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How I Chose My Major and Minor

What started as a random class to fill up my schedule actually lead me to discover a new passion – so I made it my minor.

Jun 12, 2017

If any of you read my previous blog post on choosing university, you might remember I mentioned that I’m currently studying for my Bachelor of Science with a major in Biological Sciences and minor in Sociology. Basically it means that the majority of the classes I take are related to biological sciences and a smaller portion of the other classes are related to sociology. On one hand, I study life sciences – courses like immunology, pharmacology, and microbiology. On the other hand, I study social sciences – looking at who shapes societies, how it’s done, and why.

How did I get here?

One of the first passions I discovered was science, thanks to the influence of amazing boss ladies like my grandma. Entering university, picking Biological Sciences as my major was pretty much a no-brainer. I stumbled across sociology in my second year, when I took an introductory class just to fill up my schedule. I never expected it to be so eye opening! In that class we took a closer look at how things like gender, race, culture, social class, ability, history, and environment come together to shape the world we live in today.

At the time, I was also getting more interested in social justice issues, so taking a sociology class was great because it tied my personal interests in with an academic field that had been asking the same questions as I had been. Basically, anything that affects people can be studied under sociology—which is why I find it so fascinating. I’ve since branched out into learning more in fields like:

  • Women and gender studies – how do different identities in gender and sexuality affect the way people live and are treated? What happens when these identities intersect with other identities like class and race?
  • Disability studies – how do we define and value different kinds of ability? How do we treat people with different abilities, and how does that affect our society?
  • Surveillance studies – in today’s techy world, how is our information being used, and how does that affect us? How does that relate to our relationship with ‘the law’, and whom does it affect more than others?

I definitely wanted to learn more, and as I kept taking more classes, it just made sense to choose sociology as my minor.

What does sociology have to do with science?

I’ve always loved biology because I find it amazing that so many parts have evolved to function together in almost perfect harmony. Take the human body, for example – trillions of cells assembled into tissues and organs, working together to keep each of us alive. It’s so cool that everything fits together into a bigger picture, and nothing happens without affecting something else. When I wandered into sociology, I discovered the same principle applied.

Within the human societies we create, everything weaves together into something greater. Like the different cells that form living organisms, different parts of our world piece together into the reality we experience today. We’re a lot more connected than you might think!

One major difference I’ve noticed between sociology and science is that with science it can feel like you’re getting lost in the details. The quote “Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing” (Konrad Lorenz) does a pretty good job of capturing that feeling.

Sociology is a nice complement to science because it encourages me to step back and look at the bigger picture on a more relatable scale than cellular diagrams. I’m interested in thinking about how to improve the lives of others, and sociology gives me a better idea of how important science is, when used in the right ways.

In another life…

While I love biology and sociology, there are other paths I would have been equally happy to take. In one of the alternate universes out there, I would have minored in women and gender studies, where I could focus more on feminist theories in studies of race, ability, class, etc. Despite some misconceptions, this field isn’t just about ‘women’s issues’, it’s about looking at ways to fight all sorts of oppression from the perspectives of people who experience different kinds of injustice.

In another universe, I might also have specialized in immunology, which is definitely one of the coolest, most hard-core biological systems out there.

So why did I choose my particular path, when I had so many cool options to choose from? Kind of a boring answer, but it just didn’t occur to me to pick something else. Once I chose my major and minor, I took it as something set in stone, and didn’t think about changing them. Looking back, I don’t regret the degree I’m in now, but I definitely could have benefitted from exploring those other paths a little more.

How to choose your major/minor

Be an explorer! For more flexible degrees like science and arts, where you have some room to experiment with other fields, take some time and read up on different courses that might interest you (especially before declaring your major/minor). University is full of hidden gems; you never know what you might come across until you take the time to dig around a little. And remember: you are allowed to change your major/minor!

Sometimes discovering what you really want to study comes a little later. Sometimes it means changing some courses around and extending the length of your degree. Sometimes it means changing your degree completely. Every kind of journey in university is valid. If you’re able to some detours of discovery, explore away!

Cindy

Sciences
University of Alberta

I juggle commitments to my many different passions, and am a huge proponent of pursuing your interests through extracurriculars!

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