Posted by Alex Rains on Saturday, November 18, 2017
Happy (almost) Thanksgiving everyone! Partially as an exercise in gratitude and partially because I have an abundant amount of free time being home this week, I’m going to write one blog post a day for the next week in honor of my favorite place: Vandy! Before I start looking forward, I thought I’d take a look back at my semester so far and take you all along for the ride.
As a sophomore, I thought I would have my life together and be in a semi-structured routine by this point. Boy, was I wrong. Things have been a whirlwind this semester between trying out new extracurricular activities, pushing myself to take classes whose subject matter is unfamiliar, and making loads of new friends along the way. Despite how wild things have been, I could not be happier that I have been pushed to try new things and expand my perspectives by the wonderful friends I have here at Vanderbilt.
I definitely want to gush about my extracurriculars at Vandy to you all, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Right now, I want to discuss the classes I’ve had the chance to take this semester. As a Neuroscience and Psychology double major on the Pre-medical track, I only have a limited amount of leeway with classes as I have to pack in my core science classes prior to the end of my junior year. However, my schedule this semester has been a perfect mix of subjects and, while very challenging, just as rewarding.
The first class in which I am enrolled is Organic Chemistry. I took General Chemistry last year, and deduced that I was not a “science person” by any means; however, Organic Chemistry has actually been a really enjoyable class for me this year. It involves a lot of visual thinking and learning patterns rather than simply memorizing concepts word-for-word. It pushes me to think in ways I wouldn’t normally for other classes, and each Organic Chemistry problem is like a puzzle, which is honestly much more enjoyable than I would have initially anticipated. However, I’ll be taking the second half of the class next semester, so stay tuned to see how well I fare as time progresses and concepts become more challenging.
Alongside Organic Chemistry, I’m taking Introduction to Biology this year. It’s a very interesting class (though a little less up my alley than chemistry), but super challenging simply given the volume of material our exams cover. However, this class is one that has opened my eyes to the resources available on campus, from more established offerings such as tutoring services to simple opportunities such as getting together with study groups or attending office hours, which have made all the difference in my comprehending what we learn in class.
Both Organic Chemistry and Biology involve laboratory components so we can put our learned skills to the test and apply what we have learned in class to real-life scenarios, which is really neat. Alongside these two labs, I am also doing research for credit in a Neuroscience laboratory at Vanderbilt underneath one of the professors. This entails researching different neuropsychological topics of interest and helping my professor work on the studies our lab is running. I receive class credit for this, as well as really valuable skills and a heightened appreciation for what it takes to study Neuroscience as a profession.
Outside of the hard sciences, I’m taking two other really cool classes this semester. The first is a French Composition and Grammar class, where I get to work on both speaking and writing in French. This class has been awesome because it’s only about 10 people total, so we get to practice our speaking on a daily basis and receive really individual attention from our professor. Language classes are really popular at Vanderbilt, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to take a break from classes pertaining to my major to learn about other disciplines.
Finally, I’m taking a class called Brain Damage and Cognition, and I cannot stress how cool this class has been. For the semester, all of the students in this class look at case studies of patients who have faced brain damage and have had to think like researchers to assign test batteries to patients, deduce potential causes of damage, and understand associations and dissociations between sets of symptoms. All this work will culminate in a final paper (on which I was working immediately prior to writing to this post) which will look at a theoretical issue in study of brain damage and how it pertains to different case studies we have looked at through the semester. I’ve had a lot of fun in this class and it has definitely pushed me as a student to look at issues in neuroscience through a new lens.
My classes this semester have been really awesome, and as finals approach, I find it helpful to remind myself what I have gained rather than fixating on the stress that the end of the semester may bring. As I plan out my classes for next semester, I’m happy to have gotten to learn so much this fall in a variety of settings, both in and out of the classroom.
Posted in Academics, College of Arts and Science, Exams, Exams, Finals, Finals, Learning Style, Pre-Med, Pre-Med, Professors, Studying, Thanksgiving Break, Undergraduate Research, Year in Review and tagged: arts and sciences, biology, chemistry, Classes, fall classes, french, neuroscience, research for credit, second year, Sophomore, sophomore year classes
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