Testing the Waters

Perhaps one of the untapped potentials for me thus far in my liberal arts college career was stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on classes in subjects and on topics that I knew nothing about but found completely and utterly fascinating. I think of it like when you open a Wikipedia page and take on another wealth of knowledge, but in this case that Wikipedia page is a professor with knowledge and intellect who can help you explore these topics further in a way the internet could never. 

The reason why I had never untapped this potential was because I had been overloading myself in pre-med and STEM classes for the past 3 semesters without exploring much of the subjects I had wanted to explore. Now, almost done with all my major and pre-med requirements, I was faced with this overwhelming world of possibility and it was refreshing. But as refreshing as it was, it was all the more daunting. 

This semester, I am taking 2 classes in subjects completely foreign to me. I’m leaving the comfort of the science quad and stepping into the social sciences with my new history class on modern Iran and my anthropology class on mass media and technology in India. It has been a wild ride these past few weeks with both classes, and each comes with their new challenges but also, with benefits. 

full conference work working meeting Pexels / Christina Morillo

Among the positives is that I am learning so much. The discussions that I’ve participated in in both classes are so rich and enlightening. My professors are also so dedicated to their crafts and have the most inviting office hours, and I’ve loved talking to both of them outside of class. Also, it is so refreshing to have female professors which, within STEM, is not that common. In almost every semester, at least half or more of my professors were male. I noticed that this semester all of my professors are female, and they inspire me to continue studying and working towards furthering my ambitions in higher education. 

I’ve enjoyed my anthropology class most this semester. I would even go as far as to say it is currently my favorite class. I’ve been learning about technology and communication and their influences in India. It’s amazing to finally take my love of Bollywood and South Asian media and apply it in an academic setting. We spend a lot of our class discussing and reflecting on our own experience with media and we also have suggested Bollywood movies to watch outside of class—it’s a dream come true. Currently, I’m working on a paper for the class that will examine my social media identity and what factors influence my own presence on a social media platform, and I can’t wait to pour my heart into it! I also have a project where I’m observing different South Asian social media personalities on Twitter and recording my observations. Overall, I’d say this class has been a breath of fresh air and something I really enjoy. 

On the other hand, my history class, Modern Iran, has been an entirely different experience. I was drawn to the class due to my partly Persian ancestry with my family being proudly Baloch, which is a cultural group mainly residing in western Pakistan and southeastern Iran. It’s been a neat experience to see some of my language incorporated into the readings but also to come to understand some more of the history of my people. I’ve had conversations with my professor about my cultural background and love that she understands and even relates in many aspects, which is something I haven’t had much in my academic career thus far.

people sitting in chairs and taking notes The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash However, the class challenges me with hundreds of pages of reading a week and the joy of a weekly 3-hour seminar from the hours of 7-10 at night. While I can complain about the inconvenience of the course, I have to say the readings are far from boring and the 7 pm discussions are far from dry, but I have yet to say a single word in the class. I never thought I would struggle with participation in a history class, let alone one that is about a country that I am culturally tied to and has such an impact on my identity. However, it is the first time in a class at Kenyon that I quite literally had never met anyone in the class prior to walking in on the first day. It is the only class where I walked in and I realized I was the only STEM major. Most of my classmates are history and political science majors. It is also the only class where I walked in and noticed that I was the only person of color. There are only 4 other women in a class of 17, as well. To say I find this class daunting would be an understatement.

I thought maybe after the first day I would stop feeling so alienated, but I walk in everyday feeling inferior. Those in the class are used to the material, the workload, and the teaching style. Most of my classmates are also older and more experienced. So, while experiencing the struggle of trying to manage the workload, there is also the constant uncomfortable feeling of being in a class where I am a complete outsider. While I love that I branched out to explore a new topic, I can’t help but also feel burdened with this unique challenge of making a home for myself in a world that I never imagined myself being a part of, and I continue to be scared to dip my toes into the water. 

I’m glad that I’m exploring new topics and expanding my wealth of knowledge across many subjects in true liberal arts fashion. However, it’s naive to believe that, at an institution like Kenyon, stepping out of your comfort zone won’t be challenging and uncomfortable for some time. For me, I’m encountering multiple challenges that are helping me grow as an individual and a student. Despite the challenges, I am grateful for the opportunity to study things that I otherwise wouldn’t and would recommend that everyone who has the opportunity should go on and try something new.