I have been lucky to attend such a great undergraduate institution as Colgate. I have certainly grown as a person in ways that I could not have foreseen four years ago. Although I could write about my extra-curricular involvement and how that has shaped my experience here (because it obviously has), I decided to write a reflective piece about my experience as a double major in history and geography. Colgate has a very diverse academic curriculum, and I am happy that I decided to pursue a double major, exploring two academic disciplines in great detail.
Prior to college, I had always been fascinated with history as a subject and was fairly confident that I wanted to pursue that as a potential major in college. geography, on the other hand, was all but foreign to me. I thought geography was merely about maps. My only interaction with it in high school came in the form of filling out maps of Europe in European history courses so as to physically know where the places we were talking about were. Upon arriving at Colgate, however, I learned that geography was so much more than a discipline focused on maps, though mapping is certainly an integral part. My first geography course was called ‘Earth, Society, and Sustainability,’ taught by Professor Graybill. It was in this course that I was first introduced to the political, economic, social and environmental aspects of geography. In the courses I have taken since, I have developed a critical understanding of how issues around the world are a result of a myriad of reasons stemming from economic policies, political debate, social tensions, etc. Although I have certainly struggled at times with the amount of course work that comes from being a double major, I am ultimately happy that I decided to pursue this path.
Both history and geography have become intertwined over the years, and I regularly see parallels between each in many of my courses. Constantly seeing connections in how different courses relate to each other contributes to one’s ability to more deeply synthesize and understand course work. For example, geography has made me a better history student, as I have become more aware of the significance of place/location in historical thought and study.
I mention my experience as a double major to advocate for exploring new areas of study as something that every student here should experience. While being in a wide array of clubs and organizations is certainly important, I also think that stepping outside one’s comfort zone and taking a more challenging academic path – whether that is in amount of course work, or merely learning about something completely foreign and perhaps more difficult to understand – is an extremely important aspect of a liberal arts education.
Academic exploration can come in the form of a minor (or two!), not just a second major. So, with that being said, my advice to you, first-years and sophomores at Colgate, is to take advantage of the plethora of academic courses available to you. Colgate is always adding new majors and minors and introducing innovative and exciting courses in preexisting academic disciplines – Museum Studies, for example, is a new minor added this past year. Take courses that sound interesting to you. Invest yourself in a second major or minor that is different from your main academic interests. Although you might occasionally struggle, I firmly believe you will be ultimately happy that you gave it a shot. You might think your academic interests are one thing and then take one course and completely change your mind. Keep yourself open to new challenges and areas of study. Looking back I can confidently say that I’m so glad I did just that.