Columns, Opinions

Isman ’15: The senior spring shopping period dilemma

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Opinions Columnist

There are very conflicting feelings permeating the senior class. On one hand, it is exciting to decide what we want to do with the next chapter of our lives and where we want to be next year. But it is also bittersweet to remember that this is our last semester at Brown, a place that many of us love.

Shopping period seems to have fallen prey to this mix of emotions as well. Should we shop every class we ever thought was interesting at Brown? Is it too frustrating to shop classes we know we won’t be able to take, so we should limit ourselves to shopping courses that have a chance of making it into our last semester’s schedules?

Facing that dilemma, I have come to the conclusion that it’s better to shop everything I am even mildly curious about. This semester, I decided to shop Visual Arts classes — without having taken VISA 0100: “Studio Foundation” — and as many reading classes as would fit into my shopping period schedule. This semester is an opportunity to explore and to give myself the chance to find new interests that don’t have to be abandoned after I graduate.

The beauty of shopping period is that it allows us to explore anything the University has to offer academically. We seniors should not be giving that up now, especially when this is our last opportunity to learn a range of topics before becoming specialized in one trait.

Additionally, Brown — regardless of whether we’ll be here or not — will always pride itself on its open curriculum. The whole point of this academic freedom is to allow us to explore anything that piques our interests, and that should be taken advantage of until the last minute. I have met new professors in departments I never considered before coming to Brown. Through these opportunities, I discovered there are certain topics that will always entice me, such as photography, which I first discovered in high school but unfortunately never took again.

While it might be frustrating to shop and possibly love classes we know we can’t take for a variety of reasons — such as capped classes, requirements or part-time jobs — it will end up being more frustrating ending our year feeling that we didn’t explore all of the classes we wish we did. It’s sometimes hard to fight the feeling that we are already done, that this shopping period might not be as important as the previous ones given that this is the last chance to finish our concentration requirements.

It is still not too late to meet influential professors and create connections that could last beyond graduation. Shopping classes with great professors could encourage us to go speak with these professors because they could be sources of knowledge and advice in the future — especially if we decide to further explore their subjects of expertise after graduation.

The desire to not shop many classes is understandable. Ideally, shopping few classes makes our limited choice easier, allowing us to really focus on what we have to take rather than on what we can’t take. I have friends who are purposely shopping only the classes they know they can or want to take, and who are stopping once they are happy with their classes rather than continuing to search for new things.

If we are trying to have more time to work on theses or job applications, taking more classes could discourage us from actually saving that time for the necessary commitments. Moreover, it is hard not to feel uninspired by classes — after taking about eight different literature courses it feels like the classes I’m shopping now have nothing new to offer.

But I don’t think we should succumb to these desires. Shopping period as a second-semester senior should not be seen as making us sad about graduating or taunting us with classes we know we can’t — and won’t get a future chance to — take. Instead, this shopping period should be seen as an opportunity to discover new topics we are interested in — topics that we can continue exploring on our own even after graduation. Additionally, shopping period proves that we shouldn’t settle for that lack of inspiration, and the only way to find and learn something new is to attend many classes.

Though shopping period remains as overwhelming for many seniors as it was for their first-year selves, it is not the vast number of possibilities that challenges many but the apparent finality of course selection. But we must move past that in order to truly squeeze what Brown has to offer to the last drop. Even shopping a class that seems marginally interesting would end up benefitting us more than sitting around too scared to see what classes have to offer. And looking ahead, we must remember that the curiosity inherently part of shopping period doesn’t end when we graduate.

Sami Isman ’15 is shopping 12 classes.