12 College Classes We Wish Our Schools Had Offered

I took a course last semester called "Research Methods and Theory." It was as exciting as it sounds. I would much rather have been taking one of these 12 classes. From pop culture to maple syrup, these aren't your average lectures.

1. The Horror Film in Context (Bowdoin)

With Halloween approaching, you will probably soon discover my love of scary movies "“ especially bad ones (Chopping Mall, anyone?) That's why I wish Bowdoin's course "The Horror Film in Context" was offered as a graduate class at Iowa State. It's not about the psyche of Freddy and Jason, however "“ students taking the class can expect to discuss why society is infatuated with horror movies and death in general.

2. Simpsons and Philosophy (Cal-Berkeley)

three-eyed-fish.jpegI'm sure my husband is considering enrolling at the University of California at Berkeley as we speak, just to take "Simpsons and Philosophy." You'll need to know more than Simpsons trivia "“ the class takes an in-depth look at how the long-running cartoon depicts social issues such as racism and politics. Passing the class, which includes writing a 22-minute show for the final exam, earns students two credits.

3. Maple Syrup "“ The Real Thing (Alfred)

maple.jpgChances are you probably don't spend too much brain power pondering maple syrup, besides wondering whether it's most delicious on French toast or pancakes. Alfred University in New York is changing that for all students who take the course "Maple Syrup "“ The Real Thing." It covers every aspect of the sweet breakfast topping, from production to products to, yes, recipes.

4. The Science of Harry Potter (Frostburg State)

HarryPotter_small.jpgAnother course near and dear to my heart is "The Science of Harry Potter," offered at Frostburg State University in Maryland. This class combines the fantastical with the physical by asking if some of the seemingly impossible things in the popular series could actually be plausible. Think about it: if there is a possibility that an invisibility cloak or a flying broomstick could actually exist, wouldn't you want to know?

5. Oprah Winfrey "“ The Tycoon (U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

oprah.jpgOprah is conquering the world. The talk show, the book club, the magazine"¦ and now, history class? The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offered "History 298: Oprah Winfrey "“ the Tycoon" in its class schedule several years ago. Like many of the other courses on this list, the class was more than meets the eye. Although it appears to be about the famous talk show queen, the class uses Oprah's cultural rise to study race, class and gender issues.

6. Far Side Entomology (Oregon State)

thefarside.gifI took an entomology class during my undergrad and found it much more interesting than I thought I would. Imagine how enthralled I would have been with Oregon State's "Far Side Entomology," which used Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons to study insects. Larson's tactic of giving his insects human qualities make them more relatable, which in turn gave students research ideas and questions they may have not otherwise thought of. Before you commence transfer proceedings, know that this class is no longer offered.

7. History of Electronic Dance Music (UCLA)

ccmusic.jpgDo you still love C+C Music Factory? Get pumped to Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" while driving? Then the UCLA's "History of Electronic Dance Music" would probably be a cakewalk for you. According to the syllabus, "Class lectures will deal with the historical narratives told about the music, musical form and technique in dance music, the political and cultural implications of the relentless hedonism of the dance floor, the influence of chemicals and technology on music production and consumption, and the aesthetic possibilities and pitfalls when popular music is no longer synonymous with popular song."

8. The Future is Lost: TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon (Tufts)

Lost-logo.jpgNext February is a very important month. Why, you ask? Because it's when Lost returns. If, like me, you're desperately jonesing for a Lost fix NOW, go ahead and enroll at Tufts University, the home of a 13-week Lost seminar. Be prepared to talk about more than Jack's propensity for crying and Sawyer's offensive nicknames for the other Lostaways, though. Topics include thematic complexity, mechanical complexity, literary references and philosophies. The course culminates with students pitching an idea for a television series to the rest of their classmates.

9. Goldberg's Canon: Makin' Whoopi (Bates)

whoopi.jpgIf you're excited about Whoopi Goldberg's The View debut, it's too bad you missed out on Bates College's "Goldberg's Canon: Makin' Whoopi," the only course anywhere (that I could find) dedicated to the former Caryn Johnson. As far as I can tell, the last time the class was offered was the 2003-04 school year, so anyone wanting to discuss her "controversial persona as an antagonistic public figure" (so says the syllabus) is out of luck for now.

