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The Hardest Class I’ve Taken

Fátima talks about the hardest class she’s taken at Carleton, and why she's going to take it again! 

Fátima talks about the hardest class she’s taken at Carleton, and why she's going to take it again! 

When I asked my friends what the hardest class they have taken at Carleton is, answers like Organic Chemistry I, Math Structures, Observational Drawing, and Critical Methods (an English course) immediately flooded the conversation. I have a bit of an unorthodox answer, for my most difficult class didn’t require me to grasp sophisticated theories or devote endless hours to problem sets or sketches. That is because the hardest class I have taken in college is…

Swimming: Fitness

All Carls are required to complete four terms of Physical Education to fulfill one of the Liberal Arts requirements. These 1-credit courses range from Juggling and Social Dance to Rock Climbing and Step Aerobics and encompass basically anything that involves moving your body. 

I took my first PE class during my freshman spring term. I have always enjoyed swimming, and though my technique and stamina are by no means those of competitive swimmers, I figured I was a good enough swimmer to sign up for PE 172 – Swimming: Fitness.

Thorpe Pool viewed from the farthest right end of the pews.
We swim in Thorpe Pool, located in West Gym. I love that no matter what the weather is outside, in here it always feels tropical!

I came to find that what I had envisioned as a relaxing, low-stakes class was everything but (to be honest, I should have known better. It does have Fitness on the name, after all). From the first moment we jumped into the pool, we were pushed to our healthy limits. On the first day, for example, we had to swim continually for 20 minutes and keep track of how many laps we did. Though this may not sound too hard to you, for someone as unfit as I was, it was an extreme challenge.

For the next ten weeks, twice a week, I would jump into the pool and be expected to complete increasingly challenging drills, be constantly mindful of my technique, and develop even more complicated skills (like the butterfly stroke or the tumble turn). On the weekends, I would make my way to the Cowling Gymnasium’s pool to practice my technique and increase my endurance. There were days when every muscle in my body ached, days in which I had not gotten enough sleep, and days in which I did not feel like showing up just to be the slowest swimmer there.

Yet, even in those days, I showed up and swam along with everybody else. The positive feedback of my coaches (two of the nicest student TAs I’ve met), the encouragement of my lane mates, and the feeling of freedom I felt in the water helped me get through each session. 

Coach is surrounded by his athletes, as they prepare to put their hands together.
The coaches for Swimming: Fitness are always a combination of Carleton’s Swim and Dive team coaches and student athletes.

At the end of the term, I was nowhere close to where I wanted to be. My flip turn was still too inaccurate to be effective, I could hardly keep up with the fastest swimmers, and I was still a little too afraid to try diving from the high platform. But I was proud of myself and all the progress I had made. Swimming: Fitness reminded me why I enjoy swimming so much. It gave my body and mind time to reconnect and grow stronger together.

And that is why, even though it was the most physically taxing, mentally challenging, time-consuming, and humbling class I have taken at Carleton, I am taking it again!

As a junior, Fátima (she/her) is excited to continue her pursuit of a SOAN major and (hopefully!) Educational Studies, Latin American Studies, and Cross-cultural Studies minors. Outside class, she enjoys her leadership roles with Fellowship in Christ and the Undergraduate Journal for Humanistic Studies. In her free time, Fátima likes spending time with her mentee, poorly playing the piano, watching cartoons, and desperately missing her dog, Cosmo. Meet the other bloggers!