How I Chose My Majors


Well howdy doody! While most people have already started school already, being that my university is on the lovely quarter system, I don’t begin school until the 28th of September.

The beginning of the 2016-2017 school year marks the start of my junior year of college…well..actually I’ve been a junior technically since last Winter quarter, but now is my real third year of college.

When I started college back in 2014, my intention was to be a psychology major. After seeing the 400+ person lecture halls that comprise my university’s intro psychology classes, I decided that was not the life for me. In the Winter of my freshman year, I thought that since I didn’t want to do psych anymore, International Studies would be a great replacement major since I love traveling and learning about new cultures.

Basically for that entire quarter and the following, I was sure that I was going to major in International Studies, so I started taking the boo-boo awful required courses to apply for the major like Intro to Microeconomics. That class was so awful that it shook my desire to even continue in the major. I’m not a particularly math-y person and beyond the fundamentals of economics, it doesn’t really follow how my mind works. Plus, it was a bit off putting that my professor was insistent that people only do things for their own self-interest and no actions are ever truly altruistic. Even after my uncertainty if International Studies was something that I wanted to do, I continued down that path.

Then, I took my first anthropology class. In the spring of my freshman year I registered for a class called “The Human Past”. Essentially, the course was an introduction to the basics of anthropology like human ancestors, exploring the archeological record from the paleolithic to the neolithic, and a whole host of other interesting things.

Learning about anthropology, even in this very basic class was a huge inspiration for me to maybe explore other options of study besides International Studies and Psychology. Learning about the development of human language, material culture, physiology, and society was so incredibly enthralling for me. Once I learned one concepts in that class, it made me want to learn as much as I could about anthropology. So, after Spring Quarter, I decided that I would figure out my major for sure after my Autumn Quarter by taking an introductory International Studies class and a linguistic anthropology class. Once I finished that quarter, I would decide my major in Winter.

At this same time, I was taking Arabic. My love affair with Arabic began in my sophomore year of high school. I decided to take Arabic after school (in addition to taking Spanish during school) because I thought it would help me get into college. The program that led the Arabic program offered a study abroad trip to Morocco that summer and I was selected to go. Going to Morocco was awesome. It was the first time I’d ever been outside of the continent and I got to practice a whole new language, experience Ramadan for the first time, and meet some really awesome people. I kept taking Arabic my junior year of high school. That summer, I studied abroad with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). NSLI-Y allowed me to travel to Morocco again to learn Arabic for 6 weeks, which was honestly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Learning Arabic made available a ton of amazing educational experiences that I realized would be beneficial to me in high school and beyond.

In my senior year, I made sure to apply to colleges that offered Arabic, so I could continue my study of the language.

Fast forward to college…

By the time I got to my sophomore year of college, I’d already completed about half of a Near Eastern Studies Degree. At that point it made sense just to get the major anyway since I planned on continue to take Arabic throughout college.

During Autumn Quarter of sophomore year, I realized that I really really didn’t like International Studies very much. The introductory class focused too much on the West, capitalism, and policy. I didn’t enjoy the lack of focus on South and Central America or Africa unless they were important to the US at a certain point.

The linguistic anthropology class appealed much more to me because it focused on a variety of different groups of people. It was critical of systems of oppression that privilege certain identities and peoples over others. I felt that I was allowed to generate my own opinion and have it be validated (now this isn’t true for all of them, but there you go.)

The stark contrasts of my enjoyment in both of these classes made it clear to me that anthropology was a better fit for me than international studies.

Now as I enter my junior year, I’m really happy with my choice. I’ve been able to publish papers in my university’s undergraduate anthropology journal and travel abroad due to this major. Sometimes it is frustrating when people say that I’ll never get a job or that my degree is useless, it’s provided me with a really meaningful, applicable, and rich academic experience.

This year hopefully I’ll figure out what path I want to take in anthropology and improve my Arabic skills along the way.

What’s your college major and how did you decide on it?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @travelingcurl

*Side note: If you are a high school student interested in studying abroad apply for the NSLI-Y. It’s a totally paid scholarship. The State Department pays for your travel to Washington D.C./to the country/back home, plus housing in country, and gives a generous stipend. If you have any questions about it, please ask! I’m happy to answer any.*