Choosing a major

University Hall, University of Illinois at Chicago

When I was an undergrad, I couldn’t decide on a major. After much deliberation, I finally narrowed it down to English or Spanish. After even more deliberation, I decided not to decide and I double-majored in English and Spanish. My emphasis in both majors was literature.

I love to read. And besides, my personal agenda includes writing The Great American Novel, that is, if I ever actually got around to sitting down at my computer and writing a novel. Nothing would help me achieve my goal more easily than majoring in Spanish, and oh, yes, English, too.

Anyway, by doing this double major, I straddled two academic cultures. I saw the best and worst of both worlds. Most of the students who majored in Spanish were from the middle or lower class and were very humble. The students who majored in English were also from the middle or lower class, but they thought they were really cool. Not every English major exuded this arrogant aura of “cool.” Just a handful, but just enough to annoy the rest of the class. Whenever they said something they thought was extremely brilliant or witty, they would proudly announce, “I’m an English major!” as if no one else in the classroom was also an English major.

Some of the English professors were of the plain vanilla variety who seemed tired of Academia, the “cool” English majors, and the literature they taught. The Spanish professors, on the other hand, were from Spanish-speaking countries who also seemed tired of Academia, but lacked “cool” students, and absolutely loved their subject. In general, there was much more laughter in my Spanish classes than in my English classes. The Spanish professors weren’t afraid to reveal their cynicism and world-weariness in satirical and humorous ways, and besides, the literature in Spanish is generally much funnier than literature in English. Of course, whatever literary theory I learned in English classes, I applied to my Spanish classes, thereby making me one of the better Spanish students. I have never regretted my decision to major in both English and Spanish. Eventually, I will write a novel, even if it doesn’t achieve The Great American Novel status. But I did learn a lot about world literature as a double major in Spanish and English. I feel so “cool” since I majored in English!

Look at me! I'm cool! I'm an English major!!!