Now that I’m halfway through college, I become increasingly nervous when others ask me, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” College students love to ask each other this question, just to contribute to the overall atmosphere of sheer panic.
Most humanities majors suffer judgement to some degree from naysayers who look pointedly at us and ask “What do you plan to do with that major?” I’m always psyched to be a double humanities major, so I can suffer double the judgement. But I am not here to answer the question of how my degrees will help me in the “real world,” because I am still cooped up in my Berkeley bubble, degree-less and jobless.
I’m only telling the story of how I ended up on my current path. In doing so, I want to demonstrate that everyone’s choices are determined by personal influences in their own lives. Before you judge someone else’s decisions in life, I hope you remember that most people make their choices with good reason, and you would do well to listen to their stories first.
Why I’m majoring in Comparative Literature
I’ve enjoyed literature since I was a child, always writing stories in little notebooks and devouring chapter books. Up through eighth grade, I was considered one of the better writers in my classes. Of course, I’m now surrounded by amazing writers who make me feel as if I have the analytical skills of an eighth grader.
I came to college as an intended English major. My first semester, I took an English class in Middle English, the first of many required courses. We read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Milton’s Paradise Lost. I never thought about switching majors until I visited my professor’s office hours for the second time. After we sat down, he casually asked, “So, who are you?”
“Who are you?” I asked myself over the next few days. I realized how large and impersonal the English department was, despite it being one of the top English programs in the nation. I visited Dwinelle Hall to check out the requirements for Comparative Literature. Oddly enough, I didn’t even think about Psychology or Cognitive Science or any of the other majors that might have been more interesting to me. I was still focused on studying literature.
I switched to Comparative Literature for the freedom to take foreign-language literature for my major requirements, allowing me to dabble in Chinese texts. I also considered taking French literature, but after one semester of time-consuming French 1 classes where I told my professor I had a Van Gogh table (tableaux), I gave up that plan.
I declared my Comp Lit major a few weeks ago. I’m still taking English courses, but don’t have to call myself an English major like the billion other people in my department. I’m still surrounded by intelligent people who are much more insightful than I will ever be, but I hope my classes and peers will help me become a better reader and writer.
Why I’m majoring in Music
I’ve always had the strange habit of allowing music to take over my life. I’ve dabbled in many instruments, and I’m proud to say I have rusty and amateurish skills in French horn, flute, saxophone, and erhu.
Berkeley isn’t known for having a particularly stellar music program, so I didn’t expect to be heavily involved in music. I only intended to join the orchestra and play percussion with my awesome friend Andy. Immediately, the orchestra began to demand more and more of my time. I didn’t think much of it, because I appreciated the community that orchestra provided. Everyone was so passionate about music. An aspiring conductor told me that most graduate music programs required a music degree, which is why he pursued one even after earning his biology degree at Berkeley.
Many of my orchestra friends were double majoring in Music and other subjects, so it was difficult to avoid the idea of becoming a music major. My conductor casually mentioned that if I became a music major, I would be able to take subsidized private lessons through the Music Department.
My first semester as an orchestra percussionist, Cal Performances provided me and other members of the orchestra a free trip to LA and NY, where we performed in Walt Disney Hall and Avery Fisher Hall with the London Philharmonic. It was an amazing opportunity that came out of nowhere.
On a bus ride during this tour, I suddenly thought to myself, “How awesome is this? Traveling the nation and expensive cities for free, just to play music? This could be my life.”
I returned to Berkeley with a new resolve. I declared my music major and started taking the required music theory lessons. There have been no free trips since, but music has still brought me amazing new experiences: playing gigs at a pizza place, performing in Mozart’s church, and banging on pitched flower pots, just to name a few.
Why I’m not majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
As much as I love science, I can’t deny the power of my inspirational high school English teachers who kept my fascination with literature alive and well. Ideally we could have more interdisciplinary fields that combined the arts with technology and science, but then again we wouldn’t have the in-depth focus necessary to succeed in a particular field.
That being said, I think we should have more opportunities to learn computer science at a younger age, since our culture is so steeped in the digital world. Ironically, I have zero patience with malfunctioning computers, since I operate in shades of gray. Computer logic is often all or nothing, right or wrong.
Since I’m a hypocrite, I still judge people with even more obscure majors than mine (according to LinkedIn, Governor Brown got a degree at Berkeley in Classics before going on to Yale Law School). But if I figure out what I love and want to study, others’ judgment should be irrelevant. Hopefully this post will inspire everyone to forge their own path. And hopefully I won’t be blogging later on about living in a cardboard box (just kidding).