Dive Into Classes with Discussion Leaders

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At the dawn of freshman year, students must become familiar with the tedious activity of enrolling in college courses. Along with that, every incoming freshman will have many questions to ponder on. What major interests me? How can I include the things I’m passionate about in my career? What about making lasting friends and memories along the way? Really, where do I even start? Well, University Studies 1 – The Freshman Experience – is one class that every incoming freshman should keep in mind when enrollment comes around. Created in 2006, the course’s objective is to help incoming freshmen transition to their new lives on campus, and is a great tool that can be really useful when correctly utilized. With the neverending list of undergraduate requirements, what is it that makes this class stand out? It’s the fact that the class caters specifically to freshman students. The course’s main goal is to make freshman comfortable in and knowledgeable about their new surroundings. There are times when upperclassmen realize too late the resources they missed out on earlier in college, and the Freshman Experience offers an opportunity for these students to share their experiences with new students. The discussions are taught by upperclassmen students, who go through an interview and training process before being deemed fit for teaching. Gabriela Afra, fourth year Public Health Sciences major, likes to teach her students from personal experience. Afra started as a discussion leader her second year, and now served as a coordinator for the 2014-15 program. Afra did not take the course her freshman year because it was not offered. Despite this, she applied to become a discussion leader because she wanted to provide help and guidance to freshman students.

Discussion Leader
Courtesy of Undecided/Undeclared Office

From a discussion leader’s perspective, Afra says, “This class has helped me in having that mentorship role with more than one student. It has helped me gain more confidence in public speaking in front of a room. I’m not as nervous getting in front of a classroom and talking. Even talking one-on-one, it’s helped me grow as a speaker. I feel just much more confident in being who I am.” “One of the best parts of it is you get to hear the experiences of the discussion leaders because we have all been through it,” said Afra. “Hopefully we’ll help students not make the same mistakes we did.” This class also helps students discover interesting career paths, time-management skills, personal strengths, and resources on campus they may not yet be familiar with. Through it all, University Studies aims to help students feel familiar with their new surroundings, as well as informed of all the resources at their disposal. The transition from high school to college is a really huge one, but Freshman Experience is a useful tool in easing that transition. “Take your time getting used to the campus,” said Afra. “It’s a huge change. Being in college is really different than high school. It’s important to make the most of your experience. It goes really quickly, and if you’re interested in something, just go join the club or check it out. Ask questions. Don’t be hesitant. Take yourself out of your comfort zone.” University Studies is a 10-week, two unit freshman seminar of approximately 15 students in a classroom. Students meet once a week in lecture and once a week in discussion. Each week, lectures will be given on a variety of career and major pathways, time-management and note-taking skills, and other topics relevant to life as a freshman. In addition, students will learn about the intricacies of the UC system, the different resources on campus, and how to interpret and calculate course grades.

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