I came into college having no idea what I wanted to major in. In high school I took an assortment of classes, and I enjoyed the variety! I didn’t feel like I had a “specialty,” and knowing that I was going to have to choose a major was really stressful to me. I told this to my academic adviser when I first entered college, and she was eager to help me to choose classes that would narrow down my major search. Luckily, UChicago’s Core curriculum enables students to explore their interests through a variety of classes in science, math, humanities, foreign language, art, and more. I spent most of my first and second years of college taking Core classes, and I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to take classes that I otherwise wouldn’t have found. This exploration helped me eventually choose my major, Classics (the study of Ancient Greece and Rome). I love Classics now, but without the Core, I wouldn’t have even known what it is!
Below is a list of some of my favorite classes from my first year at UChicago, with descriptions of how they helped me decide my major.
Intermediate Latin: I took Latin in high school, and I wanted to try a Latin class at UChicago. In this class, we read Cicero in Latin and also did readings in English to supplement our class discussions. I really enjoyed this class because it taught me that studying Latin isn’t just beneficial for building my vocabulary or being able to translate a text, but also as a way to explore and understand the past.
Greek Thought and Literature: My adviser, seeing that I was taking Latin, suggested that I enroll in Greek Thought and Literature for my humanities class. Every first-year student at UChicago takes a humanities class that lasts for two or three quarters. There are nine different humanities options, so students have the freedom to choose a class that is most interesting to them. This class made me realize that I wanted to learn more about the ancient world, and the class discussions made me feel like I was understanding the texts on a deeper level than I ever had in high school. It was really nice to be in a class with the same twelve people for more than one quarter, and our conversations just got more and more interesting as we became more comfortable with each other!
Studies in Mathematics: I wasn’t a big fan of calculus in high school. Luckily, UChicago offers Studies in Mathematics, a conceptual math class that looks at math from a different, historical perspective. This ended up being one of my favorite classes in my career at UChicago, and I learned so much about math without being overwhelmed by numbers and formulas. This class made me realize that I definitely favored humanities over STEM, because I noticed that I was much more interested in the stories about how the mathematical concepts were discovered than I was about the concepts themselves.
Race, Variation, and Genomics: This biology class focuses on the cultural and biological definitions of race, and how our understanding of race influences our social interactions. I loved this class because it combined science and humanities in a really interesting way. We would start each class by learning about genetics, and then would transition into a discussion about the historical and social implications of race. This class, like my math class, convinced me that I was more interested in the history than the science.
After my first year, I knew that I wanted my major to be in the humanities, but I wasn’t sure in which specific area. I enjoyed taking Latin and my Greek literature classes, so I decided to focus on Classics for my major. Now, as a fourth year, I have had the opportunity to explore so many other classes as electives—I’ve taken classes in creative writing, linguistics, anthropology, art history, political science, and I even traveled abroad to Vienna to study human rights! I am so happy that the Core enabled me to be flexible and explore a lot of different subjects. It gave me peace of mind to know that I had tried out many subjects before committing to one major, and I am so happy with my choice!