The “Art” of Being a STEM Major

As a STEM major, it can be easy to find yourself in a reality that seems to entirely consist of equations, calculations, or data (or all of the above). This is especially true in the middle of the semester when midterms are constant and the threat of finals looms on the horizon, but there are no special events to pull students away from academics and worried thoughts. The inevitable results are increasingly stressed students, and decreasing levels of health.

This is a system that I have found myself ensnared by in previous semesters, though each year I promise I’ll find a way to make college better for myself. This semester I tried something different. Going into registration, I still had a few gen eds to fulfill so I decided to take a non-major painting course. This decision, I have come to discover, has been an excellent choice. While the course comes with its own stresses (I still have assignments, paints are expensive, and I can never mix the right shade of purple), they act as counter-stresses to those I experience within my major. My paintings may not turn out quite how I want, but the process of painting lets me escape from my science heavy life for a few hours.

I realize this is not actually an epiphany. Pretty much everyone knows that hobbies, like painting, are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now I’m suggesting that people pay money to add more classes to often hectic schedules, all to do hobbies that they can do by themselves? How is that supposed to help anyone de-stress? My answer: it helps precisely because it is a class.

Think about the problem like this: you start out the beginning of the semester with great plans for the next few months. You plan to work on your hobby, say painting, every Tuesday afternoon because that’s free in your schedule. Classes start, and life’s busy, but you’ve still got time for everything you want to do. Then your first midterm approaches and you take time out of your schedule to study. Then you have another midterm and another, and suddenly all your free time is spent studying. When you’re finally done studying for midterms, finals are approaching. Where does painting fit into this schedule? Tuesday afternoons likely were converted into study sessions, and painting was put aside for “when you had time”. This happens to many students with a wide range of hobbies. It becomes too hard to maintain all aspects of life, and the hobbies are cut out. When your hobby is a class, however, you suddenly have hours set aside during the week where you are required to do the hobby, or waste money by skipping class. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a way to escape from the stresses of major classes.

Getting caught up in the academics of college is not limited to STEM majors. All students can certainly find themselves with seemingly no time to support their mental health. My recommendation is the same. Find a class that you’ll find fun, and take it if possible. Arts are not the only hobbies available to take as a class. There are several physical education courses available, and I’ve even seen non-science majors take a dinosaur class because it fit their interest. Gen eds may be occasionally annoying, but they provide opportunities to pursue interests and hobbies that you might not make time for otherwise, and help reduce stress in the process.

Pictures: Cover, 1, 2, 3