Things I Learned in College: My Major

Hi, there.

Today’s “Things I Learned in College” post will be a bit more rant-y, just because I’ve been stewing over something that someone told me a few weeks ago. Yes, it has been that long, and I’m still stewing over it.

If you haven’t seen my post on college majors in general, head over to here: Things I Learned in College: Majors. Otherwise, keep on reading!

So let’s backtrack and explain why I am slightly pissed:

I was having lunch with a friend and, considering that we are both students in college, we happened to be conversing about school and majors and all. As part of the conversation, we discussed ways that majors could be applied in the future after graduation.

The first thing that set me off was this: my friend gave me an anecdote about her experience with her dental hygienist; she learned that her hygienist didn’t actually major in anything science-related back in college (I think she told me it was Political Science or something), but somehow became a dental hygienist. Turned out, her dental hygienist hated the PoliSci route, and is happier in the dentistry field.

So I thought that was a cool story: the dental hygienist found his/her passion, despite not knowing it in college. But what kind of irked me was the fact that my friend didn’t see it that way: she couldn’t fathom how someone would spend four-plus years in a major that they hated, only to realize that he/she wanted something else completely different. She saw it as a huge waste of money and time.

True, I agree with that. But really, that’s life. As humans, we make not-so-great choices that might set us back a bit, but in the end, things will work out for the better: you’ll find something that you’re interested in, and the money and effort that you put into fostering that interest will pay off in the long run. In a way, you’ll “pay off” the money and time “wasted” from college. Especially as a dental hygienist; I believe they make a solid living from that profession!

The next thing that really set me off, and which was more personal. Basically speaking, she told me that, since she comes from an Asian/science-related background, the English major to her seems “useless.”

I’m an English major and before any other English/humanities majors start planning death threats to my friend, stop. Let me clarify: she further explained to me that, since she is from this said background (Asian/science major), she can’t think of any *financially-successful* career as an English major, other than a teacher or a professor.

She wasn’t intending to hurt me, but the way she said it came off pretty damn offensively. I was pissed, but more so, I felt sorry for her not being open-minded to the Humanities.

Sure, the science-related and business/economics fields are, what she calls “easy” routes to jobs and financial stability, but that’s only because, as a society, we need them in this day and age. Things like caring for the growing boomer generation at hospitals and helping people since the economic bust in 2008 happened, and so it just happens to be the events that led to the increased demand for those specific fields. I bet that the Humanities were, at one point, very coveted, prestige positions to obtain; it was probably not during our generation, though.

But back to my point: I felt pissed. She justified her reasons by saying that she is from said and said background, but really, that’s not a good excuse. Yes, it’s true that many Asians/Asian-Americans are focused on the success of their children; they equated happiness with money. And so by going into those lucrative sectors like the medical and business fields, it increases their chances for success. But that’s not every single Asian’s opinion. In fact, my parents, even my grandparents and relatives, are completely fine with my English major; they don’t see it as a threat to my success in life.

Don’t get me wrong, she is my friend; we’ve been friends for about four years now. Met in high school, and still continue to hang out over the holidays despite the fact that we go to different schools now. She’s a good person, and I’m sure she means well for me, my future and whatnot, but it is really frustrating trying to explain my beliefs to her (which are different from hers) when she is so obstinate in her own. I try to understand and accept her opinions, but I also expect her to accept mine in return. And I really don’t buy the fact that she keeps saying that she wants to have a more positive outlook on life, but then starts complaining to me about her struggles in college. I’m sorry, but I find that very hypocritical. Ugh, it’s complicated…

At the same time, however, I saw this instance as an opportunity to inform, to “educate” her and potentially other people who have no clue what an English major can bring about in life. I believe that the English major, like any science or business-related specialization, has many possibilities. Not just being a teacher (which I’m not really interested in, at this moment), but also editor, publisher, scholar, historian, writer, poet, screen-playwright, musician, blogger, entertainer, businessman/woman, marketer, real-estate agent, SAT tutor, politician, Peace Corps worker, public policy worker, social worker, U.N. ambassador, physician, doctor. Yes, doctor. There are people who major in the Humanities, but are on the pre-Med track, meaning that they take both courses for their Humanities major and the prerequisites for medical school. It’s a lot of work, but people do it.

Really, any job you can think of, there are bound to be English/Humanities majors. Don’t box yourself into a narrow mindset. I’m glad that I’m doing what I love, considering that my friend is absolutely hating what she’s doing right now as a science major. She doesn’t have the right to judge.

To end on a lighter note, though: it doesn’t matter what you choose to major in or do with your life. What matters is if you are interested in it, enjoy doing it, and can see yourself in it for the rest of your life. And even if you somehow decide that your passion lies elsewhere when you’re in your thirties or forties, make the switch; people are usually never bounded to one single occupation for their entire life.

In the end, be happy. It’s all that counts. 🙂

– The Finicky Cynic


2 thoughts on “Things I Learned in College: My Major

  1. OH man! I don’t know how you didn’t freak out and flip the table!
    It must be nice for your friend to have such a black and white view of life. Really, I don’t know what that’s like to be so naive to think people can’t grow and change their mind. Sounds a little sheltered if you ask me. I’d hate for your friend to have a rude awakening when she gets out of school, but i feel like it might be coming, right?
    second hand rage right now for you. BIG time!
    I switched my major several times in university. I graduated with a BA in religious studies, did a post grad in public relations and am about to start a full time job in communications in the new year. My profs at school?One are the VP of communications for one of Canada’s largest banks and he started as a journalist. his wife is high up with Ford Canada and SHE started as a journalist, too!
    I once had a friend who’s a teacher (which as a side note, might just be the most self important profession on the planet) tell me that she felt bad for me because “I didn’t know what it was like to have a career in the field I studied” I almost rage cried and slapped her.

    Maybe your friend wasn’t talking so much to convince you, but maybe to convince herself?

    Grr….. stewing over this.

    1. Yeah, it was rough for me to hear what my friend had to say. Again, she wasn’t trying to put me down; like you said, I believe that she’s just naive when it comes to the Humanities.

      Your college major experience sounds like a whirlwind! I think that as long as you’re happy doing what you love right now, majors don’t really matter. They’re just labels, anyway.

      Thanks for the comment!

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