Being a freshman at LMU means being exposed to a variety of new experiences, with one of the most obvious and, perhaps, the most anxiety-provoking being academics. With general education requirements looming over each hopeful graduate’s head, every student is urged to get those requirements completed as soon as possible so that they can be exposed to a variety of subjects early. It is also advised to get general education requirements out of the way early so that the later years of a student’s undergraduate education can be focused on the areas that the student is majoring and minoring in. With these in mind and help from my adviser, we decided to get most of my required classes out of the way my first semester. This meant taking a few classes that I already had some experience with, such as history and statistics, but it also meant that I had to be ready to delve much deeper into topics I had little or no knowledge of. Two of those topics, Chemistry and French, have offered me so much more than what is taught in the classroom.
In high school science was not my forte. Chemistry, especially, seemed like a foreign country in which I was thrown into with no translator and no direction. I learned what I needed in order to pass, but I lacked the complete comprehension that my more science-minded classmates had. Something about chemistry just wasn’t clicking. I devoted many hours to studying for the final and actually ended up doing well, but I vowed that I would never touch chemistry again. But, then again, people always say things without thinking. I knew that once I entered college the general education curriculum would require me to take at least one science, although I did not know what exactly I would take until I first talked with my adviser this past April. My options were limited to taking the honors section of either biology or chemistry and, while sitting in that office, I suffered a miniature internal crisis. With three semesters of Advanced Placement biology already completed in high school,I wondered if I should take a class I was already familiar with and, as a result, have a better chance of doing well. In a spur of the moment decision, I made my rationale was this: Why should I take another class in something I already feel like I understand? Isn’t college supposed be be about learning what you don’t know? The decision was made: I was going to take Chemistry.
On the first day of class, Dr. Everly, the honors chemistry professor, went down the class roster and asked all seven of us (Yes, seven. Small class sizes are a perk at LMU!) what our majors were. The other six students in the huge lecture hall responded with a chorus of math, pre-med, and other science-related fields. I definitely stood out like a sore thumb. Dr. Everly has been very patient with us and makes sure that we understand the basics before we move onto more in-depth topics. As time passed I became less and less wary about my ability to learn chemistry. Now, I don’t feel as odd- I even look forward to going to class! Having a lab every Monday afternoon that corresponds with what we are learning in class makes things finally click, and having such a small class makes it very easy to ask questions whenever anyone starts to get lost. As the semester is coming to a close, I have realized that I never hated Chemistry at all. In fact, I really like it. I may not be the next Marie Curie, but I’m okay with that. I’ve come very far and I’ve learned so much.
Although chemistry in high school seemed like being thrown into another country with no translator, my first day of French class at LMU I learned that we actually were going to be thrown into the language. Dr. Churchwell, my French professor, explained to us that the textbook we use utilizes the Capretz method of teaching, which essentially means that little English will be spoken and students learn the meaning of words and phrases through body language, watching videos, and repetition. This territory was as new as Chemistry was to me. I took three years of Latin in high school which focused a great deal on grammar and being able to translate. We certainly didn’t have to learn how to speak it! As soon as the formalities of the class were done with, like going through the syllabus, we dove head into the French language. A part of me was hoping that Dr. Churchwell was joking! It didn’t take me very long to learn that she wasn’t. We got right into conversation and learning how to talk about ourselves and say basic phrases.
There is a total of five of us in French class, so we are all very open about asking questions and talking about the material. With our class being so small, we aren’t afraid of messing up or looking stupid. This is great news for me! One example that stands out to me occurred about a month after school began. I have never taken Spanish formally, but having a lot of friends from high school who took three or four years of it inevitably drilled some basic vocabulary into my head. One morning, Dr. Churchwell was asking each of us basic questions in which we were supposed to respond using our newly learned French vocabulary. When asked “Comment allez-vous?” (“How are you?”) I responded with an enthusiastic “Asi asi!” which is Spanish for “Alright.” Whoops! Good thing that Dr. Churchwell is also fluent in Spanish and knew what I meant to say. Without her patience and good sense of humor I’m not sure what I would do!
Even with the blunders I’ve had with trying to learn atomic structure and electron configurations to verb conjugations and getting my languages right, I could not have asked for a better beginning to my new life as a Railsplitter. In the end of it all, I realized that being in new territory isn’t that scary when you have excellent professors as your tour guides.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me or leave a comment on my blog! If you are particularly daring and are interested in the finer points of the life of a chemistry major, take a look at Mallory’s blog!