One of the things I initially loved about the University of Chicago is how willing the College is to let students be undecided when they first start out. Still, not having a major to share when meeting fellow students made me acutely aware that I wanted to find a major to call my own.
Ever since I was first asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded with, “A teacher!” Luckily, the College recently added an Education and Society minor. From there, it was on me to figure out what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Unfortunately, in elementary school, I once had a teacher I looked up to tell me that there were too many history teachers there in Tennessee, where I hoped to return after college to teach, so I should try and find a different niche to fit into. I say unfortunately because I spend most of my free time watching biographies of historical figures on YouTube, and I geek out every time I walk through the center of campus under Cobb Gate—thinking about all the great minds that have walked under it before me. This left me at a loss for what I should major in if being a history teacher in Tennessee was not the best career move.
Every UChicago student is assigned an academic adviser and is required to meet with them once per quarter during their first year. In one of my meetings, I voiced my concerns about wanting to find a major that would help me find a job in academia that was somewhat interesting to me but also a wise career move. Luckily, my academic adviser politely suggested that I instead focus on taking classes that truly interest me.
Since then, I have taken an approach of not just taking interesting classes (to be honest, basically every class at UChicago is interesting in some capacity), but also ones that help me understand my identity better. For me, this means choosing my electives for my Education minor to be about multilingualism, as I was born in Mexico and moved to East Tennessee during first grade. I have learned so much in retrospect about my K-12 experience through these classes. I have also chosen to take the Latin American sequence for my Civilizations Core requirement, which also developed into taking a course on Aztec and Inka societies. The latter is particularly interesting to me, as Ancestry.com says 74% of my DNA is indigenous to central Mexico!
Clearly, my academic road has led me into choosing topics that are not only heavily related to my heritage, but also happen to revolve around history more than anything. Thus, I am now almost positive that I will be majoring in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in addition to minoring in Education and Society. Aside from being intellectually interesting for me, I am interested in the way the major is constructed to be both holistic (including not just history, but also developing language and researching skills), as well as interdisciplinary. Like my Education minor, it is constructed with the idea that Latin American studies can pair well with other disciplines and fields of study.
While I do not think I will double-major like many students here do, I still value how this major (and more broadly UChicago) views academia as interconnected and fluid. This helps someone like me that came to the university feeling undecided to not feel like I am trapped in one lane of academia but still developing the interests that benefit both my self-identity and future career goals. Regardless of whether there are a lot of prospective teachers with history degrees, I feel confident that majoring in Latin American Studies will help me develop the skills to provide my future students with a nuanced understanding of the region, as well as any other part of the world that we study. I hope to teach them how studying a particular part of your identity can not only benefit yourself but also inform your view on all other aspects of academia and the world.