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The Courses Less Taken

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The Courses Less Taken

“I set my computer’s time zone to Japan Time just to be extra careful, and when the clock hit 9:30, I immediately logged in and went for my first option: Peer Leader Training. I made Peer Leader Training my number one priority because it is a limited level-100 class so I knew my chances of securing a spot were slim. But luckily the odds were in my favor, and a seat in my top pick was mine!”
- Bella Utami, Admissions Blog: Click Wars: A Course Registration Battle

Well, Bella, in my case, it was my intention from the very beginning to lose the click wars.

Because you see, the thing about many of the top picks is that they are just the popular, well-known courses. That’s why many people go for them—why forge a new path when you don’t need to? It’s the safe and sensible action to go for the option that is most recommended.

But safe and sensible isn’t always in my nature.

Let’s add one more detail to Bella’s blog: from what I’ve experienced, click wars are often done in groups. This is because by doing it together, they can consult with their friends about which subject they will take or drop altogether. I being the nonconformist, decided sometime in my third semester to take a subject which all of my friends told me to drop.

“But why drop it?” I had asked.

“It’s hard,” they would reply.

I shrugged. I would have unchecked it, but feeling a little bit adventurous, left the subject ticked on my schedule. It’s just the one hard class, I told myself. It’ll be fine.

Two weeks passed, and it was back to school. I entered the aforementioned dubious class.

In this class meant to sit a grand total of two hundred students, there were fifteen.

The teacher entered a few minutes late. “Sorry, I was caught up in a conversation with a different professor,” he said with a giant grin on his face. “Something to do with politics in the Philippines—speaking of which!”

He continued the entire class, grinning and laughing, utterly unfazed by the number of students in his class. To my surprise, I was laughing too, up until I saw the syllabus. He explained that we needed to read a grand total of twelve books for this two-and-a-half months’ course, or roughly a book a week. Each of which is around three hundred pages.

His eyes were twinkling as he spoke.

For the next quarter, anything would have been a welcome respite from the constant flurry of words, facts, and papers-to-read that occupied my brain. Forget reviewing after class—most of my time was spent reading in preparation for the next class. I savored any small moment of free time I had.

However, no matter how exhausted I was, or how bruised and battered my motivation was, I had fun.

This professor was among the best academics I’ve listened to in my life. He was easygoing, hilarious, and deeply intelligent. And his lessons stuck with me—it’s been almost three years and I can still remember vividly that, the concept of “the tyranny of the majority” was first found in the 1800s by J.S. Mill in his book On Liberty. And he would always relate these abstract philosophical concepts with the real world, for example, on how we can see examples of this in social media or scientific discourse.

That wasn’t to say that I did extremely well in terms of my final letter grade. The professor was fun, but the class itself was exhaustingly difficult. I complained to him that the tests were too hard, and I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. And he laughed and smiled at me, and said something to the effect of:

“Well, some people didn’t seem to think so. But don’t worry too much about it—I mean, I never really thought that tests are a complete reflection of what you’ve learned! So long as you remember what you’ve learned from my classes for the next five, six years, I’d consider that a job well done,” he finished, and laughed.

To every one of my friend’s surprise, the next semester, I was back again. Same teacher, different subject; same number of students. “But you didn’t get an A+ from him last time,” they said, worried. “Shouldn’t you be careful?”

“Nah,” I replied. “He’s fun, and I learned a lot.”

And as a result, I stopped caring about the click wars. I’ve learned that the path that everyone takes is not necessarily the path that was meant for me. And I’m not saying that the popular classes aren’t educational—because they are! However, I’m here to challenge the limits of what I can do and what I can learn, and if that means straying away from the top picks—then so be it!


This blog topic came to me one night, during this semester, my last semester. A second year student was considering dropping out of a class she was taking with me, although she was reluctant to do so as she thought the syllabus was good. However, the workload and threat to her GPA intimidated her, on top of the fact that all her friends were dropping it.

My advice to her, “Listen, just make sure you’re having a good time. If this class doesn’t match your goals or expectations, then drop it! That should be your only metric for dropping or staying. But don’t ever let your friends decide for you. Not your GPA, not your friends. Base your decision on whether or not the course fits your interest and you think you’ll learn something. Nothing else.”

I patted her on the back. “And with that out of the way, I’ll see you there next week.”

Next week, she was there, sitting in front of me. Alone, yes, but with a smile on her face ready to learn.

The photos featured are courtesy of APU Student Social Media Unit member Luu Ha Anh.



Kilameida Irwantoro (Kila) is an APS graduate from Indonesia. During his time at APU, he was a member of the APU Social Media Unit and a regular contributor to this blog. If he’s not hanging in a game center or the library, you’re likely to find him typing away in McDonald’s. He dislikes small talk and prefers to talk at length about Plato, or the latest episode of whatever anime he’s watching at the time.

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