Let’s be real, us liberal arts majors are the most misunderstood people on campus. Business majors and STEM majors could not possibly understand why we’d risk getting a degree in *gasps* the arts or humanities. To the rest of the world, we’re the lost kids who either don’t know what to do with our lives or don’t want to make any money in the future. We all know that those people are wrong.
During my first semester as a freshman, I felt exhausted and insecure telling people that I am going to be an Art History major. I was constantly having to justify myself and explain what I wanted to do. These conversations always ended with someone lecturing me on “practicality” and “the real world.” By the time finals week rolled around, even I was questioning if following my passion was worth it.
I’m not the only liberal arts major who has to deal with criticism and condescension from everyone who asks what we’re majoring in. Going into the New Year, I never want to feel like I did during the first semester, and I hope no one else does either. To push back on everyone who tell you that your dreams are not valid or lucrative enough to pursue, here are some resolutions to stay focused and committed to what means the most.
1. Stay true to yourself. I know how hard it is to free yourself from the pressure to go into a “practical field.” It comes from everywhere. At a school like University of Richmond, I feel the pressure of our esteemed business school all around. In my experience so far, most freshman I’ve come across are dedicated to being business majors but don’t display any pure, honest passion for it. Every now and then I’ll meet someone enthusiastic about it, but it’s rare. Us liberal arts majors are in our field because we simply cannot live without. Whether it be theater, history, English, or language studies, we’re the ones who know how to make our passion into reality. That is our best trait. When we stay true to ourselves and channel our love for our field into work that makes the world a better place, we will be the happiest and most fulfilled in our communities.
2.Give your classes 110%. While we aren’t the most accepted major at the family dinner table, we can be the most studious. We aren’t in our fields because we want to be lazy! Liberal arts field require an immense about of research, writing, and other academic tasks. By becoming strong writers and speakers, we put ourselves in the position of always being the smartest person in the room. Focusing in on school and research will not only up your GPA, it will make you more versed in what you want to study and give you an edge when it comes to applying for grants, scholarships and internships.
3. Talk about your goals with confidence. We all encounter people who don't believe in our dreams right off the bat. But the questions about our future will never cease. So the best way to deal with criticism is to change your response. If you don’t sound like you believe in what you love and want to do in life, no one will believe you. In my experience, I find that when I answer the “what do you want to do with your life” question with conviction, others start to see me as someone who will be accomplished despite my field. People listen to you based on the way that you present yourself. If you present yourself with poise and determination, your dreams and goals won’t get swept under the rug.
4. Fight for every possible opportunity. When you are in a field that is primarily social, research, or performance based field, prior experience is everything. Major cultural institutions almost always require research experience for entry level positions. During the spring semester, go to your department heads and ask about research or shadowing opportunities. I’ve learned in a short amount of time that there are an abundance of opportunities in the liberal arts that are right under our noses. Sometimes all it takes is to inquire about them. Some positions may be more competitive than others, but there is always something to learn. When you plug into your school and community to do what you feel passionate about, it makes all of those condescending questions about your major feel irrelevant.
5. Be the change you want to see in the world. Without liberal arts, the world wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Our field matter much more than people realize. Imagine a drab office building with no art or decoration? An advertisement with no colorful theme? A play without passionate actors and actresses? Book summaries without someone to analyze meaning and context? The world is a grim place without passionate people to do all of those things and more. We are crucial, we are propelling the world into the future even if it is behind the scenes. If we ignore skepticism and use our expertise for the greater good, we will continue to make the world around us a better place by adding culture to every aspect of life.
I know that in the end, I’d rather make an average salary but love waking up in the morning knowing that my job meant something, rather than living my life with the regret of not following my dreams. I know what I’m good at, I know what I’m passionate about, and I know it’ll make me wealthy in more ways than money can. Liberal arts majors are responsibly for the art and culture that the greater whole of society enjoys. The people around us may not realize our importance, but we do. And when we set goals, we sure do achieve them. My best advice is to start of the new year with strength, determination, and passion- and we will reap the rewards.