Books. As somebody entering college as a non-intensive reader, textbooks seemed like a major threat to my mental and emotional longevity. When I arrived on campus, it was definitely nerve-racking when I found out that I would be covering three physics books and a political philosophy tome in just ten weeks. But now, after my second set of midterms are over, I've realized that all of my reading has been overwhelmingly stimulating, and some of the material has completely altered my perspectives on different aspects of life. With that said, I've found that Dartmouth professors are incredible at choosing what sections to cover, providing a manageable workload of interesting topics whilst avoiding burying their pupils in their books. I remember when signing up for classes, I knew that taking a course in political philosophy would warrant a lot of reading, but I can't say I ever expected reading most of Plato's Republic in a week. While that may sound somewhat intensive, my professor actually did an excellent job at picking certain selections to assign for homework while leaving out others that didn't contribute as much to our understanding. In this regard, with only ten weeks in a term, professors have to be very picky with what reading they do assign, and that means experiencing troves of new, intriguing ideas while avoiding any and all busywork. As somebody who isn't typically too fond of reading, over just a few weeks I've delved into everyone from Locke to Rousseau, Aristotle to Machiavelli, and it's never been a chore. In fact, Michael L. Morgan's anthology Classics of Moral and Political Theory has drastically altered my perceptions on what exactly constitutes politics, and with my professor's guidance, I've journeyed back to classical times and studied every major political thinker along the way.
Perhaps I was even more nervous for my physics reading at the start; it seemed somewhat far-fetched to me that somebody who had taken the AP Physics II exam just a few months ago would be studying from a textbook on quantum mechanics in a couple weeks. Whereas the first unit was mostly review from high school, jumping into special relativity and the wave nature of matter seemed to move so quickly that at first, I was getting lost in the reading. My professor noticed this and began posting non-graded reading quizzes to see what the class was stuck on, and she even included an open-ended section for us to ask about anything we found confusing to address in class the next day. In other words, she knew we were tackling some tough textbooks and did everything she could to help us through them, a resource I have found to be incredibly helpful.
Looking back, the textbooks that I once found so intimidating have turned into the fuel for my inquiries, and they've taught me things that I could've never fathomed learning about before coming to Dartmouth.