Why study the liberal arts?


College is hard, no matter what your major is. So why did we all decide to choose an educational path that includes classes in fields we didn’t want to major in?

It can be easy to think of college as just a step on the road towards your grown-up career plans. That’s definitely what I had in mind at first.

But now that I’ve worked my way through all of those “general education requirements,” I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the liberal arts. (For more on the different kinds of classes you’ll take at Transylvania, click here!)

What I’ve learned to value the most about the liberal arts is that it connects me to the rest of the world — because my education here has required me to think about far more than my own self, my own interests, and my own culture.

I’ve taken classes on different religious traditions (Judeo-Christian Heritage, Buddhist Religious Traditions, and Islamic Religious Traditions), different places (an anthropology class on Appalachia and the Environment and a travel course to London, England!), and even within my major, classes on different writing styles (Business Writing, Intro to Journalism, and Poetry Workshop).

But I’ve also learned how to appreciate those subjects that don’t initially interest me. For example, I’ve never been fascinated by economics. Or math. Or anything remotely related to either one. But taking classes in both taught me to focus on the aspects of those subjects that I do want to understand better. Because whether I like it or not, both classes teach skills that I’m going to need in my post-Transy life. The same goes for students who despise writing — an analytical essay may not be fun, but you know that becoming a better writer will be beneficial, no matter what you do after college.

Every possible subject there is to study may not be initially interesting — but they are all important. Or else, no one would be studying them. So get creative and look for aspects of those classes that connect to what you’re interested in, or that apply to skills you’ll need in the job you want.

Maybe that sounds impossible right now. I promise you, though, that those connections are everywhere. Immersing yourself in a liberal arts environment just makes you better at spotting them.

Because the world is much bigger than just us. Academia is much broader than just our specific interests. It’s okay to play favorites — you’re going to major in something — but it’s not fair to ignore every other subject. Doing so only puts you at a disadvantage.

The liberal arts prepare us for everything in the post-college world. Including acceptance into professional school and landing great jobs. Plus we’re better writers and more interesting conversation partners. So if you want to be prepared, broaden your horizons, and have fun all at the same time, study the liberal arts.


It’s All About the Connections


I know I’ve written about how cool our liberal arts curriculum is before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s that important. 

And if you’re going to make a major investment into a liberal arts school like Transylvania, I want you to know what you’re paying for – and don’t you?

This semester, I’m taking three classes (senior perks – I have basically all of my requirements completed already): Religion Senior Seminar, Islamic Religious Traditions, and Readings on Peace Education. This semester is also the first one in a while in which I’m not taking a communication class (my major) – that part’s a little strange, but I do love having the flexibility to try other academic fields.

Anyways, one of my favorite things about the liberal arts is that it teaches you to form connections in unlikely ways. You’ll be encouraged to connect the projects you do in an elective class to your major, or your post-college plans.

But sometimes, the classes themselves overlap, and that’s exactly what has happened to me this semester. There were a couple of weeks in which I felt a little déjà vu – we had very similar conversations in my three classes. And it was so exciting because I could easily bring in outside perspectives into each discussion.

The theme that brought such a strong connection between my three classes was terrorism. One of the books we read for Religion Senior Seminar was about the history of religion and violence. The last sections of the book were about more modern associations we make, based on recent events caused by religious extremists. Each world religion’s history was discussed and when we talked about the Islam chapter, I was able to contribute additional background information based on what we were talking about in my Islam class that week.

We haven’t talked about terrorism specifically in Islamic Religious Traditions – though we have learned much more about why associating the religion with its most extreme practitioners is really contradictory.

In my Peace Education class, I have definitely been able to put my other classes to work. Our major assignment for the class was a research paper, but Dr. Hurley encouraged us to be creative and pursue other kinds of projects with partners if we wanted. Two of my friends and I decided to do a group presentation about how the three Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) talk about peace. There was plenty of information from my two other classes that made it into this big project.

I loved seeing my classes connect so clearly because it makes it easier to understand information when it’s being repeated in different contexts. And it also allows me to study the same concepts from a variety of perspectives. I get a much more holistic understanding when I’m using these different lenses. And that’s what the liberal arts are all about.

May Term, Play Term

Lesley Goodaker

It’s that time of year again! Spring has (finally) sprung, finals are near, and the end of the regular semester has come. In between rigorous study sessions and time spent enjoying the sunshine, whispers of May term can be heard throughout campus. But, what exactly is May term? Only the greatest thing ever (next to August term of course)!

Transylvania’s academic calendar operates on a 4-4-1 schedule. This means that from September to December and January to mid-April, students are enrolled in four courses of their choosing. As for the 1, well, that’s the best part. May term is a four week period beginning at the end of April and running to the middle of May when students concentrate on one class Monday through Friday, generally for two hours a day.  While this might sound pretty daunting, I assure you it’s quite the opposite.

Photo by Joseph Rey Au

Many May Term classes take advantage of the great spring weather and hold classes outdoors on Transy’s gorgeous campus.

A lot May term courses are team-taught by professors of differing disciplines which makes for a great opportunity to get to know professors outside of your area of study who you might otherwise never meet. However, one of the most notable things about  May term classes is that many take place on campus for only a week or so at the beginning of the term, and then move to destinations in the U.S. and all over the world. Course offerings change from year to year, but recent travel courses have included trips across the Western United States, New York City, Peru, Ireland, and Cost Rica. For many students, semester-long study abroad may not be feasible. In this way, May term is a great way to get a “mini-study abroad” experience that is relatively affordable and just as enriching.

May Term - study abroad

Where will you travel during May Term?

