I’m not really taking any classes in my major this semester. Well, technically I am – they’re core requirements – but they’re completely different from the classes I’ve taken the past few years. This semester is widely known to be “the semester that Jenn has been dreading“. I put all of the worst classes, or at least the classes I liked the least, off until the last possible moment. Now I have to take them all at once.

Where my typical schedule included classes like Psychology of Social Computing, Culture, Law and Politics of the Internet, New Media and Society, or History of Computing: 17th Century to the Dot.Com Boom, this semester’s lineup is Visual Imaging in the Electronic Age, Intro to Oceanography, Intermediate Microeconomics, Mathematical Methods for Information Science, and Computers & Programming (read: Java). 3 courses I’m taking because I have to, 1 is supposed to be an easy A and another that sounded interesting and is taught by a Prof. that I’ve wanted to take a course from since freshman year. 3/5 of my course load is classes I would rather have my wisdom teeth removed on a daily basis than take and 2/5 were basically random. It wasn’t looking good.

Do you know what the strange part is, though? I’m absolutely loving it – and for all of the reasons that I would have least expected.

I was absolutely dreading Econ. History shows that I’m not that great at math here and Econ has Calculus in it. Ick. But then I made the decision to stop bringing my laptop to class. I went out and bought a notebook (shocking, I know) and it’s made all the difference. Not only am I really enjoying the content of the class, the professor is probably in the top 3-5 of all of the professors I’ve had here at Cornell. I find myself not just taking notes on whatever she’s lecturing about, but I also take mental note of certain techniques she uses to teach it to us. She’s a fantastic professor and as far as I can tell, I’m really benefitting from her style. For once I’m actually managing to do my problem sets without any major frustration and I’ve been doing rather well on them. I don’t think I’ve paid this much attention in a class since my freshman year (before I was jaded by the repetition and common-sensical nature of my major). For once I find myself leaving for class early instead of looking for a good reason to skip.

Then there’s my Visual Imaging in the Electronic Age class. It’s taught by Prof. Don Greenberg who basically pioneered the field of computer graphics. He guest lectured in one of my business courses freshman year and I was instantly intrigued by him. He’s seen it ALL from the very beginning. Most of his grad students have gone on to create the technologies used in Wall.E, Finding Nemo, and all of those crazy-intense video games. I found this class as I was perusing the course manual and once I found out he taught it I was sold. He has now made it into my top 5 professors list as well. The class is interesting. It’s a lot of work considering it’s only a 100-level class, but it’s some really cool stuff! We’ve finished most of the perspective, scale, and other “tricks” that you can play on the eye and now we’ve moved onto color science which I find to be really interesting.

So far we’ve had 2 projects – we had to draw a scene on the Arts Quad to scale and perspective. Considering I’d never done anything like that, it was really tough for me to get started, but once I did I loved it. I sat in the middle of the Arts Quad with my drawing board, a ruler, pencil and eraser and next thing I knew it was 5 hours later, I was sunburnt and had missed all of my classes but I had drawn what I think is a pretty darned good scene.

Perspective drawing Done!

Our last project was a group project. We had to model an opera set (ours was Rigoletto) in a 3D modeling tool (we used Google SketchUp and then processed in some legitimate ones) and then build a scale model using the dimensions from our computer model. It took forever (3 people, 13 hours+ in 1 day), but we finished it and I think it came out pretty well!

Done!

The cool part about all of this is that these are projects I would have never had the opportunity to do otherwise. I’ve gained new skills and learned a completely different body of knowledge than I have in the past 6 semesters. Finally!

I really think that this new-found love of learning new things has amplified my enjoyment of the other classes I’m taking. I find myself thinking about classwork outside of class and asking questions in class. I’ve become an active student instead of a passive one. It really makes me question my decision to stick with my major since I’m finding so much enjoyment outside of it, but it’s good to know that there’s still an opportunity for me to learn so many new things here. Thanks to some good professors and a more diverse schedule, I’ve become more focused, more studious, and generally much happier about the 235 days I have left here. It couldn’t have come at a better time.