Small Pond, Big Fish: Navigating your way through a STEM-centered university as a humanities major

 

Growing up, I knew my heart belonged in a creative field. When I applied to Clemson, I was drawn to its world cinema and English programs. For one, world cinema uniquely blended a combination of trans-cultural studies, filmmaking and language. I found these elements appealing, so I decided to take on this endeavor, along with a second degree in English to sharpen my communication skills. In all, I quickly realized that I wanted to pursue a career in filmmaking — a very unpopular career choice, especially at a public, research-centered university.

As I started my freshman year, I quickly hit the “questioning stage” with an intense wave of anxiety. While Clemson offers a variety of excellent humanities majors, it’s no secret this university is predominantly known for its science and engineering programs. I second-guessed the practicality of my degrees and the probability of obtaining employment right after graduation. What didn’t help in the midst of this mental battle was the fact that I didn’t initially see many creative opportunities on campus. I didn’t know of any film-centered clubs or students with the same interests and passions. How was I going to achieve my professional goals at a university that did not specialize in my desired career field? 

In comparison to other schools, Clemson’s humanities majors are smaller is size and scope — but don’t let that deter you from choosing to take one of these paths. After meeting with a few professors and taking initiative, I realized that Clemson did provide me with the opportunities and foundation that I needed. I simply could not see them because they did not receive the same level of exposure as some of Clemson’s other resources. The turning point was realizing I had to utilize my current resources to discover my potential at this university. 

Here are a few tips that helped me navigate my way as a humanities major:

1. Form close relationships with professors and people in your major

Networking is key, and maintaining close relationships with your professors and classmates will help you in the long run. This can start with simple introductions — stop by your professor’s office hours, start a group message with people in your class or go out of your way to make conversations with people who share your common interests. Taking these steps helped me personalize my relationships and provided networking opportunities. For instance, one of my friends whom I met in a film class just informed me about a potential internship position in California. She will be passing on my information to her hiring manager, so fingers crossed!

 

2. Don’t be afraid to start your own organization

One of the best ways to get involved is to throw yourself into a variety of outside activities, but don’t write off starting your own club. If you can’t find something you want on campus, take initiative and fill in that gap. During my sophomore year, I noticed a lack of production-oriented clubs. I eventually met with two professors and the three of us decided to start our own film club, Open Studio. Within two years, our organization has attracted a number of Clemson students and we accomplished several of our goals such as hosting a film screening and purchasing our first set of production equipment. Starting a club has its own set of challenges, but setting the foundation for other students in your field is equally as rewarding.

 

3. Take advantage of your social media 

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse, but it’s important to use it to your advantage. As technology continues to evolve, “branding yourself” remains an innovative way to create your own personalized identity online. Broadening your social media presence to many platforms opens doors to new connections, opportunities, and information. Considering our field is creative in its nature, proving to others that you can generate consistent content in a stylish and sophisticated way will make you stand out. Hiring managers in media-centered fields seek this quality in future employees, so it’s not a bad idea to practice and invest a little time into this venture. 

 

4. Don’t limit yourself geographically

This piece of advice may come across quite obvious, but opening doors to different cities and states across the country will serve you well. Many of my classmates found internships and jobs in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. These places may be out of your comfort zone and that’s okay. Just remember that there are opportunities out there and recognizing this notion is the first step. To my own surprise, I landed my first internship in Birmingham, Ala., instead of my hometown. My co-workers came from all across the country and when I asked them for professional advice, they told me the same thing: don’t limit yourself geographically. If that means searching for unique opportunities next door, across the country, or across the world, you might just find something you could not have found in your own backyard.

 

While these words of advice do not guarantee a path absolutely free of obstacles or limitations, they can help alleviate some of your anxieties. It may feel isolating at times, but it’s important to remember the perks of your position on campus. For starters, studying in a small program gives you incredible potential to stand out. The smaller the pond, the bigger the fish. Feel comfortable to speak up during those group discussions in literature classes. Go to your professor’s office hours. In other words, make a name for yourself and you will soon realize how easily everything else falls into place. 

So no —  navigating your way through a STEM-centered university as a humanities major is not always a walk in the park. But if you pick up a few of these pointers and shift your perspective, you’ll discover new possibilities and opportunities that will allow you to excel in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. 

 

 

Written by: Addison Cox

11/14/2019

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