Academic Impressions: A Freshman Perspective
As I finish my third week of classes, it's a great time to reflect on my coursework and all the fascinating topics I've been able to learn so far. With Dartmouth being on the quarter system as opposed to the semester system, I have the unique opportunity to take only three classes at once; however, the speed at which learning happens here is much faster than what I'm used to from back home. Despite this, I've loved being able to academically immerse myself in my courses, and am excited to share my early experience with prospective students!
I begin every day with my Arabic 1 course—Dartmouth's diverse selection of languages and effective methods of teaching them were one of my biggest reasons for choosing the college. I have 'drill' practice bright and early, which consists of about 30 minutes of oral training; this is followed by an hour-long class focused on learning the Arabic alphabet, phrases, and vocabulary. While the language is difficult, the script is beautiful. Speaking with my peers and professor in a different language feels like solving a puzzle, and has been an incredibly rewarding experience up to this point. While I've only been studying Arabic for three weeks, the quick pace of Dartmouth's courses means that I've had the opportunity to learn most of the alphabet, basic conversational phrases, and practical vocabulary. I especially look forward to the study abroad opportunities that the Arabic program will leave open to me as an upperclassman!
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:10 to 3:15 p.m., I have my Israel-Palestine Politics class! While information about the Israel-Palestine conflict is constantly circulating through news outlets, a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the issue is becoming increasingly rare. The class keeps me busy with tons of readings, but my interest in the content makes it a fun subject to study. During class, I spend time taking notes on Professor Avishai's lecture that day—it is a total privilege to be learning about the conflict from somebody who has devoted much of their life to studying the intricacies of it. Furthermore, the small class size of 16 students lends itself to opportunities to discuss any confusions with readings and subject matter, making me feel like an active participant in my education.
My last course this term is Introduction to Islam, which I attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:20 p.m.. This is a larger course with about 50 students in one lecture hall. Despite the bigger size, Professor Vignone constantly pauses during his presentation to take questions and concerns, allowing students the opportunity to participate in the discussion. We have spent lots of time discussing the history of Islam and texts like the Koran—in fact, I am currently working on an analysis paper regarding a surah, or a "chapter" in the Koran. Furthermore, I recently watched a documentary for the course called 'Koran by Heart,' which provides insight into the world of competitive Koran recitation in the Middle East—it was really interesting!
My three courses clearly have a common theme of the Middle East. Even as a freshman in my first term, I'm able to dive right into my interests without having to navigate administrative issues; Dartmouth offers tons of academic freedom to its students, which I was definitely not used to in high school. Despite being only three weeks into the term, I already feel that I've learned and grown so much—this is only one great aspect of my Dartmouth experience, and I can't wait to share many more of them with you here on the blog!
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