For the most part, university students are able to take courses that interest them and avoid classes that do not. That’s why some kind-hearted and brilliant administrator created deadlines to drop and add courses without penalty. Sadly, however, sometimes courses are required and only one professor teaches them. In those cases you just have to get through them. Don’t panic! You may never fall madly in love with non-Euclidean geometry or medieval history or ichthyology, but you can at least finish the semester without wanting to stab yourself with a cheap knife in the dining hall.
The most important step is to keep going to class. Yes, even though you hate it; and yes, even if it’s early in the morning; and yes, even if the professor puts the notes online (no, really. Go to class anyway). Why? Because the people who go to class are the people who genuinely care about the subject matter. Enthusiasm is infectious! So go let that kid who genuinely loves hearing about mitosis sneeze his joy all over you.
And while you’re going to class, form a study group. It’s true that there are study groups where the students involved don’t actually get a lot done – they tend to ask each other a few questions, and then the conversation turns to one-night-stands and binge-drinking. But you know what? That’s fine! As long as your questions are answered and you still do some studying, it’s fine to use Latin class as an excuse to make friends and flirt with attractive people who decided to major in Classics or a Romance language.
Now, let’s say that the professor assigns a paper topic that does not inspire you at all. Many professors will actually let you choose another topic if you go talk to them during office hours. Some won’t go that far, but will still talk to you and figure out an approach that plays to your strengths and interests. If you do go see your prof and find that you’re still completely stuck with a paper you hate, you do still have a couple of options. The first is to slip sneaky little pop-culture references or other silly things into your paper. This helps to keep you amused, and it’s always fun to see whether or not the professors notice your clever Doctor Who quip or bad pun. It might even get you a better grade, as professors are always happy to see something new while reading their umpteenth student paper on animal imagery in Shakespeare’s “Othello”. The second option is to promise yourself some kind of reward when you’ve finished. A really good reward, not just that beer you know you were going to drink anyway.
Keeping your eye on a prize always helps. For example, sometimes you may find yourself stuck in a required English Grammar course where even the girl with the semi-colon tattooed on her wrist looks like she wants to slash right through said tattoo. When that happens, it’s harder to rely on other people to get you through. Reminding yourself that the course is a means to an end can at least keep you on track, if not pleased to be spending your time and money listening to a lady in an unflattering skirt droning on about hortative sentences.
It’s a terrible cliché, but it’s true that the more you put into a class, the more you’ll get out of it. So go to class, talk to the other students, and make an effort to do well. Maybe you’ll leave your French Existentialism class with a newfound appreciation for Sartre. Maybe you’ll leave it with a deep hatred for Sartre and a new best friend who hates him too. Maybe you’ll get an A on your first paper and the pleasure of doing well will be enough to make you want to keep going. Put the effort in, and with any luck the enthusiasm will follow.