UC San Diego is one of the biggest research institutions in the world, known for its biology, engineering, and computer science programs. Students from all over come here to study different STEM-related fields, hoping that their hard work (and the prestige of the school) will help them get high-paying and fulfilling jobs.
Looking at it from a literature major perspective, it all seems a bit daunting.
You’ve probably heard the same questions that I have. A literature major? At UCSD? But…why? People always question my dedication to the field, my interest in it, and even my future job prospects. I once overheard a girl ask her friend, “who would ever be a lit major?” She was not talking about me, but I still had to resist chiming in.
The funny thing is that being a literature major was never really my plan. I applied as one because I liked writing, but I had always assumed that my final degree would be in something else. When people asked me what I planned on studying, I would say “Oh, I’m a literature major but that’s probably going to change.” I had never felt a strong connection to the subject, seeing it as more of a placeholder before I discovered what I really wanted to do.
But over time, I began to realize that graduating with a degree in literature might actually be my final goal. I really like all of the classes that I have taken so far and I’ve heard that they only get better from here. There are not any other majors that I would rather pursue. Unfortunately, the more set on this path I become, the more doubts appear.
In all honesty, I do not know what I’m going to do with a literature degree. My parents always told me that with a degree in the humanities, you can do everything and you can do nothing, a sentiment that is not ideal for someone as indecisive as me. No matter how much I rationalize or look up jobs or make plans for grad school, there is always this voice telling me to choose something more practical with a clear career path. Sometimes those voices are in my head, sometimes they come from other people.
I don’t mind when people make fun of my major. When it comes to friends I know it is not serious, and that I can always make fun of their majors in return. But every once in a while I get reminded that people with other majors are moving so much faster than I am. STEM majors know what jobs they want when they graduate. They know how they are going to pay their bills. They are cramming for finals week when I sit off to the side with my silly little book, making my silly little highlights. And while some of these may be exaggerations or flat out false, it is how I feel.
The work you do as a literature major, or even as a humanities major, is vastly different — though not necessarily easier — than what you study in hard science or math. And with a school that is mostly STEM majors, that difference can feel overwhelming. I cannot help but feel that, when everyone around me is talking about clicker questions or MATLAB, I am falling behind and making the wrong decision. That once we graduate, everyone else will know what they are doing while I am still figuring things out.
I guess what I am trying to say is that being a humanities major at a majority STEM school, at least in my experience, comes with a lot of doubt. It is hard and it’s scary to see everyone around you doing work that is so much more tangible than yours. It is difficult to have a major that does not apply to the job market well while everyone else around you does. This also applies to people who are not a part of the humanities division, but still have a lot of doubts about their future.
What helped me was realizing that college is not a competition. I am trying not to worry about what everyone else is doing, and what everyone else is studying because my path is going to be different anyway. All of our paths are going to be different. Nobody knows what they are doing every step of the way, even though from here it seems like they might. So relax, and take a deep breath. Everything is (probably) going to be fine.
Photo by Annie Spratt from Unsplash