My First Week In A Harvard Extension Class

September 13, 2013

It’s actually been a bit more than a week. I’ve had two classes so far.

And I wanted to write about my initial feelings before things got too hard or crazy or anything – while I’m still in the honeymoon phase.

I ended up signing up for a second class in addition to expository writing. I’m also taking Neurobiology.

They’re two very different classes – not just in subject matter but how they’re run. For neurobiology, lectures are taped and I watch them on my own schedule. The midterm is 50% of the grade and the final is another 50%. End of story.

In expository writing, our class virtually meets at a dedicated time each week. Participation is part of our grade, and there are attendance rules (to avoid be dropped from the class).

Going into Harvard Extension, I didn’t know what to expect. Judging from various online message boards (though I know it can be smarter to avoid those), there’s a group of people who think, “It’s Harvard! So it’s going to be next to impossible.” Then there are people who think, “It’s just the extension school. It’s the same as community college.”

I didn’t know if I’d be in for an easy ride, or for something over my head.

It really is probably too early to judge completely. I will say that my expository writing teacher (or, I suppose I say professor since it’s [*in very affected speech*] Haaahvard) is very helpful. His syllabus is very complete. He’s tried to arm us with plenty of information so that nothing comes as a surprise to us. And I appreciate that.

He’s very nice and interesting. So, I think he does a good job of sort of disarming what could be an overwhelming class.

However, no matter how nice or helpful someone is, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a lot on that syllabus. There are plenty of things to read and papers to write. Plus things are often due on Friday when our class is on Tuesday. So we don’t get from class meeting to class meeting (as I think most non-online school works).

Mainly we’re talking about politics in the class. (Yay!) But in our last class session, he taught us about making inferences from texts and photos – for example, using a photo of a cemetery. We were supposed to discuss what we could assume from that – the place, time period, etc.

People knew about architecture and were able to deduce place and time period (and say the special names of buildings types and arches and such). People know about art, and photo composition, and all that jazz.

I felt as though I knew nothing. I was the layperson in the class. When everyone else is saying what religion and denomination the crosses and religious symbols belong to, I’m just noticing things that someone with no training could – such as one of the plots was missing a cross when every one around it has one.

I guess at least we can give me effort points for trying to notice something, right?

Anyway, it’s gonna be rough. There are going to be moments of feeling overwhelmed. But I can handle it. In the words of my high school theater teacher “You’re Aurora De Lucia!”

I’ll just keep letting that ring in my head until somehow I’ve gotten through the semester.

As of now, I’d definitely recommend Harvard Extension if you’re thinking about taking a class there. It’s wonderful. They’re wonderful – everybody. The admin side, the professors, the students. Everyone seems really cool. I will update you with how it all went once the semester’s over.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?