10. Muppet Magic: Jim Henson's Art (UC-Santa Cruz)

muppets.jpgFor some reason, I feel like the ratio of mental_floss readers who grew up watching and learning from Sesame Street is probably high. Thus, by my theory, most of us would be thrilled to count Theater Arts 80L, "Muppet Magic: Jim Henson's Art" at the University of California Santa Cruz as part of our course load. The class studies how Muppets have changed television, film and art since Jim Henson created them.

11. Getting Dressed (Princeton)

fashion.jpgSeriously, some days getting dressed takes a lot more effort than it should. Enter Princeton's "Getting Dressed" class, a freshmen-only course that lets students discuss controversial topics such as jeans, baseball caps, tattoos, flip-flops and Chuck Taylors. It's more complicated than just figuring out what to wear in the morning, though. The class discussed how people use fashion to do everything from study history to assess character. Although it doesn't appear that the class is offered any longer, Princeton does offer other interesting-sounding freshmen seminars, including "Google and Ye Shall Find?" and "Good to be Shifty: American Swindlers."

12. Biblical Model for Home and Family (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

A real controversy exists around the "Biblical Model for Home and Family" course at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The class, for females only, teaches cooking, sewing, and says that wives should submit graciously to their husbands. OK, what I said at the beginning of this article was wrong: I'd much rather sit through "Research Methods and Theory" than learn how to "submit graciously."

So, what's the craziest class you've ever taken?

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Medicine
Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Words
Beyond Wanderlust: 30 Words Every Traveler Should Know
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For those who travel, wanderlust is a familiar feeling. It’s that nagging voice in your head that says, “Yes, you do need to book that flight,” even if your bank account says otherwise. Regardless of how many passport covers this word may adorn, it doesn’t begin to cover the spectrum of emotions and experiences that can be revealed through the act of travel. Here are 30 travel words from around the world to keep in your back pocket as you're exploring this summer.

1. VAGARY

From the Latin vagari, meaning “to wander,” this 16th-century word originally meant a wandering journey. Nowadays, "vagaries" refer to unpredictable or erratic situations, but that doesn’t mean the old sense of the word can’t be invoked from time to time.

2. SELCOUTH

An Old English word that refers to something that’s both strange and marvelous. It's a great way to sum up those seemingly indescribable moments spent in an unfamiliar land.

3. FERNWEH

Who hasn’t felt a strong desire to be somewhere—anywhere—other than where you currently are? That’s fernweh, or “farsickness," and this German word has been described as a cousin of wanderlust, another German loan word.

4. DÉPAYSEMENT

A busy street in Hong Kong
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Anyone who has traveled abroad will recognize this feeling. The French word refers to the sense of disorientation that often sets in when you step outside your comfort zone, such as when you leave your home country.

5. DÉRIVE

Another gift from the French, this word literally translates to “drift,” but thanks to some mid-20th century French philosophers, it can also refer to a spontaneous trip, completely free of plans, in which you let your surroundings guide you.

6. PEREGRINATE

To peregrinate is to travel from place to place, especially on foot. Its Latin root, peregrinus (meaning “foreign”), is also where the peregrine falcon (literally “pilgrim falcon”) gets its name.

7. PERAMBULATE

Similar to peregrinate, this word essentially means to travel over or through an area by foot. So instead of saying that you’ll be walking around London, you can say you’ll be perambulating the city’s streets—much more sophisticated.

8. NUMINOUS

The Grand Canyon
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This English word could appropriately be used to describe the Grand Canyon or the Northern Lights. Something numinous is awe-inspiring and mysterious. It's difficult to understand from a rational perspective, which gives it a spiritual or unearthly quality.

9. PERIPATETIC

The young and the restless will want to incorporate this word into their lexicon. The adjective refers to those who are constantly moving from place to place—in other words, a nomadic existence. It stems from the Greek word peripatein (“to walk up and down”), which was originally associated with Aristotle and the shaded walkways near his school (or, according to legend, his habit of pacing back and forth during lectures).

10. WALDEINSAMKEIT

You’re alone in a forest. It’s peaceful. The sun is filtering through the trees and there’s a light breeze. That’s waldeinsamkeit. (Literally "forest solitude." And yes, Germans have all the best travel words.)

11. SHINRIN-YOKU

In a similar vein, this Japanese word means “forest bathing,” and it's considered a form of natural medicine and stress reliever. There are now forest bathing clubs around the world, but you can try it out for yourself on your next camping trip. Take deep breaths, close your eyes, and take in the smells and sounds of the forest. Simple.

