Why switching to liberal arts was right for me

Photo by Tyler Meuter

I was so sure that I wanted to major in STEM, that I was a “science person.” After all, I had decided to attend Georgia Tech, and most people either don’t know that our liberal arts program exists or laugh at it. Med schools want biology majors anyway, right?

A year and a half into my degree, the subject I had adored in high school was now the subject of my intense hatred. Thoughts of spending three more years poring over the details of microscopically small processes and stumbling through four-hour chemistry labs made college seem impossible. I decided to reevaluate everything I had been so sure about.

As I went back to the drawing board, I considered which classes I had enjoyed the most at college thus far. To my surprise, they had all been liberal arts classes: freshman English, an international affairs elective and an American history course.

Concurrently, I learned about options for working in the health field besides being a medical doctor. My newfound passion for public health paired up with my long-standing international interest, and I decided to take the leap and change my major to International Affairs.

Though I still get jokes or confused glances when I tell new people what I major in at Tech, I have never regretted my decision. Liberal arts is the environment I didn’t know I needed.

Being in a smaller major leads to a better community, from having friendly faces in my classes to feeling like my advisor has the time to personally invest in me.

On the whole, I truly care about what I am learning about, which is a refreshing change from my attitude towards DNA replication and functional groups.

Despite what everyone says about liberal arts being easy, I will argue that they are hard, but in a different way. I readily admit that your physics homework might as well be in a different language to me, but I would also like to see you write a ten-page policy paper.

Besides the dramatic increase in the quantity of reading and writing, the biggest difference for me was that if you put in the effort, you get the grade. In the past, I could spend days poring over my organic chemistry textbook and working problems to still end up failing the test. Now, if I engage with the material and think about it critically, I will succeed.

Another reason I love liberal arts is that there is not just one right answer. Unlike the certainty of most STEM classes, there is room for discussion and debate. Learning the viewpoints of my professors and classmates and forming my own arguments is invaluable.

If I do decide to change my plans again, I feel like I can take my liberal arts degree in more directions. With the skills I am developing, I am not boxed into either research or professional school. Most importantly, I finally feel like I am following my dream, not someone else’s. And yes, I’ll still get a job.