The Merits of the UIC Common Curriculum
July 05, 2021 by Chan Kim
UIC is unique as it offers a different education compared to other Korean universities. It may be daunting to select a major even before attending a university, for UIC, students take mandatory courses called Common Curriculum (CC) to learn various subjects in the field of humanities. After a year of focusing on CC courses, students are better equipped to both choose a major they are most interested in and tackle it. Common Curriculum courses are generally taught in relatively small groups of around 20 with professors encouraging active participation and fostering an environment with personalized discussions. Spending my first year this way allowed me to explore different fields of studies and confirm my major along with strengthening elementary skills.
CC courses helped me build fundamental skills necessary to make the most out of my upcoming classes. For example, one of my classes, Freshman Writing Intensive Seminar, helped me improve my writing through weekly assignments and essays. Each week, the professor would demand a prompt that explores a different aspect of a certain topic—for my semester, it was Orientalism. Some examples of these prompts were the factors that make Orientalism problematic and other examples that exhibit discrimination. These weekly assignments allowed me to look at a single topic in a variety of different perspectives. I later needed those skills in classes such as Political Economy of Development where I had to look at a variety of countries in different aspects such as their historical and cultural backgrounds to fully understand their political conditions. Moreover, I found an interest in economics, which would not have been possible without being equipped to get the most out of the class.
Another notable CC course I took was Research Design & Quantitative Methods. It required working on a semester-long project as a group. Each group would have to choose a research topic and then gather data such as conducting a survey or experiment. Planning how we should gather data required many meetings with group members. It was a good opportunity to experience working with others and learn the importance of planning ahead when working on a big project. I found that I needed these skills later in an extracurricular club activity where I had to work all semester as a group to complete various tasks such as preparing for presentations and coming up with startup items. My experience from RDQM taught me how to overcome group conflicts or how to converge opinions into one from other people’s discrete and independent ideas.
Despite my good experience with these courses, Common Curriculum courses have a notorious reputation. CC courses are rigorous and can even seem irrelevant to the students’ preferred majors. There is a fair claim that learning History from a History CC can seem to be unhelpful to students who wish to major in economics. However, I think spending a year exploring different topics and building skills benefited me more than most people. Additional practice in writing let me find the writer’s points more conveniently. I was also more careful to inspect the positive and negative aspects of an economic decision without being overly one-sided. CC courses let me explore other disciplines without committing entirely to them. CC courses keep students busy while giving them time to choose their majors based on the interests they find through the courses.