Let’s be honest, finishing high school, coming to NYU excited to learn and dedicate all your energy to your major, and then realizing that you still have the Core Curriculum to take isn’t a cute look. Thinking you finally left behind all those tedious “gen eds” only to revisit them again in college can come with many questions. “I already took science in high school, why do I have to take it again?” or “I’m an Economics major, why do I need to study history?” 

Well, fear not. These classes are more valuable and useful than you think. NYU is a liberal arts institution. Therefore, each school and program has its own Core Curriculum that each student must complete in order to graduate. Being forced into a curriculum doesn’t sound enticing, right? However, once we shift our perspective of the Core from something compulsory to something designed to promote well-rounded thinking, we can find some hidden beauty in it. Below, I share the surprising experiences I have had with the Core Curriculum.

Core Specifics

The basic Core Curriculum consists of:

The requirements vary by school. For example, the Tisch School of the Arts has no math requirement. And the Stern School of Business has no language requirement. Yet, in general, this is what any NYU student should expect throughout their undergraduate career. Trust me, I saw the Core upon enrolling at NYU and got overwhelmed. It was a mixed bag of emotions—mostly excitement and fear. I want to show you how this Core is one of the best things at NYU. By highlighting my favorite classes, I hope to inspire you for when you get here.

Cultures and Contexts: Global Asia

Cultures and Contexts, part of the FCC requirement, introduces students to the ways in which humans come to understand themselves as members of social, religious, national, and regional collectives. It prepares students for life by fostering their appreciation of the dynamics of cultural interaction and influence. In its simplest form, it is a history class. I must admit I wasn’t good at history in high school, so I did have some fear going into this. However, coming from Europe where European history was the main focus, it was great to have an opportunity to expand outside of what I knew and rebrand the subject I had long dreaded.

From the Silk Road to the Mongol empire to Japan’s role in World War II, we covered it all. This class complemented what I had already learned about Europe in high school by highlighting what was going on in Asia. Making those connections was something incredibly new, exciting, and valuable. For that reason, I thank the Core for allowing me to thrive with these new perspectives.

A “The Simpsons” meme.
Life Science: Human Origins

By far one of the best classes I have taken at NYU! Life Science explores a wide range of subjects like biology, neuroscience, and anthropology. I decided to take this class because genetics sounded fun, and I wanted to learn more about it. Additionally, the course provided a comprehensive introduction to the field of biological anthropology and explored the evolutionary history of our lineage. Lectures were engaging. Recitations involved analyzing different fossils or exploring genetic variation in the class. Whatʼs more, we went to the American Museum of Natural History to visit the human origins hall. In a way, we used the city to our advantage. A lot of Core classes leverage the city to deepen your learning. This hands-on experience was something incredibly unique to the Core. It broke every expectation I had of a science class.

A hominid featured in the American Museum of Natural Historyʼs human origins hall.
This photo is from our trip to the museum. This species provided evidence for early bipedalism (movement on two feet), a distinguishing factor between apes and humans.
Texts and Ideas: Meaning

Texts and Ideas, part of the FCC requirement, is a diverse group of humanities courses that study challenging, influential texts about big ideas (read: a philosophy class). You might be thinking, “Why another FCC class?” You see, Stern doesn’t have the language requirement, so, to compensate, you have to take two FCC classes. I took this class because of my passion for linguistics and languages. This course didnʼt examine the meaning of life but how things get meaning, how we as humans create meaning, and the like. This class was music to my ears. We explored writing systems, computer languages, the oxymoron that is untranslatable words, and much more. It completely blew my mind and gave me the tools necessary to digest heavy works of philosophy. The Core Curriculum has also given me a way to discuss and debate different ideas.

(If it were in person and later than 8 a.m. on Fridays, this course would have been be number one on my list.)

A Wittgenstein quote: “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
One of the major philosophers we discussed in our class, Wittgenstein, proposed that speaking any language restricts your thoughts and mind to a specific format.

The Beauty of It

I have absolutely adored the Core and haven’t regretted taking any class. Say what you want about it, the advantage is that you can tailor it. The courses I took matched my interests or goals. For instance, studying the history of Asian countries in Cultures and Contexts enhanced my global business concentration. Or, since I was interested in linguistics, I took my Texts and Ideas class in the linguistics department. You truly are able to learn about whatever sparks your interest. Love rockets, space, or chemistry? Take a physical science course. Love film or theatre? Consider taking the Discovery and Recognition in Narrative, Film, and Drama section of Texts and Ideas. Explore all the different class options and don’t let them limit your NYU experience. 

Hence, I leave you with one final thought. While “gen eds” might have a lot of negativities attributed to them, you can take advantage of NYU’s Core to further your thinking and become the global thinker you have always wanted to be.

Neyl is a Junior at the Stern School of Business concentrating in Finance and Global Business and pursuing a Minor in the Business of Entertainment, Media, and Technology. Although his hometown is Munich, Germany, he has created a home for himself in New York City. Apart from being an Admissions Ambassador, he is an active member of the Dancers/Choreographers Alliance and loves creating choreography and performing with his club. On campus you will always find him every Friday at the International Student Center’s Foodie Friday event trying new food from around the world. Off campus you will also find him trying new food by exploring the many restaurants that the city has to offer. As a polyglot, he is a language fanatic and in his free time enjoys starting and never committing to a language, like High Valyrian, on Duolingo.