My Journey to American Studies

Like the majority of students who enroll at Yale, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to study before I came to campus. In high school, I got to survey many fields through my required classes: Science, Mathematics, English, History… As a result, I knew a little bit about what I liked (writing, mostly, and history, sometimes), and a lot about what I didn’t like (math and science, but mostly math). I remember looking through all of Yale’s major choices and seeing things I had never heard of before (like Classical Civilization, Urban Studies, and Computing in the Arts) and getting a headache trying to decide what was “for me.” At this point, I don’t really remember what I put as my intended major on my application. 

All this is to say that if you have no idea what you want to major in when you’re applying to Yale, that is totally fine! I actually think it might be a positive thing—because I didn’t have my heart set on any particular subject coming in, I allowed myself a lot of room for exploration.

My first semester, my FroCo encouraged me to knock out some of my distributional requirements (because Yale is a liberal arts school, every student is required to take courses across diverse fields like Social Science, Humanities, Quantitative Reasoning, Language, and more) with courses that just sounded cool. I took a Psychology class called “The Criminal Mind” to fulfill my Social Science requirement, a Philosophy class called “First Order Logic” to fulfill my Quantitative Reasoning requirement, and an “Intro to Ethnicity, Race, and Migration” class just because. This class started my journey towards my current major, American Studies. 

Ethnicity, Race, and Migration was an unexpected interest. Unexpected only because I had never been exposed to it as a field before, although coming from a minority-majority high school I had interacted with a lot of the topics in a less formal way. I liked the social science aspect of ER&M, but I missed writing and literature. I wanted a major that would allow me to continue taking classes in ER&M while also allowing me to pursue an interdisciplinary approach with creative writing courses. American Studies was that major for me. I get to study the culture and politics of the Americas, the changing national identity of the United States, and the construction of diasporic cultures over time. That sounds really broad, and it is! There’s a lot of flexibility for me to pursue my own specific interests within the major. The American Studies program “encourages scholarly work in non-traditional combinations of disciplines” by allowing students to develop their own concentration within the major. My concentration, Politics & American Communities, perfectly combines my interests.