I did it! Today I declared one of my majors (and tried to declare my other one). I walked right into Converse Hall, where the registrar is located, and proudly handed over my major declaration form with the words “Biology” and “History” on top of the page.
I smiled, accepted a pin that said “I declared!” and was about to begin walking towards the exit when I heard the man at the desk say, “Wait a second, you can’t do this.”
Before I turned in my major form, I spent some time cuddled up in my dorm room trying to figure out if I even wanted to major yet. After all, I could wait as long as possible (second semester sophomore year) to declare my major. So in this blog post, I’ll try to explain why I tried to major in two, seemingly, completely different fields.
Before my first semester at Amherst, I knew that I really enjoyed my biology and history classes in high school. When I signed up for my first year courses during the Fall of 2018, I took an introductory chemistry course, a history course, and two other humanities classes, intro to German and philosophy. I didn’t take any biology courses because I thought I could make them up later. Even though not taking an intro biology class that first semester delayed my start to beginning the major, I don’t really regret that decision because it let me to figure out what else I liked. For example, I quickly realized that even though I thought the language sounded so cool, German was not for me .
Ironically, I think, my love for history at Amherst came from the first philosophy class that I took. In my introduction to philosophy class, even though I didn’t like the materials we read from, I did think it was interesting to break down the arguments and decide whether it made any sense. During my history class my first semester, I found myself breaking down an argument in a manifesto that we read. I thought, ‘Huh, I guess I can do the argument thing in my history classes, too!’ And that was that. I decided that I really liked history.
As for my intro to chemistry class, one of the classes that I need to take to major in biology, I struggled a bit with material and, mostly, the math in the problems. The math didn’t, I thought, seem to click in my head like it did in everyone else’s. Frankly, what kept me going in the very first chem class was knowing that I needed to take it to take higher level biology classes. At the end of the semester I thought, ‘Okay, if I can do these super hard chemistry problems all by myself, I can figure out how to do biology, too.’
Next, I needed to announce to my academic advisor that I planned on majoring in biology and history. She completely supported me. To make up for the biology classes that I hadn’t taken yet, I would just need to take two biology classes at the same time for the next few semesters. And to finalize the process of declaring my major, all I needed to do was to get the signatures of the history department chair and the biology department chair. Easy enough, right? I was so excited that I totally forgot to get the history signature. I went straight back to the science center to get the signature for biology that I needed.
Back in the registrar’s office, I was just about to leave when it was pointed out to me that I had left the history department chair’s signature blank. I wouldn’t be able to declare my major in history without it. But that didn’t stop me from declaring in biology! I honestly just didn’t want to wait any longer. I told the man working at the desk in the registrar, I’ll be back early next week to get my second ‘I declared’ pin!