The fall semester of my freshman year of college, I experienced one of the most challenging, frustrating, intellectually stimulating, emotionally straining, extremely applicable classes ever. In my introduction to critical thinking course, I met a unique professor who would have a profound effect on my life.

Critical thinking is an imperative skill to attain in order to better understand and create arguments that are composed of issues, reasons, and conclusions. By identifying the flaws found within reasons, critical thinkers are trained to question everything that is thrown their way. As a result, people are prompted to think more deeply about how others are communicating, the thought processes by which these communications are derived, and how to more clearly substantiate their own arguments.

The ability to critically think is crucial for the development of upper-level performance in all areas. As a result, this class was full of challenging material since I was learning how to change my course of thinking. I knew that the skills I was working so hard to attain would assist in my overall learning habits for the rest of my life, not only in school-related subjects but also as a productive member of society. I was excited about the challenge, but somedays I found myself definitely overwhelmed and frustrated.

One important aspect of a class is the professor. A professor can either make or break a class, regardless of the subject. My professor that taught my introduction to critical thinking course is one that I will never forget. Ever.

From the day that my professor walked into the classroom, on my very first day of college, he was always dressed very eccentrically and the door would slam shut behind him. As he would make his way to the front of the room, you could hear a pin drop. The heart rates of students would increase as their chattering would slow to a stop the moment the professor entered.

Our professor was incredibly intimidating, yet he always meant well. He seemed to be so impossible to please, but that was only because he set such high expectations for his students. Passing grades were difficult to earn; when you received one, you knew that you had truly worked hard to earn it.

Two weeks prior to the final, my class learned that our final critical thinking exam would be 10 hours long. At first, this sounds terrible like an excruciatingly long amount of time for a final examination period. All of my other classes had the regular two-hour exam period; but, as I had quickly realized this semester, my intro to critical thinking class was not like all of my other classes.

Our professor explained that we were not required to stay for the entire 10-hour exam period but if we wanted the time, it was available to us. Additionally, each student was allowed to choose what time their exam began. (Good news, considering I had other scheduled exams to take!)

I was still nervous about this experience. Whenever I would tell somebody that I had a 10-hour exam during finals week, they didn't believe me.

The same day that my class was given the details about the final exam, we were also assigned our final paper for the class. We had to choose a topic that interested us, find videos and/or articles in support of the argument of our topics, and then critically evaluate those sources.

This paper assignment had no length criteria; the professor said he would assign letter grades based on the number of critical thinking skills that we demonstrated in our papers but the scale would not be determined until after all of the papers were turned in. In other words, the professor was planning to measure our determination, perseverance, and competition skills.

So I didn't waste any time beginning to write my paper.

I chose to write about vegetarianism. I found several articles and YouTube videos about different perspectives regarding this lifestyle. My final paper ended up being 35 pages in length containing 64 critical thinking skills that were then thoroughly explained.

I emailed my paper the day before the final exam. That afternoon, I received a reply from my professor stating that I had gone above and beyond in terms of exemplifying the critical thinking skills I attained in this introductory course. My professor concluded his email by exempting me from the 10-hour final and congratulating me.

I was mind-blown... I had never even dreamed that this would happen.

I cried a good amount of tears of joy which was really just my release of all the stress and anxiety I had been holding in from this class over the semester. Then I oddly felt a little left out because I wasn't required to take the 10-hour final anymore. Part of me still wanted to experience it; would it really take me all 10 hours to complete?

In conclusion, I am thankful for this class experience. Although I would never choose to retake the course, I am incredibly glad that I did. Not only was this course useful in terms of the content that I learned, but also in a pretty broad "life lesson" aspect as well. I learned that being pushed way outside of your comfort zone is very intimidating, yet the outcome of doing so is beneficial. Most importantly, I learned that going the extra step (or few steps) will set you apart from the crowd and provide an opportunity for you to be recognized, but it truly takes an immense amount of dedication and effort.