty easy to engage with regardless of your interest in phonetics — or even science.”

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