12. SOLIVAGANT

In those moments when you just want to run away from your responsibilities, you may consider becoming a solivagant: a solo wanderer.

13. YOKO MESHI

This Japanese phrase literally translates to “a meal eaten sideways,” which is an apt way to describe the awkwardness of speaking in a foreign language that you haven’t quite mastered, especially over dinner.

14. RESFEBER

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You just booked your flight. Your heart starts racing. You’re a little nervous about your journey, but mostly you just can’t wait to get going. The anticipation, anxiety, and excitement you get before a big trip is all rolled into one word—resfeber—and you can thank the Swedes for it.

15. FLÂNEUR

Taken from the French flâner, meaning to stroll or saunter, this word describes someone who has no particular plans or place they need to be. They merely stroll around the city at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and enjoying the day as it unfolds.

16. GADABOUT

This could be construed as the traditional English equivalent of flâneur. Likely stemming from the Middle English verb gadden, meaning “to wander without a specific aim or purpose,” a gadabout is one who frequently travels from place to place for the sheer fun of it. In other words: a modern-day backpacker.

17. HIRAETH

Sometimes, no matter how amazing your vacation may be, you just want to come home to your bed and cats. This Welsh word sums up the deep yearning for home that can strike without warning. As Gillian Thomas put it in an interview with the BBC, “Home sickness is too weak. You feel hiraeth, which is a longing of the soul to come home to be safe.”

18. YŪGEN

The karst peaks of Guilin, China
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This Japanese word can be taken to mean “graceful elegance” or “subtle mystery,” but it’s much more than that. It's when the beauty of the universe is felt most profoundly, awakening an emotional response that goes beyond words.

19. SCHWELLENANGST

Translating to “threshold anxiety,” this German word sums up the fears that are present before you enter somewhere new—like a theater or an intimidating cafe—and by extension going anywhere unfamiliar. The fear of crossing a threshold is normal, even among the most adventurous of travelers—but it often leads to the most unforgettable experiences.

20. COMMUOVERE

Have you ever seen something so beautiful it made you cry? That’s commuovere in action. The Italian word describes the feeling of being moved, touched, or stirred by something you witness or experience.

21. HYGGE

This Danish word refers to a warm feeling of contentedness and coziness, as well as the acknowledgement of that feeling. Although not explicitly related to this term, author Kurt Vonnegut summed up the idea behind this concept quite nicely when he said, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

22. HANYAUKU

Here's one for those who have a beach trip coming up. Taken from Kwangali, a language spoken in Namibia, hanyauku is the act of tiptoeing across hot sand.

23. SMULTRONSTÄLLE

A patch of wild strawberries
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This Swedish word translates to something along the lines of “place of wild strawberries,” but its metaphorical meaning is something along the lines of a "happy place." Whether it’s a hidden overlook of the city or your favorite vacation spot that hasn’t been “discovered” yet, smultronställe refers to those semi-secret places you return to time and time again because they’re special and personal to you.

24. DUSTSCEAWUNG

This Old English word describes what might happen when you visit a place like Pompeii or a ghost town. While reflecting on past civilizations, you realize that everything will eventually turn to dust. A cheery thought.

25. VACILANDO

In some Spanish dialects, the word vacilando describes someone who travels with a vague destination in mind but has no real incentive to get there. In other words, the journey is more important than the destination. As John Steinbeck described it in his travelogue Travels With Charley: “It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico city but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it.”

26. LEHITKALEV

Backpackers and budget travelers, this one is for you: The Hebrew word lehitkalev translates to “dog it” and means to deal with uncomfortable living or travel arrangements.

27. KOMOREBI

Sun shining in the woods
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This beautiful Japanese word is a good one to save for a sunny day spent in the woods. Komorebi translates to “sunshine filtering through the leaves.” Does it get any lovelier than that?

28. RAMÉ

This Balinese word refers to something that is simultaneously chaotic and joyful. It isn’t specifically a travel word, but it does seem to fit the feelings that are often awakened by travel.

29. TROUVAILLE

Translating to a “lucky find,” this French word can be applied to that cool cafe, flower-lined street, or quirky craft store that you stumbled upon by chance. Indeed, these are the moments that make travel worthwhile.

30. ULLASSA

Just in case you needed another reason to plan that trip to Yosemite, here's one last word for nature lovers. The Sanskrit word ullassa refers to the feelings of pleasantness that come from observing natural beauty in all its glory.

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