Whenever it’s time to return to my.harvard and browse through the course catalog looking for cool classes to take the next semester, the same thought always reappears in my head: I wish I had taken another first-year seminar.
The first-year seminar is a unique opportunity to study something really interesting and niche, while at the same time getting to know professors and fellow first-years in a small group setting. Typically consisting of twelve students and one instructor, the seminar fosters close interactions while exploring topics of mutual interest. There are a wide range of topics offered, allowing students to explore a variety of subjects and potential concentrations. Moreover, the first-year seminar's lack of letter-grading creates an ideal, low-pressure environment for first-year students to learn something new.
During my freshman fall, I took Professor Michael Norton's seminar on Rituals and Living the Good Life. The class delved into the psychology of rituals, providing insights into how seemingly meaningless and mundane behaviors shape our everyday lives. We discussed questions like: Why do we knock on wood? Why do some cultures wear red on birthdays? Why do we wear our lucky socks before a game? Why do we have a morning routine? With Professor Norton facilitating discussions and fellow classmates offering insights on the different rituals we engaged in across various domains in our lives, I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar experience, as it allowed me to explore a topic that applied to my everyday life and also led me to meet one of my closest friends on campus!
Looking back now as an incoming junior, I realize that I shouldn't have rushed my concentration and distribution requirements in my freshman year. The topics offered in the seminars always pique my interest, making me wish I had applied for a second seminar in the spring. To all the first-years and incoming pre-frosh, make the most of the first-year seminars! Not only will you learn, perhaps you'll also make new friends along the way.