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Having a Minority Major

           When I was applying to colleges, almost every school I looked at was drastically different from the other. Some had student bodies of over 50,000 and some barely hit 4,000. Some were in the heart of their respective city and some were so far removed from civilization that going to the gas station was a great Friday night. I was all over the place when it came to what I wanted in a school, except for one thing; I was dead set on having a writing major.

            I grappled with the decision of going to a school like New York University that had an extensive and well-known program, and colleges with small programs but more qualities I enjoyed. Ultimately, I chose the latter.

            The advertisements plastered everywhere tell us that Saint Joe’s is known internationally for its business school and Food Marketing program, but I didn’t know just how tiny the writing program was in scale. The reality hit me at orientation when we were sent off to meet with our department heads. As throngs of incoming freshmen piled into the auditorium of the business school, I sat in a run-of-the-mill classroom with thirteen other English majors.

            From the second I started freshmen year it was immediately clear to me that I was one of the ultimate academic minorities. When every teacher felt it necessary to go around the room and have us share the same hometown and major we had been repeating all day, I’d get sneers and glances after muttering out “English”. There was an unspoken consensus that my major was not as important as everyone else’s. And I began to feel that way too.            When people would ask me in casual conversation, I would always have something self-deprecating to say. “Oh wow, you’re a finance major? That must be really difficult. I could never do that. I’m just an English major.” I felt the need to put myself down before other people could. It took a toll not only on my self-esteem, but also on my patience.

            I had transfer applications out to all the schools I’d passed up the first time around. I couldn’t take it. I wanted to be around people who thought the same way I did. I regretted not digging my claws into a large writing program when I had the chance. And now, the only option for me to feel like I belonged was to get out.

            After a lot of thought and contemplation, I decided to wait out the rest of my freshman year, to give the school another chance. Giving my decision some time was the best move I could have made. It gave me a scope to see that maybe I was making this whole process that much harder on myself. Before you start sending out deposits anywhere else, follow some of these steps to make the school you’re at, feel more like a home and less like the reptile exhibit in the zoo.

Get to Know Your Faculty

            I went nearly an entire school year before realizing all of the gems my English department had to offer. We had well-noted authors, screenwriters, food bloggers, scholars, and even a professor whose book was adapted into a movie. When I saw that so many successful people were at my disposal, I felt empowered. It also helped that there were significantly less people fighting for time with these professors than that of the business school.

 

Shop Around Within Your Department            This goes for any major, minority or not. I came into college smiling and waving and telling people that I liked to write. Did I have a clue what I wanted to do with my major? Not a single one. A life as an author was always in my future sights, but that wasn’t necessarily a career I could jump into immediately after receiving my bachelors. I found a handful of professors in disciplines that interested me (journalism, screenwriting, travel literature) and sat down with them about what made them want to go into their field. Sometimes hearing the real life logistics of what a career entails helps push you in the direction of what you want to do. It also can help you realize that the last thing you ever want to be in life is an expert in the usage of scalping in Early American literature.

 

Check Out Events Your Department is Hosting

            The English department here hosts a writing series every few months in which authors, editors, and publishers come to speak about how awesome their lives are. These events are never overflowing because the audience is so limited and word doesn’t seem to travel. Take advantage of that! Mingle, get business cards, and follow up the next day with a quick email thanking them for speaking with you. It helps get your foot in the door and build a relationship with people who have been through the ringer of what you want to achieve. (Also, at one of these events I met Wally Lamb and he told me to never doubt myself because I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I cried for hours. My roommate nearly killed me. Business majors just don’t understand.)

 

See What the Graduate Students Are Up To            Many times the seminars that are catered to the graduate students are also open for undergrads as well. Not only does it help with deciding whether you want to continue your studies, but it, like the other events, helps you make connections with people who hold high positions in their field. Not to mention that the professors at these seminars will be impressed that an undergrad went out of their way to attend.

 

Make Connections with the Teachers You Have            Office hours are a gift from God. There’s never any harm in checking in with your professors when there isn’t an assignment due or a grade in question. Some of these bonds were what got me through my time of doubt, because I knew I had a strong staff backing me up. They can also serve as mentors to you even when you’re done with their class. A quick, “Hey, I wrote this short story. Would you mind taking a look at it when you get time? I’d really like to hear your opinion.” can do wonders.  

 

Take A Deep Breath and Keep Believing in Yourself            Minority major or not, discovering who you want to be for the rest of your life is scary. Never let anyone make you feel that your goals are inferior because you “might not make as much money” or “have a shaky employment future”. It’s all about doing what you love, and if you’re in it for the money you’re going to get discouraged pretty quickly. So chin up little solider, it’s going to pan out for you; you just have to keep working for it. Like Wally Lamb told me, in the end you’re going to be exactly where you want. Doubt is a poison. Wear your major, your passion, with pride on your sleeve and you can take on anything. 

Hi internet friends! My name is Cristiana and I'm a senior English major, Communications minor from New Rochelle, New York. I've had a passion for writing before I could walk and am so excited to be sharing that with you all. My goal is to not only entertain and bring humor into the magazine world, but to also empower women and raise awareness of the social and cultural issues we face. I'm an astronomy lover and a cheese enthusiast, as well as constantly hooked up to an IV of caffeine. Ask me about baseball teams. Enjoy my sass and love of carbs? Follow me on Twitter for an endless supply; @doublecee21
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