For students opting to enroll on a course taught at Transylvania, the options are just as vast (with many being Special Topics courses). This May term, I am taking a co-taught Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication course called Writing for Non-Profits. This is especially exciting because our class will be working with a community non-profit partner from the Lexington area to write grants. This is not only a course which counts towards my major but also will provide me with great practical experience which I can put on my resume.

Another great things about being on campus during May term is the social time. During the regular semester, Transy students are pretty booked with classes, internships, sports, and other co-curriculars. During May term, with only one class to focus on, students tend to have a lot more leisure time to hang out with friends or get off campus; however, regardless of whether you’re on campus for May term or off, you’re guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Shake Off the End of Semester Blues

Rachel Morgan

Getting back into school after spring break is hard. Believe me, we get it – many of my friends are hitting that lull, like right after lunch; we just want to sleep and call it a day, or in this case, a semester. Most people do, but this is not the time of the year to take a break! Whether you’re in high school or college, finals are coming, and we are not over the final hurdle yet. But how do you finish out the school strong when all you want to do is curl up and watch Netflix for hours on end? Here are some tips to help you get over the end-of-break blues.

1. Treat yourself with breaks

Don’t be afraid to take that 30 minute break, or go get some food, or watch the newest Bates Motel. Taking a breather during studying will not only let you relax, it will give your focus a chance to reformat and catch up. This will help you retain more information as you study. My guilty pleasure is Tumblr for 15 minutes or a 10-15 minute video by one of my favorite YouTube artists. Just be sure to time yourself so you don’t find yourself still surfing the net an hour later!

2. Find your study space

For me, I study best surrounded by people yet not interacting. Being alone tempts me to space out and start doodling or goof off; when I’m in public, it helps me keep my thoughts on what I need to study. I normally sit out in the lobby of my building, reading with my headphones in. Instrumental music is also key to studying or writing papers for me; I can’t become distracted by singing along. How do you study best? Is it your room while sprawled out on your bed? Is it on the living room couch? How about perched on your kitchen floor, all your material spread out around you? What works best for you is the best way to study, and while it may take some trial and error to find your preferred study space, it will be amazingly helpful in retaining focus.

Blog - Dory

3. Do not procrastinate!

Procrastination is the enemy of every student, even more so now that the weather has finally taken a turn for the better (knock on wood!). It causes people to forget their cares until suddenly that 10 page paper is due tomorrow and you have maybe an intro paragraph. While some people work better under stress, this sort of stress does not help your focus. Pace your work out and focus on getting it done in a timely matter. This will also allow you more relaxation time – without the threat of an assignment hanging over your head.

4. Motivate yourself!

You’re almost there! Just a little more! Finish strong! You are your own best cheerleader, and in the end, it’s you that has to make the effort to finish out strong. Don’t be afraid to cheer yourself on. The year is coming to an end, and it’s time to make your mark.

Lost in Transy-lation

This…is kind of how I felt.

You have often read about students going to study abroad away from their homes in the U.S. They often talk about culture shock, the feelings they have about being so far away from home and the things they see that would be fascinating to you. But what about the other way around? What about the people that come here and experience those things?

I am a senior international student from Germany and have my own stories of culture shock, feelings and fascination that might be a little different from the usual.

When I try to remember my first few days, it is honestly a little hazy. The reason was my jet lag. I overslept the first three meetings during orientation and I was behind in getting to know people. I felt like I was at a disadvantage. All I remember was how open-minded everybody was. I had late night talks in front of the dorms and I got greeted by people on the go. People I never met before! Everyone was friendly and fascinated when I could share my perspective. I realized that I was really not that much of an oddball. Most of us knew maybe one or two people prior to arriving on campus, but coming here by yourself is not as strange as I expected. Continue reading

My Transylvania Bucket List

Kelsey Smith, Class of ’13

Call me weird, but ever since I saw The Bucket List, I wanted to do more with my life.

So, at the ripe old age of 17 I created my own bucket list. I’m up to 79 items I wish to accomplish before I die. Six and 1/3 things have been crossed off of my list. When I came to Transylvania I started thinking, why not make a college bucket list? So, below is my personal list of things that really should be done before you leave this fine institution.

I challenge you to take this list and add to it, but only if you think you can get it all done by May of 2016. I wish you luck and enjoy every moment of making and accomplishing the list.

Commence Kelsey’s Transy Bucket List!

  Survive Indi’s fried chicken
  Participate in a black light party
  Go to Red River Gorge
  Join a club or organization
  Play volleyball in back circle
  Study or travel abroad
  Get an A+ on a test/paper and hang it on the mini-fridge
  Go to Keeneland
  Run through the fountains by the court house Continue reading

Joyeux La Fete Nationale!

The photos below were submitted by Transylvania students studying in France.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Joyeux La Fete Nationale! (Happy Bastille Day). Tomorrow, July 14, commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution in 1789.

Transylvania students have opportunities to celebrate this national holiday while in France, either on a summer study abroad program or doing an internship in Normandy through Lexington’s Sister Cities Commission.  During the academic year, semester programs are available in Caen, Nantes, Paris (several program choices), and Rennes, and periodically, students and faculty have participated in Transy’s Tour de France  a three- week bicycle tour of southern France during May term.

Interested in studying outside of France? No problem. We offer opportunities for students of all majors to study around the world. Study abroad is so accessible for Transylvania students that nearly 70 percent of our students participate. You can study abroad and stay on track for graduation.

Can’t find the right program? We’ll help you create your own experience. Last year, our students studied abroad in more than 20 countries across the globe, including Norway, Ecuador, China, Israel, Chile, Japan, the Philippines and more.

You’re welcome to visit our Study Abroad Office website for more information. It’s never too early to plan!

Vive La France!

– Kathy Simon
Director of Study Abroad and Special Programs