Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan

College isn't easy--for anyone. And it's changed a lot over the years, but I'm not sure all of the employees in higher ed (myself included) always recognize just what the students are going though.

I read a pretty stellar novel in October called My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan. Here's the Goodreads summary:
After fifteen years of teaching anthropology at a large university, Rebekah Nathan had become baffled by her own students. Their strange behavior—eating meals at their desks, not completing reading assignments, remaining silent through class discussions—made her feel as if she were dealing with a completely foreign culture. So Nathan decided to do what anthropologists do when confused by a different culture: Go live with them. She enrolled as a freshman, moved into the dorm, ate in the dining hall, and took a full load of courses. And she came to understand that being a student is a pretty difficult job, too. Her discoveries about contemporary undergraduate culture are surprising and her observations are invaluable, making My Freshman Year essential reading for students, parents, faculty, and anyone interested in educational policy.

Rebekah Nathan (which is a pen name, by the way--it was important to the author to keep her anonymity) enrolls as a freshman at the University where she is an anthropology instructor. The name of the University is never revealed, but rather referred to as AnyU. Nathan examines her experiences as middle-aged, first time college freshman. Specific areas of "research" include the residence hall, community and diversity, perception of others, academic performance, and time management in college. In the end, Nathan reviews what lessons she learned in her freshman year of college.

The text is very well-written, but definitely written by an anthropologist, not a professional writer. Research Nathan gathers has been proven true in my college experience (this book was written one year before I went to college), and much of it likely holds true today.

I highly recommend this novel for anyone in academia--staff and faculty alike. It's important we are able to connect to our students and understand what their experiences may be like. Parents may also find this novel interesting. Students? While it would be interesting, it would probably feel too much like an anthropology lecture.
Annual page goal progress:
My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan
Rating: 5/5         
Pages: 168          
Page Goal: 17,054/15,000

Questions for my readers:
1. What is one of your fondest college memories?
2. Would you ever pick up a book about college from an anthropological viewpoint?

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