This is the first post in Spectrum’s “Freshman Firsts” series, in which writers reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly of their first year at Columbia. To submit your own Freshman First story, send it to email@example.com.
The first time I spoke in class was about a week into my first semester at Barnard. It was in my European History lecture, and we were talking about the Renaissance. Easy stuff, right? The professor asked a basic question. I raised my hand and said the answer I was certain was correct. I learned it in 10th grade for the AP. That answer was wrong. The professor didn’t even give the cute “That’s true, but not what I’m looking for” answer. He just said “No, that’s not it.” Humiliating, I know. Later in the lecture I attempted once more to speak. Once again, the question posed was simple, and once again I was shot down.
With my confidence absolutely blown, I spoke maybe once more after that.
Talking in class is incredibly daunting. It takes a lot of time to share an idea with a full lecture hall. I found myself happily talking in seminars but too scared to speak in lecture. It took some trial and error to finally get myself to speak in large classes. (And by speak I mean BS reading that I barely did.)
Yesterday in a seminar, my professor explained that if you don’t like speaking in class, you are the only one who knows that. So just fake it ’til you make it. When speaking–whether in a large lecture or a small seminar–you just have to get over that awkward and scary moment of being wrong. Aside from the fact that public speaking is an excellent skill, almost all professors count participation. Additionally, students and professors will appreciate new thoughts and ideas. Who knows? Maybe you will foster a really interesting discussion or even boost your grade.
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