What are you majoring in?
As college students, we’re used to this question. It’s the one that comes right after many introductions. Many of us don’t know yet. For those who do, there’s the other reality of being judged based on their response.
My answer throughout high school has been politics and a minor in Chicane/Latine studies. It’s not necessarily a lie; I’ve known since a young age that the intersection of politics and activism is what brings me genuine passion.
It wasn’t until recently that ethnic studies was added to the mix.
It began in my high school when I was lucky enough to take a course called Latinx Identity In The United States. My school didn’t directly offer it, but they allowed students interested in specific fields to take courses through an online program.
In high school, I only had one Latina teacher, so it was through this virtual class that I found solace and strength within representation. I found a special magic that was often always buried. Ever since then, I added Chicane/Latine studies to my response.
Still, I would always say it would be “a minor.”
There’s a common idea that there are certain majors that are more economically stable or will bring more generational wealth. Think computer science, a STEM field, economics — you get the gist. Many times, family members or close friends try to influence what we want to study under the guise that we should focus our studies on what will bring us the most stability in the future.
I’ve gotten my fair share of strange looks when I tell people that Chicane/Latine studies is a field I want to pursue. People’s automatic responses tended to be along the lines of “That’s impractical” or “What would you even do with that?”
In an endless cycle, I began to try to justify my reasoning. I felt sentences rapidly escape my mouth that centered around the idea that the field is interdisciplinary, that there are so many opportunities I can engage in with a degree like that in different professional sectors.
Why do I need to justify it, though? Shouldn’t it be enough to say that I’m doing it because it brings me joy?
There’s an added layer of complexity when we think about how students of color are expected to pursue specific disciplines and career choices. A lot of our immigrant families tend to believe that medicine, law or engineering are the careers that we should take part in because they bring the most wealth.
There’s a fear of financial instability that a lot of marginalized communities grew up in. A part of the so-called American Dream is creating a better life for our families and this automatic instinct of survival leads a lot of people to pursue things that they might actually not even be interested in.
I feel this weight all the time. If I have the privilege of gaining a college education, why don’t I study something that will guarantee my family the most wealth?
I vividly remember the emotions I felt after my first Chicane Histories class this semester. I walked in and saw the board and saw Spanglish. I saw a professor that looked like me. I felt mesmerized learning about a history that not everyone takes time to learn about. I walked out of the class speeding onto my next class with a few tears in my eyes. The readings and work I’ve done for this class have not felt like a burden to me. Who knew I would actually love reading hundreds of pages a week?
I started imagining how pursuing this history might allow me to inspire other students in the future in the same way that I left professor Summers Sandoval’s class feeling a mix of joy, empowerment and heartbreak. Because if I ever had a lightbulb moment, it would be that one.
Now, I find myself responding to that dreaded major question with: a major in Chicane/Latine studies and a minor in politics.
Deep down, I think I’ve always known it was going to be in that order. I was just giving people the answer that was going to make them more comfortable. But it never made ME feel comfortable.
Is it impractical? Is it going to take me places? What are my plans after?
I don’t know. Most of us don’t know despite studying the so-called “better” majors. I mean, hey, we might not even know if what we think right now will change by next semester.
What I do know though is that this major combination brings me happiness and passion and I’ll take that over misery any day. That’s what I came to college for, after all.
It’s easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to study what you truly want. Take those voices of others outside of your head and listen to yours. Think about your lightbulb moment and wear them proudly.