About a month ago, I visited my Spanish advisor to ask about transferring credits from study abroad to count toward my Spanish minor. Although I hadn’t seen her for the better part of a year, Professor Quintero remembered me and warmly welcomed me into her office, which is covered from floor to ceiling in books. After discussing the classes I’d taken abroad, she informed me that with the amount of credits I now have, it doesn’t make logical sense not to major in Spanish. I was shocked; it had never crossed my mind to become a double major. The truth is, my interest in Spanish is not really academic. My plan had always been to study Spanish in college in order to maintain my language skills and then be able to travel after graduation. Learning about other languages fascinates me, but reading or writing about Spanish literature or scholarly articles is not my strong suit.
Learning that I had enough credits to major in Spanish was a surprise, but it probably shouldn’t have been. If you talk to enough Bryn Mawr students a pattern starts to develop: very few people end up following the exact same path they envisioned when they entered college. Our academic journeys take strange twists. One particular class or professor might open someone’s eyes to a previously unknown passion. Over time, a person’s chosen major may seem less relevant to their preferred career path. It can be hard to let go of your assumptions about yourself. When I was a sophomore I had little trouble deciding to be an English major, with a Spanish minor hastily thrown in for good measure. I now see that I could have been more open to challenging myself with a double major. On the other hand, if things hadn’t worked out for me quite so well, double majoring might have involved so many required classes that I wouldn’t be able to take as many electives or try new things.
My fellow banter blogger Maria is a sophomore who has spent this year deciding what majors to declare. She is now a double English and Sociology major. Maria has graciously agreed to answer some questions for this blog post about her perspective on the choice to double major.
Rachel: Which major did you choose first, and why did you decide to add a second? How does this choice add to your academic goals?
Maria: I chose Sociology first, pretty early in the fall semester of this academic year. I had realized that Psychology couldn’t capture all of my intellectual passions as naturally as Sociology did, and that I could still look at how people engage with one another while maintaining my dream of counseling and opening up more options for what I may do in my professional work. Not long after, I realized how much I need English in my life—chances to write more creatively and analyze language in a way my brain naturally does, that I could only really get from English courses that I would enroll in anyway, English major or not.
R: How do your two majors complement each other?
M: I think having understandings of both enrich one another. I can employ Sociological concepts to English material or take my critical eye for analysis into Sociology, as is the beauty of a liberal arts education. I can exercise different kinds of writing but learn from both or combine both if I so choose. There are many people here who chose to double major in English and Sociology, or who love both departments and find similar meaning in both.
R: How do the two departments at Bryn Mawr compare/contrast to one another?
M: Both departments are extremely warm! I haven’t had enough close experience in either department as I’m pretty new to the majors so I don’t know the tiny differences, but there are professors I absolutely love in both who I feel care genuinely about their students.
R: Do you think that you use very different skills for the different departments? Why/why not?
M: Not really! I employ so much English in my Sociological work and Sociology in my English work just from how I am as a student and as a person. They are both reading and writing heavy. For Sociology there’s certainly a research part of my brain that I need to turn on when I inhabit those spaces, where taking a Sociological lens to literature is more seamless. Especially with the English courses I’ve taken which tend to emphasize social identities, aside from learning how to understand research, the two overlap well.
R: Do you have any advice for a first-year student about choosing a major?
M: Give things a chance! Explore, trust your intuition on what things you love to think most about; there are so many expectations but remember that the choice is yours & there is always more learning, time, and a whole world for you outside of undergrad that will bring things you may not expect. The most energizing majors will come from there.