Take a second to think of all of your friends who are going through mid-college-life crises. Most of them have been to academic advising at least once this month and are on a first-name basis with their respective undergraduate advisor. These students reveal their innermost fears about choosing a major and what their lives will become as a result.
But what forces us to constrain our curiosity to only one discipline of choice? Obviously I’m not opting for some hippie-style program where it’s possible to study anything we desire, whether the topics relate at all. Instead, I’m hoping that the objective of higher education shifts back to its original aims. Back in the day (let’s say the ‘70s), tuition at UC schools was a mere $600 per year. The purpose of college is to pursue something that you really enjoy, yet, with budget cuts, tuition hikes and department specialization, it becomes difficult to pursue something you really love (unless, of course, you’re one of those lucky enough to have already discovered your passions). It’s easier than ever to “explore your interests” with Google searches, Facebook pages and blogs, but it’s harder than ever to successfully crash a class and fit non-major courses into your schedule. Why, in contemporary times, do we sacrifice the opportunity for comprehensive knowledge by opting for specialization? Why is the opportunity for interdisciplinary studies so limited? If anything, the borders of disciplines blur now more than ever as a result of growing technology and globalization.
A surge of independence flows through us when we enter into a higher education institution. The opportunity to make an infinite amount of decisions at our own discretion presents itself daily. A typical student is faced with choices like: “Should I smoke a bowl before class? Should I even go to class? It’s hot, should I go to the beach instead of class?” I’m kidding. UCSB students have a lot more going for them than the predictable stereotypes, which are a likely product of cold-weather students’ envy. With only an average of 20 years and a high school diploma under our belts, most of us have no idea what we want to do for the rest of our lives.
The overwhelming presentation of college doesn’t help either. The worst is the inevitable question of, “So what are you planning on doing with [insert major here]?” The majority of students would love to answer that question with “I have no idea” and be done with it. But, it doesn’t work like that … at all. Think about how nice it would be to major in something you love, and even better, to major in a bunch of things you love.
The whole point I’m trying to convey is: Pursue what you love. If it’s not offered, then find a way to do it anyway. The interdisciplinary program and independent major program present the rare opportunity to study what interests you, to an extent. Now, I’m not proposing that each of you change to an interdisciplinary major. I am merely highlighting the increase in specialization that has extinguished cross-disciplinary studies within some departments. An education should be well rounded, so choose something from which you’ll actually learn a thing or two and something that will have a positive impact on your life. Our future is important and your major matters in some sense. So next time you or your friends are freaking out about your future, just keep in mind that there are a lot of options out there.
Lindsey O’Hara is a second year undeclared major.
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