Don’t dismiss passions outside of your major

By JACQUI NEBER | April 12, 2018

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In my four years as a Writing Seminars major, I was often asked if I would double with something else. The answer was always no — I reveled in my specific coursework, thought the Writing Sems requirements were broad enough and thought that nothing else was so compelling that I should devote more time to it than a few classes. I also didn’t love the implication that I needed to add a second major for practicality purposes. I was determined to be just Writing Sems, in all its glory.

Now, naturally, at the end of my senior year, I wish I hadn’t been so narrow minded. I took plenty of classes outside of my comfort zone and fell in love with a few specific topics: the study of how slavery is portrayed in film, which I spent three classes exploring; how authors express trauma and healing in novels written after 9/11; the intersection of humanitarianism and journalism. That last class in particular, which I’m currently in, has changed the type of journalist I envision myself becoming. 

I took all the classes required of Writing Sems and more. I took classes outside my personal bubble of familiarity. It’s not like I didn’t do that, which is why missing that final piece of double majoring or concentrating in another field is so infuriating. I’m mad at myself for not taking my love for a new subject one step further. I realized my mistake too late.

Part of the attraction of a major like Writing Sems is that the requirements are broad: We have to take our writing classes as well as explore English, history, philosophy, natural and social sciences and a foreign language. Taking courses in areas they’ve never explored is where many students get the inspiration to double: They take something, love it and just keep doing it.

If I could go back, I’d take some of the courses I’m in now earlier in my college career. I’d double in public health, international studies or sociology. This would allow me to go into the job search with a specific strength that could be marketable, usable and beneficial in the context of what I want to cover as a journalist. Most importantly, doubling would have opened doors into courses that would’ve added substantially to my knowledge of subjects I realized I was passionate about. It would have allowed my four years to be even more intersectional.

I’m not insulting Writing Sems — that would be cruel and just not an accurate representation of how I feel about my four years at Hopkins. I love my major. It’s helped me discover what I want to do for the rest of my life. My ability to write both fiction and creative nonfiction has grown into a way to understand myself and others; to process things I don’t understand yet; and to explore new mysteries and find their answers. I’ve met some incredible professors that are still my allies and advisors, even if I was in their classes years ago. I came to college to write, and I did that, and I’m proud of the work that I produced.

Writing Sems gave me the ability to do what I came here to do, learn how to do it better and discover interests that might shape my career. Its broad requirements are exactly what pushed me to go outside my comfort zone, and I have the major to thank for introducing me to all of the classes and topics I mentioned above. Through Writing Sems, I have new passions to develop after I leave college. Medical humanitarianism, for example, has pushed me to consider specializing in investigative journalism that concentrates on covering social injustices in the humanitarian sphere. I was already passionate about reporting on social injustices before, and now I have a new interest with which to shape the path of my career. 

I love Writing Sems and can’t thank it enough. But if you’re just starting your major and you’re beginning to take classes outside of your comfort zone, don’t dismiss the classes that you find yourself loving. Don’t end the class and end your interest. You never know which class could lead you to another in the same vein or to a professor who’s willing to take you under their wing in a new field or a new passion. Don’t get caught up in thinking double majoring is too difficult (it’s hard, but it’s possible). I learned all of this the late, and hard, way. I can’t wait to specialize in another field alongside writing when I eventually go to journalism school, but I wish I’d done so more concretely at Hopkins.

Jacqui Neber is a senior Writing Seminars major from Northport, N.Y. She is the Opinions Editor.

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