At Emory University, you're required to take a class your freshman year called "Freshman Seminar". This class is meant for you to take a step out of your intended major, to take a class that you are truly interested in or a subject you might be interested in pursuing in hopes you'll broaden your horizons and find something that you are truly interested with.
Freshman year of college, I was beyond excited to begin taking classes in subjects I truly enjoyed taking- gone were the days of high school environmental science that consistently put me to sleep, of calculus that I knew I would never use again, and various electives that were there just to fill the space. I was sure that I wanted to pursue an economics major, and didn't see the point of taking any classes beyond that. I saw the suggestion for the freshman seminar, the one that said that it was suggested that you take a class outside of your major- disregarding that, I was fully prepared to take the Trade and Finance Freshman Seminar.
However, when class registration rolled around, I was devastated to learn that the economics Freshman Seminar I had wanted to take filled up. Since the seminar was a requirement, I reluctantly signed up for the first one that fit my schedule- Ethics in Russian Literature.
I showed up to the first class, wary and annoyed that I was "being forced" to take this class, assuming that I would be bored to tears every Thursday for three hours- surely there must be a better way to spend my time?
Much to my surprise, I loved the class. I loved the subject, the teacher (Mikhail Epstein, an acclaimed writer of many books and theories on Russian Literature), and the expanding world view on literature I gained from that semester. Thanks to my step outside of the economics curriculum, I was able to experience literature beyond my previous notions of what literature was (I had always been a bookworm) and developed a passion for the study of ethics, Russian literature and European history.
Reading about the intricacies of the Russian Revolution as it intertwined with the stories Russian authors painted, the human tragedies and emotions depicted in the novels people painted and even reading non-fiction accounts of experiences over history- it helped me confront my long-standing ideals and morals and pushed me to rethink how I saw the world. Anna Karenina, written by Leo Tolstoy, incentivized me to really reflect on what it meant to have a true identity.
Three Generations by Alexandra Kollontai pushed me to examine my own idea of love, to ask myself how the idea of love and hookups and feelings changed over time and culture. Ew by Gregory Zamiatin helped me consider the role of perfection in our society and the things that make us human. Additionally, by connecting to a culture that I have absolutely no roots nor prior knowledge in has allowed me to cultivate more love for the world in general. It has encouraged me to want to learn more and to go outside of my own cultural bubble in order to continue to expand my mind.
Before, I thought there was a path that I had to stick to in college, classes that would ensure my future success. Russian literature taught me that college was a time to explore and find things and subjects to love- things that stick far beyond your 4 years.