When I began college, I wanted to be either a veterinarian or a journalist, so during my first semester I enrolled in the introductory animal sciences class. I looked forward to learning about dogs, cats, and birds, and I hoped that we would get to interact with a few animals. On the first day of class, the students sitting around me wore Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots and discussed the sheep they had raised in 4-H. The syllabus showed two weeks devoted to cows, a week for pigs, a week for horses, and so on. This wasn’t what I had hoped for.
I dutifully began trying to memorize the annual milk production for various breeds of cow and the cuts of meat from a pig. For our weekly lab, we met at the university’s barnyards on the south side of campus. That’s where college really got interesting. I learned how to milk a cow and how to safely hold a chicken. I watched in panic as the teacher demonstrated how to dock the tail of a lamb and how to artificially inseminate a pig. This really wasn’t what I had hoped for.
Eack week, I brought back some story to horrify all of my friends who had grown up in the suburbs. And I brought back some really smelly clothes. They smelled so bad that my roommate (also a suburbanite) asked me to leave them in the dorm hallway rather than my hamper. I complied.
That course gave me a big shove into journalism, but I’m still glad that I took it. When I began working at the newspaper, I learned that the copy editors kept a file with 20 questions that all new hires answered. Among the questions was one about unusual college courses taken. Reading those answers was fascinating because colleges offer such a smorgasbord of choices. I couldn’t help but feel that writing down “Animal Sciences 100” in no way captured the folly of that class.
What’s the strangest college course you took? The most interesting?