When I first came to MIT, I was very insecure of the fact that I wanted to study humanities at a technical school. It didn’t help that I surrounded myself with people that were premed, and these individuals always said I was taking the easy way out. It also didn’t help that my sister majored in writing, and I witnessed firsthand how difficult it was to for her to secure adequate employment without pursuing further graduate studies.
Before MIT, I wanted to study Classics and biology. I worked for the National Institutes of Health throughout high school, and I was my state’s Junior Classics League Vice President. When I got to MIT, I felt more bullied than ever to declare a major in science or engineering, and consequently, I oscillated between declaring a degree in biology or a degree in writing
I chose writing ultimately because of its small department size and the fact that my professors teach me instead of TA’s, and even better, they actually learn my name. I’ve loved my experience in the biology department, but a professor teaching 250 students is rarely going to learn your name, even if you get an A. If anything, my biology professors probably remember me as the writing major.
Since majoring in writing, I’ve experienced many “microaggressions” from various members of the MIT community. “Why come to MIT to study writing?” I’ve had professors and students ask me this question so bluntly that I’ve found it offensive. “Did you know you wanted to major in writing before coming to MIT?” is the other question people ask me frequently, and I wonder if people generally frame that question to those studying other majors. Do people ask Course 6 students if they knew they wanted to code before they got to MIT? Why does it matter if you knew what you wanted to study beforehand?
This isn’t to say that my experience has been completely negative. MIT reconciled my love of humanities with technical studies, and I’m no longer as insecure about writing. I love that my writing samples cover a broad range of topics from technical biology writing to critical analysis of a chick-lit choose-your-own-adventure book. My main focus within the writing department is Digital Media Studies, which has allowed me to integrate my creativity and humanistic scholarship with computing. I’ve generated hypertextual fiction pieces, which are like electronic literature meets choose-your-own-adventure in the form of hypertext, and developed websites and critical games that tease out social issues for classes.
MIT fostered my confidence in my ability to study whatever I wanted, which in turn shaped me into a more effective communicator. The GIRs can be onerous because they require you to take a large variety of technical and humanistic courses, but these challenges humbled and inspired me. A visiting professor once asked me what my perspective on a topic was as a student studying humanities, and I responded, “I’m not sure that my response will actually reflect a humanistic point of view since I consider myself just as technical these days.” Even though I’m uncertain of my post-graduate plans, I’m confident that my experiences as an undergraduate have adequately prepared me to succeed in a wide spectrum of fields.