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Building Skills Outside Your Academic Comfort Zone

Posted by Hunter Gabel on Monday, July 17, 2017

Have you ever wondered how English majors are such great writers, how Chemistry majors understand all those reactions, or how Human & Organizational Development majors all seem to be able to ace any presentation? As a neuroscience major, I have always been insanely impressed by my friends who are majoring in the humanities. My best friend who is an English major can write an amazing first draft paper in one night that would take me at least a few days, multiple edits, and maybe a trip to the writing studio to produce. But while talent surely plays a part, something I have learned through taking classes for AXLE (our liberal arts core) is that the classes in those departments that might seem scary really help you improve in areas that might not be your primary skill set. So allow me to brag about some of my favorite non-science classes, and hopefully encourage you to get outside your academic comfort zone.

As someone who has always wanted to make my writing better, I signed up for some philosophy writing courses to help give me some practice in a domain that I’d never studied or written about before college. What I couldn’t have imagined was the level of 1-on-1 support that comes with a 6 person philosophy class. Our professors set up our assignments in stages, offered to meet with us and work through everything from just rough ideas to outlines to first, second, and third drafts. I had never spent so much time on my papers, or had them change so drastically from start to finish (like the time my attempt to refute a potential counterargument made me change my mind and write the paper from a whole new perspective). The support was amazing and at the end of every class I’ve taken, I feel more confident in my skills.

Likewise, since my science classes don’t offer a ton of opportunities to give presentations, I signed up for a few presentation heavy corporate strategy and sociology classes. While I figured that having assignment that required presenting would help me improve in and of itself, I was once again blown away by the extent to which professors went to help teams prepare. From reviewing our slide deck to multiple practice run in office hours, going into my presentations I started to feel confident and at ease rather than sick to my stomach.

So while I sadly only have a few classes left in my AXLE requirements, I’m excited to use them to explore topics beyond my major and continue to improve at skills I don’t get a chance to practice a ton in my major classes.

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