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Conventionality Does Not Equal Excellence: On My Unusual Major

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Whenever I share with strangers that I’m an Emory University student, the first thing they say to me is, “Oh, Emory? that’s an incredible school. What are you majoring in?”

Cue: a choice. To lie, or suffer a blow to my self-esteem?

I’m an Interdisciplinary Studies major—the “make-your-own-major” program at Emory. I’m studying inclusivity in advertisement and entertainment media, with an added focus on journalism. I’m also exploring the possibility of teaching.

That is the shortest way for me to explain my path. The typical response? Usually I get something along the lines of “That’s…interesting. You plan on having a career in…that?”

Cue: me, flushed, scrambling to prove my education’s worth to a stranger. I attempt to pick up the pieces of a reputation built solely off a school’s name, and my vision of my future becomes just as fragile as my interaction with my inquisitor. I am no longer an Emory student in their eyes; I am risk, I am carelessness, I am radical, I am jobless, I am going to spend the rest of my life dependent on someone who actually makes money.

I find the judgement we impose on a student’s major incredibly alarming, especially when universities of high standing are involved. There is a real issue in how we think about educational prestige; for some reason, the value/standing of a university determines what career is worth getting out of the education it provides. The financial effort you go through to be able to attend Oxford and Emory post-acceptance somehow dismisses any areas of study that would not give you an obvious return on your investment. This is an ironically uneducated way of thinking about things. Why do we not allow students with unconventional majors to appreciate the things that interest them? Why do we look down on the pursuit of scholarship or artistry in top universities? Why do a student’s unique passions invalidate their desire for knowledge, a quality degree, and a future?

When I started high school, I decided to construct a plan for the rest of my life, to be set in stone by the end of my junior year. I did just that, and enrolled at Oxford College on the pre-business track. I had big dreams, an even bigger spiel, and my sights set on Goizueta Business School. I would do anything to achieve my goal. I’d give up the arts, devote my time to economics, struggle through math class, all so I could bestow on myself the right to act on the things that really mattered to me. It was a foolproof plan, approved by strangers and loved ones. I had great ambition, and a reliable degree to catch me when I fell.

I came to realize new truths during my time here. After realizing the amazing feeling of dedicating myself to things I truly yearned to know, after learning to follow examples and then to lead by them, after being told by a role model of mine to “major in what excites you, then go out and do something with it,” after experiencing life here for a year—I am fed up with searching for just one life path to pursue. I want to explore. I want to feel fulfilled. I want to effect real change. My unusual major allows me to do all of that.

I am not pre-professional. I do not have a set track. I take classes I think will further my own understanding of the topics that interest me, test the extent of my skills, and challenge my weaknesses to train themselves into strengths. I make my own path to education, which is an understandably large leap of faith. It is one I believe I have to take, because my future depends on my confidence in my commitment.

While I hold immense respect for students who find their passions in math and science, I do not—and I shouldn’t have to in order to feel like I belong here. I do not attend Emory with the intention of being a doctor. I do not attend Emory with the intention of being a CEO. I do not attend Emory for any reason other than to provide myself with the best education I can have in the subjects that matter to me, and to go out and do something with it. I am here to grow as a learner, a leader, and a force for good.

So, to those who doubt me and my peers,

Cue: Emory’s mantra. The Wise Heart Seeks Knowledge.

Photo courtesy of Emory University

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1 Comment

One Response to “Conventionality Does Not Equal Excellence: On My Unusual Major”

  1. dawn on September 29th, 2017 10:11 am

    Incredibly intelligent piece! Kudos to you to keep an open mind and open path to your future!

    I’m impressed …

    [Reply]

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Conventionality Does Not Equal Excellence: On My Unusual Major