AU Ambassadors

Student Life at American University

The University College Experience

April 8, 2016|Posted in: On Campus

Elizabeth Raymakers is a freshman majoring in international studies, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She participated in the University College program in the fall of 2015 and valued the interactive classroom experience, as well as the living community, created by UC.

Say “Anderson 6 S” three times aloud. If by the third time you heard “Anderson success”, you are already halfway to understanding the mentality my other floormates and I had on the first day of classes last fall. Our floor (the top floor on the building, and obviously the best) was filled, almost literally, to the brim with students with one major thing in common– we were all members of the University College program. What seemed like many months ago, having barely celebrated our post-high school lives, we all made the decision to click “yes” on the simple question of “Are you interested in participating in University College?”.

Some, like me, jumped blindly into the opportunity, without a real understanding of what the University College (UC) program entailed. Those who checked out the information would find that the UC program was an opportunity to fulfill a general education requirement, while living with those classmates on the same floor. Each floor would have around four different classes, which generally revolved around a similar theme– Anderson 6S housed many of the internationally minded students, with classes such as World Politics and Cross-Cultural Communication. On floors 3 through 6 in Anderson, classes ranged from those with a focus on Shakespeare to sustainability. During Welcome Week, I was overwhelmed with the huge variety of UC seminars, but like most students, I didn’t understand the significance of the program until after classes started.

The first Monday of fall semester, at 11:45 sharp, I found myself sitting with around 20 of my floormates, waiting for our professor to arrive. We were all alike in having chosen to take possibly the most vague UC seminar offering: “Why They Love Us and Why They Hate US”. In marched my professor, who proceeded to introduce herself. Along with a professor at American University, she listed various previous jobs, such as ambassador to several countries, head of various organizations with acronyms as names, and a staff member to more than one president. Her opener after her introduction? “Can anybody tell me how we can improve relations with the Middle East?” Thus began a semester filled with similar questions, proposals, and discussions. While this incredibly intimidating professor knew more about the world than the entire class combined, she was open to hear our ideas, mediate discussions, and even politely call out BS when she heard it. By the end of the second class, she knew not only our names, but remembered that I was, as she put it, “An Africanist interested in everything but development on the continent”.

University College allows floormates to not only live together, but also take a class together.

University College allows floormates to not only live together, but also take a class together.

Outside of the classroom, I can often be found working in my floor’s lounge with friends and floormates from the class; discussing our class and what we learned with those in different seminars on the floor; and occasionally frantically knocking on a classmate’s door because I didn’t understand the assignment. Off our floor, my class went on trips led by our TA to lectures, cultural centers, and even the State Department. When talking to my friends who attended college back home, it suffices to say they were jealous of my freshman experience.

After first semester, my UC seminar was the class I missed the most– until I received an email from my seminar professor encouraging me to come into office hours and keep in contact. I’ve done just that, having met with her several times this semester. While the experience of having a professor with such an extensive resume mentor a lowly freshman like myself is amazing, it’s nothing compared to the friends I made and the experiences I had as a freshman in the University College program.

To learn more about Elizabeth and the rest of the Ambassadors, click here.

Posted by Amelia Crabtree

Cacti, cows, and science lover