Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not Being Afraid To Change Your Mind

Throughout my time at Macalester, my academic plan has undergone quite a bit of change. Upon graduating high school, people often told me I was lucky for knowing what I wanted to study so early. (At the time, my plan was to major in linguistics and minor in psychology.) Every now and then someone would say, "Don't be surprised if you change your mind and decide to major in something else!" Of course I knew that people often decide to do something radically different than their original plan, but I never thought I would experience anything like that. Linguistics felt like a perfect fit, and so I planned my first three semesters accordingly.

After taking a cultural anthropology class that fascinated me the spring of my first year, I decided to try to double major in linguistics and anthropology. I was also working on a Chinese minor (I tested into third year Chinese and began that as a first year and also planned to study abroad in China as a junior). By the end of my third semester, I was well on my way to completing my general distribution requirements and had made progress toward both majors.

However, when looking into classes for my fourth semester at Mac, I had to admit to myself that completing two majors, a minor, and having a semester abroad was a bit ambitious. It would be possible, but I would not have any room to take classes outside of those areas, and that bothered me.

There was still so much I wanted to explore! I asked myself, am I here for a degree (or degrees), or to expand my horizons and learn about a wide variety of topics? To an extent the answer is, of course, "both," but I decided that I would rather make the most of the opportunity to develop my interests and try new things.

That required adjusting my academic plan. After talking to professors and friends, I decided to change my major to Chinese and to minor in linguistics. This allows me to take more classes that directly relate to my specific interests and gives me more flexibility to branch out and take classes that are not required for my degree. (For example, this semester I am taking a fascinating health psychology class that I would not have had room for if I stayed with my original plan).

The good news: whether you come to Macalester knowing exactly what you want, or having absolutely no idea what you are interested in, you can rest assured that Mac has excellent courses and professors regardless of the department. My advice is to branch out a bit, try new things, and don't be afraid to change your mind!

- Ashley Mangan '14