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Taking the Infamous Tough Class

Ethan shares his adventures in taking (and for the most part enjoying) a notoriously tough class: Anna Rafferty's Data Structures

Ethan shares his adventures in taking (and for the most part enjoying) a notoriously tough class: Anna Rafferty's Data Structures

Hello again! After reflecting on my self-motivation and time management in my blog last week, I have since had a really productive week followed by a really unproductive weekend. Well, decent start I guess?


After struggling to find appropriate topics to write on, I have decided to share my experiences taking CS201: Data Structures with Anna Rafferty at Carleton. This class, especially when taught by Anna, is one of the most infamously tough classes at Carleton. Almost every Carleton student who takes Data Structures will tell you that it is a very hard class, and also that Anna is an amazing professor that will force the best out of you and make you learn a lot. Most of these people will also add on and suggest you to not take her class and safe yourself from the misery. I initially took this advice and registered for a CS201 session with a different professor, but after a series of term of events I ended up in Anna’s session, and boy am I glad that it has happened this way for me!

How Did I End Up Here?

When registering for classes this term, the idea of taking CS201 was more like one of those “ugh I guess I’ll take it” situation for me, as it wasn’t the class that I was most excited about and I decided to take it more or less as a “natural” response after doing well and enjoying my Intro to CS class in winter term. After finding myself surrounded with my friends struggling with Anna’s CS201 in the CS Labs and listening to there experiences, I, like many others, decided to avoid her class at all costs. I specifically planned to take the session of CS201 offered by the other professor, even though many of my CS major friends highly recommended Anna and her class; I thought they had only enjoyed the class because they are CS majors (I am not).

In a series of events that involved me hanging onto 5 waitlists for classes compounded by Carleton’s changes to spring term, Anna became the only professor for both sessions of the now online Data Structures, and I decided to stick with the class. Had Carleton not implement the mandatory S/CR/NC system right now (it’s basically Pass/Fail for those who are not familiar with our Carleton-specific words), I would probably plan to SCRNC this class anyways, mostly out of fear.  Regardless, here I am now almost 5 weeks in, and most of my fear has proven to be unnecessary.

A Tough, But Really Good Class

I take back whatever prejudice I might have had for professor Anna Rafferty. After a half-term of intense online learning, I have found myself enjoying her Data Structures Class. I am taking advantage of the mandatory SCRNC system which lifted a lot of pressure for my grades, and the course itself is less intense than if we were on campus. But overall, I am keeping up with the pace, absorbing the learning material, and most importantly I am finding myself intrigued and interested in the content that we are learning, even though the content is much harder than what I was taught in Intro to Computer Science.

I have really enjoyed how Anna teaches, and although most of the class sessions are asynchronous, I can really feel her enthusiasm in teaching through meeting with her on Zoom, watching her recorded lessons, and reading her homework feedback; I really appreciate all of that. I have learned a lot about Java (which helped me to set up a Minecraft server, which helped me to procrastinate more over the weekend but that’s not the point here) and what are Data Structures. I am even more interested in becoming a potential Computer Science major now.

I am very thankful that stuff worked its way to force me to take the Data Structures class with my amazing professor Anna Rafferty, and I am super glad to be doing well and getting the best outcome out of it!

Thank you for reading my blog! Please stay inside and stay healthy in the meantime!

Ethan is a first-year international student from Beijing, China, and is exited to embrace the environment and winter in Minnesota. Ethan is a huge soccer fan as he watches and plays it as often as he listens to music, especially a cappella music by Pentatonix and other artists. Although his passions in Environmental Studies and Chemistry flow through his veins, Ethan is thrilled to explore other areas like Music and Computer Science in his time at Carleton. Meet the Other Bloggers!