I graduated a year early from New Bern High School at 17 years old and I was nowhere near ready to start college. Knowing that I was going to move three and a half hours away from my family and start a whole new life was insanely fun but I didn't think that I could succeed in college. Luckily, I got into the school that I wanted to get into, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. My entire life I have wanted to work with music but it was not until high school that I realized I wanted to be behind the scenes of music. When applying to colleges, I applied to Communication Studies programs so that I could eventually go into a career in Public Relations in the music industry.
My first semester at UNC Greensboro, I took an Intro to Women's and Gender Studies class and it changed my entire life. My professor walked in on the first day of class wearing a three-piece suit, a bowtie, had a mohawk, and she was a self-proclaimed "giant lesbian". This was the first time in my entire life that I had ever seen a woman in power wearing a "men's" suit, have a mohawk, and identify as a lesbian. For the first time ever, I saw someone that looked and acted like me and I was in shock. Admittedly, when I got out of class that day I told everyone I knew that my professor was a lesbian and that was the coolest thing I've ever seen. Looking back, my professor being queer probably isn't the biggest thing to get excited over but when you come from a very small, religious, and conservative town as I do- it's pretty amazing.
The rest of the semester went by and I learned about heroes like Judith Butler, Marsha P. Johnson, Bell Hooks, and Audre Lorde. I was in awe every day that I went to that class, the assigned readings were never enough, and the class was always too short. About a month before the semester ended I went to my freshman advisor to register for classes and I went in planning on adding a Media Studies major to help me achieve my dream of working with music.
When I got into advising I was told that a Media Studies major was almost impossible for me with my Communication Studies major but I could do a Media Studies minor. I agreed to the minor since it was easier and it would still help me. My advisor was looking over my grades and noticed my WGS class was my highest grade and asked me if I liked the class. I told him I was in love with it and the program was amazing. An hour later, I walked out with a Women's and Gender Studies and a Communication Studies double major and a Media Studies minor.
Not everyone was as excited about my new major as I was. When I told my mom about my new decision she didn't see the point and was worried that I was going to overload myself. She also said that it had nothing to do with what I had planned for my life. Honestly, the way she saw this crushed me. I needed her to be as proud as I was because this was my new "thing".
When asked why I did this I made an on-the-spot speech that I still live by today. My WGS major means more to me than a Communication Studies major ever will. Whether I use my WGS major or not, I have learned more about important things and causes that I stand and fight for than more people ever will. I have had the opportunity to learn about people who have fought for Women's rights and for LGBTQ+ rights; I have learned about people who have fought for me and my rights. My time spent studying these topics has lead me to learn more about my identity and has forced me to come out to myself and to others in a whole new way. This major has changed my life in ways that nothing else ever could. I have had the opportunity to learn the experiences of others through textbooks and through the stories of my peers. During all the horrors that have plagued our society over the past three years, I have had a family to pull me through. The WGS department has provided a safe space to calm my fears and give me a space to talk through things. My major has let me learn who I am and who I can become.
Next semester, Spring 2019, I will be taking my final WGS course, the Women's and Gender Studies Senior Capstone. In just a few months I will be done with one of my majors. A lot has changed, I have dropped my Media Studies minor since adding it, I have realized a whole new part of my identity, I have learned so much about so many people, and I have had an experience I will never forget. These past three years have changed my life, as has this department.
Thank you, mom, for supporting me through my crazy major. Thank you, UNC Greensboro, for having my crazy major. And thank you to the entire WGS department for changing my life.