The other day, I was with my mom and some of her friends. A few of them asked me what I was studying. I told them I am studying biology and Italian. One woman asked how I thought biology and Italian could go together. Another asked if my mother approved (spoiler alert: she does).
My mom stepped in and said that I go to a liberal arts school. I don't think this meant much to her friends because they didn't seem satisfied with her explanation. A lot of kids from my high school go to liberal arts colleges, so I never realized that I might have to explain my education to some people. If someone were to ask me what my liberal arts education is giving me that a large university can't, I would have a great answer, and so should you.
So, Italian and biology might not seem to have anything in common, but having a major in the sciences and a language minor keeps me grounded during the semester. I keep different parts of my brain active, which can actually be useful. Learning a language engages the parts of the brain that deal with vocabulary acquisition. Working this part of the brain can benefit students in most subject areas as they expand their vocabulary, whether it is with scientific terms or word choice in papers. Knowing a second language also makes you stand out to employers and in some fields makes you more likely to be paid more.
I think a common misconception about liberal arts colleges is the "arts" part. Some people assume that there are no science, engineering, comp sci, or pre-med students. They imagine English, philosophy, anthropology, and studio art majors. Well, a liberal arts school has both types of students. I get to do so much hands-on work in my lab classes because of HHMI funding my liberal arts college has. I also can do independent research. Liberal arts just means that we are learning in multiple disciplines to understand how to apply skills to many situations. My sociology class helps me understand human interaction, which can benefit me during job interviews or with networking within my desired field. My non-Western culture class can help me understand other parts of the world and the cultures that my future co-workers could relate to.
Still not convinced I'm benefitting from my school? How about the small classes? I have every opportunity to build relationships with my professors. They know who I am and what I contribute to the class. If I see a professor during office hours, he or she will remember me and usually makes friendly conversation. I get to know my professors on a personal level. These same professors will be writing me recommendations after I graduate. A personal relationship makes my recommendations stand out.
The final point I will make is that liberal arts colleges challenge their students. The variety of courses we are expected to take allow us to explore new ideas and ways of thinking. They make us versatile. I am good at biology, but I can sit through a sociology lecture and show that I understood the readings and can draw parallels between them and my own experiences. I even can create my own sociological theory (which I did). As a senior in high school, I never thought that I would take sociology or religious studies classes. I never thought I would take economics. I never thought I would learn about literature, food, art, and history through a single language in just 2 years. This is what my liberal arts education is doing for me.
I am now open to going out of my comfort zone. I am comfortable trying new things and learning new skills. I am capable of connecting information across disciplines. I am proud of my liberal arts education. The world is not black and white, and a liberal arts education teaches us to see and understand the entire grayscale of the world.