A Fresh View: Classes…at the Cinema? How Brown Keeps Learning Fun

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Hey! I’m Nicole Fleming and I’m a blogger for A Fresh View. I’m here to share with you some of my experiences as a first-year student, the ups and downs of my transition to college, and why Brown is the best place to be a freshman!

Before I got to college, I have to admit that I was more than a little concerned about finding good classes at Brown. I’d heard plenty from friends at other colleges about suffering through graduation requirements and dreading 500-person lectures. I was scared that I’d end up taking classes that, although may appear impressive on a transcript, would lead to endless hours at the library spent reading boring course material. Sure, I might learn a lot in college, but would any of it be anywhere close to fun?

Let me make one thing clear: My time at Brown has been NOTHING like those course-selection horror stories I’d heard. As cheesy as it sounds, Brown shows its students that learning can actually be fun – way more fun than I’d expected. Sure, not every day is a party, but Brown does everything possible to make its classes enjoyable. But how is that possible at such a high-level Ivy League school?

To start with, Brown has an open curriculum. This means that, unlike at the majority of schools, the only graduation requirement (other than 30 total credits) is taking two writing-designated classes. Which means, as a Brown student, I can basically take…anything! I can pick classes I actually have an interest in, which means I don’t have to spend time on things I don’t care about. And, everyone else in the class is also interested in the subject. I’ve gotten to meet people through my classes who love the subject matter and bring so much knowledge to the table – it’s awesome to be surrounded by people who love to learn.

Plus, I got to experience this amazing thing called shopping period – two weeks at the start of each semester where students can go to any classes they want and try them out. This means we get to check out everything about a class – the professor, the class size, the syllabus – before making a commitment to it. I’ve been surprised how useful shopping period is – it’s helped me find great classes and avoid those that ended up being different from what I expected.

Most importantly, once we get our classes, the professors really do make an effort to keep things interesting. They don’t want a boring discussion or lecture any more than the students do – so I can honestly say almost all of my projects, essays, and readings have been interesting and worthwhile. (Okay, some of that may have to do with my nerdiness and actual excitement over reading things like history books, but still.) In addition, few classes feel monotonous – my professors always try to mix up their teaching styles and assignments. For example, this weekend, my French homework was to attend a film screening at the Providence French Film Festival at the Cable Car Cinema and write a review of the film. C’mon, how much better can homework get? Movies and theater candy…sounds pretty good to me. Plus, seeing the film was not only a cool insight into filmmaking, an important part of French culture, but it also gave me an excuse to get off-campus and check out Providence. Just one example of learning made interesting.

So if you’re dreading the college course requirements or overwhelmingly boring workload you may have heard about, have no fear – Brown doesn’t offer those. What it does offer is a huge amount of choice in picking classes and lots of courses that are fun and interesting. I had no idea how true that statement would be until I got to Brown – and I can affirm that it’s spot-on.

I would love to chat if you have questions or just want to talk about Brown! Please email me at nicole_fleming@brown.edu.

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