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The 7 Most Bizarre College Classes of Fall 2014


Even as pre-collegiettes fantasizing about “the best four years of our lives,” we knew that not every class we signed up for would make our brains light up Jimmy-Neutron style. But we didn’t expect that some courses would be so mind-numbing their course goals should read: “To bore you out of your skull.” Oh, how we wish all of our classes were like these seven crazy ones, found at college campuses across the nation! Pop quiz: Are they A) unexpected, B) fascinating, C) super weird or D) all of the above? Let’s find out.

1. Food Science and Nutrition 201 – California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, California)

We have no proof, but we suspect there’s a reason this class has such a vague, bland title—if it was more descriptive, every student on campus would be clamoring to enroll. FSN 201 focuses on our favorite food group (especially during finals): chocolate. Sarah Quon, who took the course during her freshman year at Cal Poly, says students learn how to make the decadent dessert, perfect its texture and prepare it to be sold. It sounds like these Willy-Wonkas-in-training have to do a whole lot of taste-testing. That’s one type of test we definitely wouldn’t mind taking.

The delicious results, which include butterscotch s’mores, cashew caramels and good ole milk chocolate bars, are available all over campus, so everyone gets to benefit from these students’ hard work.

2. The Art of Walking – Centre College (Danville, Kentucky)

Most of the people who take this class have some familiarity with ambulation—say, 18 years’ worth. But it’s understandable why students are willing to beef up their experience along with their calf muscles.

The course, which is offered by the English department and has been taught both on Centre’s Danville campus and abroad in Strasbourg as part of their study abroad course (what’s French for “jealous”?), includes literature about walking and “daily walks and rambles into local environs and farther afield.” When students aren’t tromping through meadows, they get to venture into parks, gardens and museums. We hope they packed the big guns shoe-wise, because the walks range from 15 to 25 miles.

3. Demystifying the Hipster – Tufts University (Medford, Massachusetts)

Is the best place to buy perfectly worn-in V-neck tees American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, the local thrift shop or some place so cool we don’t even know it exists? Is it better to drink non-fair-trade black coffee than no coffee at all? On a scale from one to Dumbledore, how scruffy should one’s beard be?

These types of questions have been haunting us since middle school, and we’re ready for answers. If only we could jaunt over to Tufts University and take this Experimental College course to find out. Participating students will examine hipster-themed movies, books, music and fashion from the last 20 years, in the process becoming “critics and sociologists of today’s hipster culture.”

We hope the students who take this class will share their findings with the world—but, in true hipster fashion, they might just tell us we “wouldn’t get it” and leave with us our queries.

4. Tree Climbing – Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)

As pre-pre-collegiettes, we were such avid tree-climbers that we and the bark were like one. But somewhere along the way (perhaps when we developed a fondness for adorable yet impractical shoes?), we stopped scaling trees and stuck to admiring them from afar.

Happily, this Cornell class would bring us up close and personal with our long-lost, sap-scented loves. Students taking the physical education course learn how to get up into the leafy canopy, move around and even jump from one tree to the next without touching the ground. For their literal leaps and bounds, they earn one credit toward graduation.

“I always see people climbing on various trees throughout campus,” says Katie Schneider, a bioengineering sophomore at Cornell. “Literally, they tie these ropes in between trees and balance across them like tightropes right in the middle of the Arts Quad!”

One question: Are students allowed to hum the soundtrack from The Hunger Games while climbing?

5. A Muggle’s Guide to Harry Potter Chemistry – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska)

UNL is far from the first school to offer a course involving Harry Potter, but it is one of the first to offer its wizard wunderkind class in the science department with Chem 192H.

The potions master, err, professor, discusses intro chem topics through an HP lens, such as alchemy and gold, the science of butterbeer and fizzing whizbees and how fireworks are made (in real life, not with a wand).

We’re already ready to grab our cauldrons and sign up, but it gets even better. Students are randomly sorted into houses, which are used for groups for presentations and projects. Fifty points to Gryffindor!

6. Joy of Garbage – Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, California)

To be honest, the title of this course kind of sounds like an oxymoron to us. But one man’s trash is another man’s… happiness?

This environmental studies class tracks waste as it is “burnt, decomposed, landfilled, treated, recycled, reused, dumped on minority communities or shipped abroad.” And, unlike many courses, students don’t just stick to the theoretical—visits to sewage plants, landfills and recycling centers bring them into close (albeit smelly) contact with what people throw away.

While taking this class may necessitate lots of showers and/or free perfume samples from Sephora, we’d still kind of love to take it. After all, we use our garbage can on the daily; it would be nice to be more informed about what happens next!

7. Learning from YouTube – Pitzer College (Claremont, California)

It always seemed obvious to us that YouTubers like Jenna Marbles and Michelle Phan had lots of wisdom to dole out, whether they were discussing boys or bronzer. And now it seems like the academic world has come to the same conclusion (finally!).

Much like YouTube stars themselves, all students need is access to a computer and their own wits. All of the classwork and assignments, which include watching and making videos and reading and writing about them, occur online and mostly on YouTube, for obvious reasons, although the students do meet in class.

By the final, hopefully students will be able to answer the central questions: “What can YouTube teach us, and is this how, what and all we’d like to learn?”

We’re not sure, but we’d be more than willing to put some time into figuring that out.

College is known for being a place of experimentation, and these seven courses definitely epitomize the unconventional spirit. For once, we don’t think we’d have any trouble staying awake in class.

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