The academics taught Judy Ann Gantzer how to think out of the box.
I wish I’d paid more attention to the online reviews regarding the academics at my college.
After countless applications, essays and discussions, my parents and I had decided that it would be best for me to enrol at Furman University, a small liberal arts college located in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
Furman follows the liberal arts curriculum which meant that I had to take classes from a range of departments, giving it a very school like feel. In addition , I had to declare my major at the end of two years providing plenty of wriggle room. I was quite happy about the flexibility of the academics as it removed a substantial amount of pressure and gave me a chance to explore various avenues before taking the big decision.
I was excited about being part of a new culture and moving abroad, but at the same time I had reservations about how I would fit in. ‘Would the people there like me? Will I fit in a group?’ I had an endless stream of doubts about my social life, but surprisingly enough none about the academics. Having studied science in India, I had a false sense of confidence that nothing could get worse.
Furman has a reputation of being very rigorous academically. Every review that I read online spoke of tough professors and courses. But even after reading these, I thought that they were an exaggeration of the ground situation and the first week of class seemed to prove that. The syllabus seemed manageable and the professors were incredibly sweet.
But as time passed and the work started to pile, I realised that college is indeed hard. I could no longer memorise a bunch of facts and numbers and expect everything to be fine. Professors here expected us to analyse every situation and have an opinion on it. I was reading an average of 60 pages a day and writing endless response papers.
It wasn’t until my first research paper that I was hit really hard in the face. I had to write a 15-page paper — in MLA style — on ‘Religious Conversions in Elizabethan England and its Impact on the Portrayal of Othello’. I was utterly lost and panicked. I’d never written anything even close to 15 pages before and the scope of my writing skills extended up to that two-page formal letter I had to write for the final English exam. To make matters worse, I’d never heard of the MLA style, but every other student in class seemed to be familiar with it. I was nearly in tears and thinking of ways I could explain that to my parents, but after endless nights of reading, writing and praying, I managed to overcome this hurdle.
Even though my academic experience might sound quite intimidating, it is something I am grateful for. Coming abroad and being part of a vastly different academic system, has taught me to think out of the box and be analytical in my approach. I’ve learnt how to make hard decisions. Being a freshman abroad, you suddenly realise that you have the freedom to do whatever you like and it’s easy to get enveloped in the endless cycle of partying, drinking and having a good time. But when the finals approach and you know it’s time to study — the willpower to say no to all the distractions can be quite a challenge.
But then, that’s what campus life is all about — an exciting stimulus of challenges.