A Mixed Bag of Classes

It felt like summer had just begun, but I was already preparing for the first day of classes. After trying a bunch of classes and estimating my expected workload for the semester, I have settled on the following classes. I’m glad that I have a great mix of classes – technical, liberal arts and practical.

1) CS 4410 – Operating Systems
It’s the last core course for the CS major. The class attempts to demystify operating systems through some essential abstractions and simple models. There is a 2-credit practicum class that comes along with this, which is notorious for its workload. Initially, I was planning on taking the practicum as well. In class, our professor was explaining the project schedule and said, “The next three weeks are going to be very intense because you’ll have two projects due, but after that it will be just intense.” Yesterday, I re-evaluated my time commitments and decided to drop the prac.

2) CS 4860 – Applied Logic
Last semester, I took a class on set theory so I would be well prepared to take this class. I’m not sure what the applied part of the class is, but I’m excited to learn about formal logic. Professor Anil Nerode, one of the founding members of Cornell’s CS department, is teaching this class. Cornell CS was the fourth CS department in any university around the world; it recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. So Professor Nerode is old. He is old enough to have worked with Kurt Godel and met Von Neumann. His lectures are somewhat confusing, but they are worth attending for his anecdotes which feature several heroes of Math and CS.

3) CS 4999 – Independent Research
I’m continuing the research I was working on over the summer, with Professor Nate Foster. I have barely done anything for it since the beginning of the semester. In fact I have made the opposite of progress by breaking my local environment for developing the project. Lack of time for research is one reason I decided to drop OS prac.

4) LATA 4011 – Student Community Partnership in Ecuador
This is the class that I’ve been most excited about! As part of this class, I will be going to Ecuador in Winter break. We have had one guest lecturer so far and it was an enlightening lecture/workshop on critical reflection. You can read more about this on my class blog.

5) HIST 2749 – Mughal India and the Early Modern World
Although the class is about Mughal India’s (1500-1800) place in the world at its time and its encounters with people beyond the Indian subcontinent, the bottomline is “how to think about history”. So far, history has always been a bunch of assumptions,facts,events and causes and effects of these events. In this class, it’s about critically analyzing history as it is presented to us. Who wrote this history? What are they arguing for? What are they not telling us? What are their motivations and biases? How can we study history without imposing current ideologies and identities onto the past? History is not facts about dead people, but a dynamic story pieced together with what evidence there is.

Some Jewels of Cornell’s Endless Course Catalogue

The power to choose my classes is what most appealed to me about college in the United States. At Cornell, the selection of courses to choose from is so wide that pre-enroll can be the most confusing time of the year. Perhaps the simplest way for Cornell students to procrastinate is by browsing the Course Catalogue which contains about 4,000 courses (That’s the number from Wikipedia, but I feel there’s more).

90 pages of course listing. You get the idea.

90 pages of course listing. You get the idea.

My personal list of classes to take is not something static. It evolves along with my interests or I find more interesting classes. There are so many classes that I want to take – ranging from Expository Writing, Introduction to Evolution, Nation and Nationality in India, Introduction to Wines and Vines (that one is probably on everyone’s list) to Introduction to Art History: The Classical World in 24 objects.

Although I have only spent one complete semester at Cornell yet, I already have two classes that I recommend to almost everyone who talks to me about courses.

1) PMA 2800: Intro to Acting
Many people assume that one must already have experience to get the most out of this class. But as the course title says, this course introduces you to acting, so no experience required at all! In fact, when I took this course in Fall 2013, I had had zero theatre experience. Being open minded and engaging yourself in the class and outside alone is more than enough to enjoy the class. Last semester was an immersion into theatre for me: I watched several performances on and off campus, auditioned for a theatre group and made it (and loving it! Shout out to Ordinary People). This class added a new aspect to my life.

However, I did not take the next course in the sequence: Intro to Acting I because that probably more serious about the techniques of acting. I only intend to be an “appreciator” of theatre who occasionally takes part in it. So not only do I get to choose my courses, I also choose in what capacity I pursue them.

P.S.: I am yet to reveal the best part of Intro to Acting: No prelims or final exam! You do a final scene study instead.

2) ENGL 1167: FWS Great New Books
This recommendation is for incoming freshmen or anyone who has to take a freshman writing seminar. When I was choosing my FWS, I was told that classes in the English department tend to be tougher than those in most others. But unintentionally, I ended up with this class (it’s a long story). 

Basically, we read recent, acclaimed, fiction books, discussed them in class and wrote essays about them. One of our readings was a graphic novel titled “Fun Home”. After reading it, I get enraged when anyone refers to graphic novels as “comics”. Keep that in mind if we ever have a conversation about graphic novels.

While I enjoyed the book club style of our classes, my writing also improved greatly. This is the perfect FWS for all book lovers!

My list of classes to take and classes to recommend will keep growing and changing. When some college seniors complain about not having enough time to take all the courses they would like to, to study subjects that interest them, I can easily imagine myself in their shoes three years from now.