Choosing a Major…or Two…

Let me start by saying that I started late. I purposefully didn’t look up classes or professors before arriving for new student orientation, so when I first enrolled in classes at Stanford, I had no idea what I was doing. I think this was a good thing, because I ended up doing everything. I took a myriad classes from Physics to Race and Ethnicity Studies to Fiction Writing, trying to focus on topics or disciplines I had never experienced (and once leaving college, from then on, might never have the opportunity to experience again).

This was great because it meant I was always learning something totally new. Even though I’m not majoring in the following things, I can still tell you a fair amount about medical device patents, Malcolm Gladwell’s personal struggle with race, the history of cystic fibrosis in medicine, what a “cento” is, and how diapers work. These are things I would have never learned if I hadn’t strayed from the academic paths I was most likely to follow, given my academic record in high school.

But, it was not great because, while it might have been a surprise to me, I’m sure it’s no surprise to my reader that in college you need a major to graduate. And while I was exploring the hinterlands of academia, many of my peers were chugging through foundation courses that gracefully deposited them into a major that nicely fitted with their aptitude and interest.

I feel anxiety when I think about the fact that I will not get out of my “Stanford experience” everything worth getting. Already I’m sad I didn’t live in a co-op, I didn’t see enough student plays, I didn’t take that one film class, I didn’t try to minor in CS…The best kind of problem is the one you can’t complain about, and I definitely have anxiety about my “best problem”: There’s always something awesome I could be doing.

I feel anxiety when I think about the fact that I will not get out of my “Stanford experience” everything worth getting. Already I’m sad I didn’t live in a co-op, I didn’t see enough student plays, I didn’t take that one film class, I didn’t try to minor in CS…The best kind of problem is the one you can’t complain about, and I definitely have anxiety about my “best problem:” There’s always something awesome I could be doing.

On one hand, at Stanford I had found a passion for Human Biology, this weird and wonderful interdisciplinary department that studies the human being from (including but not limited to) biological, behavioral, social, and cultural perspectives. You can go pretty much any way you want with this major, from sports medicine to child development to environmental policy. I love learning about the interactions your body has with its environment, and subsequently all the little life hacks involved in the course (feeling stressed? Oh, here’s a physiological explanation for why, and while we’re at it, here’s a number of long-term solutions currently being researched!).

On the other hand, this little language called Latin kept calling me back. Most people don’t understand why anyone would “care about a dead language,” but I appreciate learning about an ancient people and culture I will never be able to experience myself. Also, a byproduct of learning Latin is learning other languages, including furthering your own understanding of English, and learning about a few facets of our own culture that you’d never learn about unless you took Latin. And, here at Stanford our Classics department is blissfully small in comparison to human biology, which is only rivaled in number of graduating seniors by computer science.

It is not uncommon for classics students to spend their summers abroad in Greece or Italy, sometimes on archaeological digs.

It is not uncommon for classics students to spend their summers abroad in Greece or Italy, sometimes on archaeological digs.

Also, I couldn’t really envision myself narrowing my studies to a single major. It felt a little wrong, a little sad, for me to spend half my time here studying one thing when there were so many things worth studying. Why not two? Why not three? Why not everything? Well, if you want to graduate, you have to pick. So, a couple of weeks ago I sat down and decided what I was going to major in. This was quite late in the process, by the way; Stanford says that students should declare by the end of their sophomore year. I was a good number of weeks into my junior year and would not have bothered declaring still, if not for the fact that I wouldn’t be able to enroll in classes unless I declared a major. (I wasn’t incredibly motivated.)

I am now a junior undergraduate double majoring in Classics and Human Biology. My concentration in Classics is Latin, and in Humbio, “the interaction between health and behavior” (you get to make up your own title). The two aren’t related much, and I like to think that the variety in my schedule is the spice of my life at the moment. I love that one day I’m studying Greek and Latin, and the next about physiology and health; and I hope by the end of my time here, I’ll be a jack of a few trades, and a master of two.

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