Maybe you don’t like a class, But have you really tried appreciating it?

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Hello, my fellow students and non-students! If you are the former, I hope that your break was well spent (and without strep throat or cold infections) and that you are ready for finals. If you are the latter, I hope that you also haven’t had the displeasure of being sick and that your week is kind to you. Now, I think that at this point many of us have taken classes that we harbor disdain and resentment toward, classes that make you rant for several minutes and that ultimately feel like a waste of time. However, despite the reasons we may have for developing a negative attitude toward those classes, there are typically some positive takeaways that we push aside. And since I have taken one of said predominantly aggravating classes, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you how I challenged myself to recognize the advantages of the class rather than only the inconveniences. 

As a requirement for my psychology minor, I have to take fifteen credit hours in upper level (preferably 3000 level or above) psychology courses. For this semester, to finish this requisite, I chose to take Health Psychology and Counseling Psychology. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with psychology, it is a highly subjective field despite its accumulation of research, making a lot of the findings debatable, interpretative, and ambiguous. For those of us that prefer straightforward, concrete data (which is more so housed under the hard sciences like biology and chemistry), this alone can be frustrating. The field of health psychology is no exception to this and very quickly lost my favor with its endless theories and models, major contributors, and subtle wording. Granted, I admit that I am not suited for the field of psychology as a career (not including my intended nursing specialty by the way!), so I am already biased against the style of information gathering and presentation. However, I have other grievances that are unique to the class. 

Firstly, I found that the class was simply excessive in its workload. To give you a “brief” overview, we had weekly chapter readings (about thirty or more pages per chapter) with quizzes, almost weekly article readings and discussion papers (with about three articles per week, ranging from six to twenty pages each), a personal health behavior intervention project (which was essentially a research paper and in-class three-minute flash talk), a group community health project (which was basically an even larger research paper and full-class poster presentation), daily in-class assignments, and a cumulative final exam. Now, perhaps I’m still biased against the social sciences here, but with preferences aside, I still think that this is entirely too much work for a single class. On top of that, the grading for the projects especially was strict and gave little room for mistakes. And the lectures, which make up a large percentage of the final exam, were disorganized. In fact, I don’t remember fully going through a single PowerPoint in the class, even though all of the material is treated as equally important. All in all, this class quickly became a hated one because I felt that I was devoting large amounts of my time to it but with a return that didn’t match my efforts. 

But as is often the case, all wasn’t bad. There were some glimmers in that dark cave; I just had to drag my attention away from the darkness long enough to search for them. One of the main benefits of the course was that the content is highly relevant to the healthcare field (hence, the name of the field)–not to mention extremely fascinating as well! Even when discouraged or vexed by the work, I couldn’t help but feel a flame of passion fan in my chest as I learned about chronic illnesses, effects of stress on the immune system (psychoneuroimmunology), the biopsychosocial model (one of the few that I personally admire), the processes behind cancer and cardiovascular disease, the effects and uses of drugs like marijuana and alcohol, and much more. (You may also remember that I have written multiple posts about health psychology topics.) I even became so engrossed in the material that I ordered a book my professor recommended–and one that I now recommend to anyone and everyone, student or not: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. It is a detailed and research-based yet very entertaining and applicable read on something that all of us deal with on a daily basis. And what’s even better is that the author intentionally steers away from jargon and overly complicated scientific descriptions, so it’s open to virtually anyone who can read. 

Now, moving back to the class itself, I also enjoyed the experiences of conducting research and designing interventions to health problems of both a personal nature and for more widespread use. Again, I am not someone who wants to enter research; in fact, it causes distress every time I must do it. Still, it is a rewarding experience nonetheless–working hard and seeing everything fall into place so that you can show it off to (and potentially use it for the benefit of) others. In spite of the negatives, the research inclusion was actually very cool because we were able to address real health problems through our own knowledge, external sources, and critical thinking skills. Through the projects, I was able to effectively deal with my chronic lip and cheek chewing habit (also known as morsicatio buccarum) and help design an intervention for improving body appreciation in women of Columbus, GA through combining mindfulness with performance-(rather than appearance-)focused exercise. All in all, both took numerous hours of article reading, information organizing, writing, graphic designing, and out-of-the-box thinking. But looking back on them, I greatly appreciate the opportunities to apply information (including health theories) we had learned, opportunities to cross the boundaries of traditional learning.

Now, not every class will be overflowing with aspects to appreciate. Such was the case with my World Music ITDS course. However, trust me when I say that you can find something worth appreciating in every experience, even if it’s only a source of new thought or self-growth of some kind. (Did it help you gain patience? Did it help you decide a certain subject or field isn’t for you? Did it expand your view on something? Even small things like these matter.) For example, I was able to listen to other cultures’ music styles and compositions and even picked up on some terminology that has deepened my interest in and openness to different forms of music. So, even though you may initially feel that you benefited in no way from a certain class, I encourage you to reappraise the experience. You may be surprised by what you gained overall. (Sometimes, the good stuff really is in the finer details.) And at the end of the day, you’re done with it now. Why not adjust your reflections on it to be more positive and motivating? It’s at no cost to you, yet it can improve your mood and become a very helpful habit. 

In any case, I sincerely hope that you either thoroughly enjoy your classes or can find even one thing to appreciate about them. And of course, I wish all of you luck on your finals and life in general!

Nursing students unite!