A friend of mine who used to attend Miami University once told me about an encounter she had with an older acquaintance of hers prior to coming to Miami. When asked what she planned on studying in college, she responded, “I am thinking of double majoring in international studies and Russian, East European and Eurasian studies.” Perplexed, the acquaintance inquired, “So, do you have any goals in life?” implying that heading down such a path would result in a dead-end career.
To put it bluntly, this kind of mentality is not only limiting, it’s downright wrong. This is precisely the kind of discouragement that young people should never be subjected to during their brief sojourn in college. For many, college is the first opportunity to delve into areas of genuine academic interest, and the wide array of courses offered at this university alone supports this search for an appropriate major. Inevitably, however, some areas of study retain a superiority complex of being more valuable, applicable and profitable post-graduation than others (I won’t name names). Herein lays fallacy number one.
Contrary to popular belief, any major can take you where you want to go, provided one puts in some effort along the way. It’s surprising that majors like international studies, Russian, political science or psychology are frequently viewed as “joke majors,” meaning easy, useless and liable to aggravate overprotective parents. I mean, “Why try poli-sci, right?” No. In reality, any major can become a “joke major” if students slack off and skip class or play beer pong every other night and imbibe massive amounts of repulsively-delicious Natural Light. By the same token, any major can also be highly rewarding if students with a keen interest take it seriously both inside and outside the classroom.
Luckily, all four of the aforementioned subjects are strong suits of our university, and each offers an intense curriculum that demands student involvement and dedication and at the same time offers unique opportunities outside of class. For example, just this past Wednesday, the Havighurst Center for Russian and post-Soviet studies hosted Maria Gaidar, a young political activist from Moscow and daughter of former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, on her inaugural visit to the United States. Gaidar is the founder of an opposition movement called Democratic Alternative (DA!), which focuses on increasing civic engagement and putting pressure on state officials in order to develop a more transparent government in Russia. She is most certainly a rebel with a cause and guess what? Miami invited her to speak on our campus before anyone else in the entire country. That’s far from mediocre, folks.
Miami University is also a pioneer in study abroad, but many students seem oddly reluctant to explore this possibility wholeheartedly. Although Miami boasts excellent programs in places like Dominica, Kosovo, Tibet and Russia, students continue to give excuses such as, “It costs too much money,” “I don’t have time to study abroad” and most commonly, “I don’t want to miss an exciting year on campus.” Alas, letting this opportunity slip by is arguably one of the worst disservices students can do for themselves as undergraduates. Most importantly, traveling abroad opens up a whole new range of possibilities for in-depth study (on-site research, field work, internships and employment) and allows students to develop relationships with people around the world. Furthermore, once students step outside the cornfields of Oxford, they find that many of these “joke majors” are actually relevant when placed in the global context, a perspective often eclipsed by our day-to-day concerns here on campus. Don’t let the naysayers fool you: you can afford to study abroad; you have plenty of time to do it; and lastly, do not dwell on what you might miss here at Miami, but rather think of what you will gain by going away.
In general, it seems many Miami students are preoccupied with the “afterlife” rather than really taking advantage of what is available here and now as an undergraduate. Perhaps less time should be spent on building superficial resumes and more time flipping through the course catalogue and picking out a class that looks interesting, even if it’s not necessarily “marketable” later. This is not to suggest that students take random, unrelated courses all four years (we need majors to graduate, obviously), but a little experimenting never hurt anyone. Our short stay at Miami could potentially be the only time in our whole lives to sign up for courses that actually make us want to roll out of bed and go to class everyday. One of the last things first-years and those who are undecided need to hear is that the world of academia is reduced to only a few majors (you know the culprits) that will be worthwhile in the long run, when virtually endless possibilities exist. Thankfully, there is no predetermined path that students are obligated to follow in order to be successful after they leave Oxford. According to the Miami Bulletin, there are a total of 127 majors to choose from. Unless I am mistaken, the Miami Plan for Liberal Education is founded on the principles of shaping well-rounded individuals and celebrates a diversity of interests, not uniformity. Evidently, however, not everyone agrees with this philosophy.
Sadly, another friend of mine who goes to Northeastern University in Boston told me that within the chemical engineering department there is a running joke that the College of Arts and Sciences is really the College of “Arts and Crafts.” This joke pisses me off. The last time I checked, there were no classes in CAS that involved creating macaroni pictures, finger painting or snowflake cutting, but I guess they do things differently up north.
This mockery has gone on long enough. So what if your major does not earn you mad dough or help you ascend the corporate ladder at record speed after graduation? Not everyone has the same agenda for their future, especially at the ages of 18 to 22. College is a time to study what you are passionate about, and once you’ve discovered what that is there will always be an outlet to channel that energy. In the meantime, do what you love, love what you do and go study abroad. The clock is ticking and before you know it we’ll all be out of here. Carpe diem, comrades.