I can’t believe it’s already the middle of the semester! It feels like just yesterday my family dropped me off at Biola to start my freshman year. As midterms are coming up, I thought I would talk you guys about some of my classes. In particular, I am going to be giving you all the inside scoop on Torrey!
For Torrey, you are put into a cohort with about 15-20 other people who will have discussions with for your next four years. You only have class twice a week and the classes are three hours long. Since Torrey is a great books program, our curriculum is based around reading and writing. We come to class prepared to discuss a book or part of a book, depending on how the reading schedule is broken up. In addition to having read the text before class, we prepare with pre-class notes as well. The length of these notes could be anywhere from 3-6 pages but has to be at least three and can expand as far as you want. I usually end up right at four pages, which is a good average of content. After our session is done, we will write pull questions on the text we discussed. Essentially the purpose of pull questions (PQs) is to give closure to our thoughts on the text and to keep our writing skills sharp. The length of PQs range anywhere from 300-600 words and are more like a reflection rather than a short paper. This is especially nice since these don’t have to be super formally written and it gives us the opportunity to come to a conclusion on our thoughts about the reading.
For class itself, it starts off with an opening question from the tutor. This question is: “What we are trying to answer during the discussion by showing evidence in the text?” Though we aim to answer the question, we do talk about other topics from the text in greater detail so that we have a better understanding of the book to answer the question. What I really love about session is that sometimes I go in thinking it will go a certain way, but end up finishing session having thought about something I never considered before. The questions the tutors give us are meant to challenge us intellectually. This explains why class is three hours long because there are so many aspects and ideas to take into consideration. Another great thing about session is hearing what other people in my cohort have to say. I have been challenging myself this semester to focus on listening instead of being the one to talk. Although this has been hard for me, I am starting to see the fruit that is coming from listening. Now I love hearing what my classmates have to say because I know I can learn something from their thoughts and ideas. This overall has helped in my understanding during sessions as well as my understanding of the text.
Looking at Torrey from an outsiders point of view, I am sure it can seem pretty daunting with lots of reading, writing, and discussion. However, I would ask that you reserve your judgement about Torrey until you actually try it. Coming in, I began to start doubting whether Torrey was the right program for me and whether I would actually enjoy it. I had heard all sorts of different stories. Some people would drop Torrey their second semester because they didn’t like the curriculum, and some people would join second semester because they didn’t want to miss out on what Torrey had to offer. Essentially, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place on whether to stick with Torrey or not. But, I am so glad I did. One of the first things they told us at Torreintation was that we read these great books because in order to live in the present and prepare for the future we need to understand our past. Great authors that I look up to such as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien read Plato and Homer. And so to better understand them and their works, I read the works that they had read. Additionally so, in our age we often disregard people of the past as we see ourselves as “better” and more advanced than they were in the past. However, many of the ideas that we have today developed from the past. In other words, our great ideas are not always original but usually a follow up idea of someone’s past idea. Most times it’s just the resurfacing of something that had been swept under the rug or simply a branch off of an already developed thing. Not to say that we aren’t continually creating and making things today, but we should read these works of the past because there is something to learn from those who once lived before us. Looking at Torrey in this way, I don’t feel like I’m just reading book after book to simply finish an assignment. Rather, I know what I read and discuss in session will shape me beyond just the classroom. If you have the chance to do Torrey, or have any interest in it, I would suggest chatting with a current student or one of the tutors. Though the style of learning is different from the normal Biola curriculum, it will benefit you in different ways. Torrey will teach you to think critically, to seek the good and true, and to see that you are not your ideas. We use our ideas and opinions to get closer to the truth we are seeking. So when we disagree with others, it does not taint our view of who they are as a person because our ideas do not define us. Instead we are able to use session as a way to come together knowing we differ in our own thoughts and ideas, and because of our differences, we then can learn more deeply.
Hopefully this is some good insight for you all on what Torrey is and what it entails in the classroom. Again, if you have any questions or interest, please reach out to another Torrey student or professor, they would love to chat with you!
Til’ next time,