My "Pointless" Women's And Gender Studies Major Has Changed My Life

My "Pointless" Women's And Gender Studies Major Has Changed My Life

The Women's and Gender Studies department at my university has helped me so much.

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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.

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything
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I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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An Open Letter To Myself At 15

This is an open letter to myself about things I wish I had known at 15.

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Dear Hailey,

You are so loved. I know times might be hard, but it will all be okay. It's okay to ride the fence and be unsure of what you want to do with your life. You're going to change your mind 10 more times before graduation anyways. Also, don't worry about all of the things that you can't change. You can't make someone fall in love with you or make her treat you like a better friend. It's okay for people not to fit in your life. Stop bending over backward for people and live for yourself. In a few years, you will go through so much, but you come out on the better side. You are going to be successful and driven. Also, learn what the meaning of "self-care" is. You need to do a lot of that in the upcoming years. Mental health is more important than anything. Also, quit cutting your baby hairs. They will never get longer so you need to embrace and love them early on. Figure out what you can change, and what you cannot. Most importantly, accept what you cannot change. When you decide that you are ready to face the things that you can change, do it with your whole heart. That doesn't mean complete perfection. It's important to know the difference. Start by making a plan for the future. Write it down, memorize it, do whatever makes it the easiest for you. Think through your plan logically, take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses. Remember to do the hard things first once in a while, the relief is sweet in the end.

You are ready.

You are young.

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

If you ever feel that you are at your lowest point, just remember the only place that you can go is up. Find reassurance in the weakness. The best is yet to come. Don't take pity on yourself. Instead, work harder to make your situation better. Be happy. There are so many things to be thankful for. Ask when you need help. No one can read your mind. Time won't stop for you. Worrying and stressing is simply a waste of time. Be strong and know that you are in God's hands. Everything will work out. It may not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, the pieces will fall into place and you will understand why things had to happen that way.

Love,

Me

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