A Review of the Mandatory Freshman Writing Course

Throughout high school, we are often forced to take classes that don’t appeal to our interests and seem unnecessarily taxing. Therefore, most college freshmen (including myself from four months ago) assume that once we get to college, we will be able to take exactly the classes we want without any requirements. While this is true to a very large extent at Rochester, there is one required course that must be taken freshman year: WRT 105, the freshman writing course. While initially this seemed like one of those annoying formalities that had to be gotten out of the way, when I look back on my experience in the course, I am nothing but grateful for it.

When registering for fall classes, I looked through the options for the writing courses and chose one that caught my attention: “The Road Goes Ever On: Narratives of Travel.” The course description seemed right up my alley, as I have traveled extensively in the past, but I never really stopped to consider that the course would impact me to the extent that it did. I write this an hour after the conclusion of my last-ever class with Professor Jarrod Ingles, and I am filled with a sense of sadness, as I truly enjoyed that class like no other. “On average,” Prof. Ingles announced with a proud gleam in his eyes, “you all have written 62 pages’ worth of content for me to grade over the course of this semester.” While that seems like a monstrous workload, it was anything but.

As the semester wore on, temperatures dropped, but WRT 105 just got more and more interesting by the week.

As the semester wore on, temperatures dropped drastically, but WRT 105 just got more and more interesting by the week.

Over the course of the semester, I found myself learning about things I had never thought I’d learn about. I can explain the intricacies behind the American political system, go on for hours about the strange happenings in the mysterious plains of Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings, discuss at length why excess tourism can have a degrading effect on the economic well-being of countries like Tanzania, quote great poets like Percy Shelley and John Keats on their insightful words on artifacts from ancient lands, recite the history behind the naming of Trafalgar Square in London, profess my opinion on the highly debated topic of whether Odysseus felt at peace at home after the iconic events of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and even how neighboring counties in Rochester have both one of the best and worst schooling districts in the country.

The hour-long, bi-weekly lectures and discussions in Morey 502 were the highlight of my semester as I hung onto every word that emerged from one of the smartest men I have ever met. Over and above his extremely interesting in-class rhetoric, Prof. Ingles went the extra mile, quite literally, driving us out to Mendon Ponds for an afternoon-long hike, to his house for a viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring, and a trip to the highly underrated Memorial Art Gallery over the course of the semester.

At Mendon Ponds with some of my classmates and Prof. Ingles.

At Mendon Ponds with some of my classmates and Prof. Ingles.

So, don’t think of the course as a “requirement” with the connotation of a burden coming into the picture; take a writing course that you find interesting (after all, there are so many options), keep an open mind, and you may just find yourself enjoying yourself learning just for knowledge’s sake.

To quote William Wordsworth, “I cannot paint what then I was,” but I can confidently say that “Narratives of Travel” was my favorite course of the semester—a massive compliment considering the incredibly high standards set by my other classes. Overall, I feel that the most important lesson I have learned at Rochester so far is: Always keep an open mind, and there’s a good chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. All prospective biology majors should definitely consider taking BIO 112 with Prof. Goldfarb. It’s a life-changing course—but more on that in another post….

About the author

Adit Ganguly

18-year-old optimist, photographer, blogger, guitarist and foodie here. If you're the kind of person that gets irrationally excited when thinking about processes like the phosphorylation of fructose-1-phosphate to fructose-1,6-phosphate, you and I would get along nicely. Jack of all trades, master of none. Content Editor for the Journal of Undergraduate Research, proud Yellowjacket and member of the Class of 2020.

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