Life Learning

Tuesday 16 September 2014

10 of the most bizarre college courses from around the world

If you didn't get the one you wanted, don't despair. There are plenty of wacky and wonderful options out there.

Published 19/08/2014 | 02:30

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There are courses available for Star Trek fans in Washington DC's Georgetown University
Lady Gaga
Learn how to argue with Judge Judy at Berkeley

With Leaving Cert results finally here, students are thinking hard about the future. What college course will best serve their aspirations? Do they wish to expand their minds - or is it really all about preparing for a jobs market that, general economic recovery notwithstanding, remains precarious for 20-somethings?

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At least the choice of academic programmes in Ireland is straightforward. Internationally, the expansion of third-level education has created an entire field of straight-up bonkers subject choices. Here are some of the more curious.

Mail-Order Brides

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You don't actually have to interact with potential wives cherry-picked via the internet. Instead the course at Baltimore's prestigious John Hopkins University explores the phenomenon of mail-order brides from the Philippines in the context of the wider South-east Asian economy. Put it like that 
and it's almost underwhelming.

Philosophy 
of Star Trek

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What can Locutus of Borg teach about the meaning of life? Was the episode in which Captain Kirk wrestled a man in a lizard suit an exploration of the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy? (Come on, after a few beers we've all wondered.) Why does God need a starship? These questions - well some of them anyway - are up for debate at Washington DC's Georgetown University.

Alien Sex

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What it would be like to have a physical relationship with an extra-terrestrial is a question almost nobody on the planet has ever asked. Nonetheless, the answer is now available via a University of Rochester (New York) course that takes the Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars metaphor to an entirely new level.

Elvish: The 
language of 'the Lord of the Rings'

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Aa' lasser en lle coia orn n' omenta girth! If you can understand what I've just written, you might want to consider moving out of your parents' basement and getting a girlfriend. Or, perhaps you are a graduate of the Tolkien-inspired programme at the University of Wisconsin.

The Science of Harry Potter

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The simple answer is: there is no science in Harry Potter - it's about an 11-year-old wizard on a broomstick. However, if you wish to investigate whether Quidditch could be played using real world technology or tally how much cash JK Rowling makes every second (warning your calculator might spontaneously combust), this University of Frostburg, Maryland, course is for you.

Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular logic on tv Judge shows

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Ay! QUIET. You're about to discover the multitude of ways in which television 'judge shows' -  now a genre apparently - cleave to universal principles of logic. Sign up at Berkeley.

Underwater 
basket weaving

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In America, UBW is a metaphor for an activity that is painful and pointless (in Ireland we understand this is known as "playing hurling for Limerick"). However, the University of California, San Diego, now offers it as a course. Crushingly, you don't get to actually jump into the water: instead you douse reeds and manipulate them.

Zombies in 
Popular music

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Explore the diverse ways in which brain-chomping undead are portrayed in the media - and ask yourself why such depictions are always negative. Who's the real terror from beyond the grave in this relationship? At Columbia College, Chicago.

Learning from youtube

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Because cat videos have so much to teach…The course, at Pitzer College, Los Angeles, is described as "pedagogic experiment focusing on the potentials and limits of digital-media culture." We have no idea what that means. Still, as long as kittens are involved, colour us enthused.

Daytime 
serials: Family and social roles

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Amazing how much you can learn about life binging on terrible American soaps. At the University of Wisconsin's women's studies department, the philosophical underpinnings of the genre are teased apart and discussed in the context of gender roles and women in the workplace. Exciting!

Lady Gaga and the Sociology of fame

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If her music career ever goes kaput, Ms Gaga could find employment lecturing in 'how to release one really 
big album, then two enormous flops.' In the meantime, we will have to make do with this course from the University of South Carolina's sociology department. Professor Michael Deflem proclaims himself "smitten" with the singer; he's attended some 38 Gaga shows.

The Amazing World of 
bubbles

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Bubbles - they are 
am-azing. CalTech has even devoted an entire course to our translucent, pop-happy friends.

Irish Independent

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