by Angela Duda ’15
In my first year at New College, I took Economics and Literature classes. When I figured out those classes weren’t what I wanted to study, I worried. The plan was to start my double major as early as possible, but my first year flew by, and then my second one began, and I knew I wanted to study political science, but it was the double part — the other half — that I was stuck on.
I was feeling uncertain, again, just like in high school.
In eighth grade, I told my English teacher that I would be a writer. I came to this epiphany when she handed back our writing journals, this sanctuary of ours where, for the first 15 minutes of class, we could write whatever we wanted. I always wrote fiction.
I read her appraisal scrawled in perfect cursive in the margins of my composition notebook, and at that very moment, announced my decision in front of the class. Being a writer meant being an English major.
And so for the first three years of high school, when someone asked what I wanted to do when I graduated high school, my answer was always the same: I’m going to be an English major and someday be an author.
But being an author of fiction was not enough for me. At 16, I began writing about the real world, and not through the lens of fiction. I started to believe I could do more. I wasn’t just a writer, but an activist, an educator.
I started writing poetry and novels. I started blogging about social injustices while writing literary analyses on books, movies, TV shows, manga and anime. I took art classes. I studied music. I took advanced math, advanced history, advanced everything.
I was a jack-of-all-trades.
That phrase always made me uncomfortable, like I was on sitting on the very edge of my chair and being pulled this way and that without any sense of direction, always at the threat of falling off. But in hindsight, my interests were never as separate or mismatched as I thought.
I still considered myself an English major at the start of my senior year. Despite high marks in my English classes, however, I became distant from the subject. It wasn’t the subject itself I loved, but the ability to read and write within it. I liked Wuthering Heights, but studying it didn’t challenge me in the right ways.
Right around then, via a drop-down menu on a college application, I discovered the field of political science. I took my first government class during that year, and I fell in love with it faster than anything else. As immediate as my decision to be a writer had come almost 10 years ago, so too was my decision to study political science.
The application to New College encouraged selecting more than one major of interest, and I knew I wanted to double-major in something else. I just didn’t know what that something else would be. I selected economics because it felt practical, and I selected English because I knew I could fall back on it. So I took both types of classes my first year, but felt strongly attached to neither.
I’m still a jack-of-all-trades. I considered Sociology, Religion, and History, on top of English and Economics. I loved scratching enough under the surface of each different thing to learn something new, but I couldn’t imagine focusing in any one of them.
When taking Public Opinion this semester, I discovered that political science appeals to me because it is interdisciplinary. It may sound contradictory to be studying one thing and everything all at once, and that contradiction has bothered me. There’s this idea in academics that you should excel in one or two things, and I came to New College with that expectation of myself. But the truth is that coming to New College enables someone like me to study something that incorporates so many other subjects within it, and to do it well.
Writer, activist, educator. These interests I’ve been attached to since I was 16, which I thought were so mismatched, so untranslatable to any specific study, helped me find the other half of my academic puzzle: Gender Studies.
I took Introduction to Gender, Queer, and Feminist Studies this semester, where we read fiction and nonfiction about natural science, social science, and the humanities. Truly a place for the jack-of-all trades. I learned that there were many things I didn’t know about gender studies, things that I thought I knew when I was 16 blogging on Tumblr. I learned that this was a field I could really explore.
So now I’m a Political Science/Gender Studies AOC. I discovered most of the classes I’m taking this semester are Gender Studies eligible, as long as I write a few extra papers. It turns out I figured out what I liked to learn at the beginning of the semester, but I just didn’t know the name for it. Until now.
I don’t know where these two fields will take me when I graduate, but I think New College is going to help me figure it out. With less structure in our academics, students have the opportunity to explore so many different subjects and take so many unique classes. So, at New College, more than anywhere else, it’s all right to simply not know.