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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

My major could beat up your major

Published: October 5, 2007
Section: Opinions

You walk into class, and everyone just stares at you. You take a seat in the corner as the professor gets up and speaks, and you dont understand a thing. He says a lot of odd phrases and then apparently makes a joke, because everyones laughing. This isnt your first class in another country, its the first elective youve taken outside your major.

The class is The History and Culture of Antarctica 1870-present, and everyone introduces themselves and says their major. Every sound-bite ends History major until they get to you and as you say, ChChem major Everyones suspicions are confirmed, and everyone in the room smiles a little for two reasons. The first is that they were right, and the second is that theres a noob in the room to lower the average.

You spend the rest of the semester watching a bunch of people doing what they do best, while you stumble over what to them are the most basic concepts. This is usually the point where you start to think (or mumble under your breath) Id like to see one of them in one of my classes. As a result of this, you start to see yourself and other people who share your major as superior to the rest of the campus.

Then, when you meet someone, like a friend of a friend, and the topic of majors comes up, the battle begins. It begins innocently enough, hey man whats your major? They reply, English, you say, oh, thats pretty easy. Then they come back, yeah right, last week we had to read everything Shakespeare ever wrote and write a 200 page paper on what it all meant, and it was hard because the things he wrote before age 5 have the appearance of doodles and scribbles and are really hard to interpret. Then the opposition usually replies, yeah, well last week in physical-thermo-quantum-biochemistry we had to create a virus that would wipe out every ant on the planet, then find a cure for it, then run an experiment on a test population and write a 150 page lab report.

The next time youve in a situation like the one above, take a step back, and try to appreciate that there are people on this campus with a skill set thats different than yours. And whether the job they get as a result of this skill has them earning $30,000 or $3 million a year, hopefully theyll be doing what they enjoy. Ask them a few questions about what they're interested in, and try not to make it sound like what you do is exponentially harder than what anyone else does here.

One of the most common complaints is the awkward social situations at Brandeis, and I think some of this is a result of the fact that we tend to group everyone and give them academic tags, like the theatre guy neuro girl or econ guy. When we meet people who study things other than we do, we assume that there isnt much that we have in common and conversations turn quiet and awkward. Instead of classifying people, look at everyone else on campus as your classmates because Brandeis isnt a school big enough to divide into 100 pieces.