Politely curious individual: “So what are you studying?”

Me: “Well, you see, it’s complicated…”

An excellent, tried-and-true icebreaker in a university setting is asking someone’s academic specialty. Not only does it help break awkward pauses – it’s a way to get to know someone and their interests and maybe learn something new yourself in the process.

For example, did you know that there’s an Insect Ecology and Conservation major? Fascinating!

I just always feel bad when I give a long answer to this one-line question.

I’m an International Relations and Russian Studies double-major with minors in Journalism and Museum Studies.

Yes, I sleep.

Yes, I will graduate on time.

And yes, I absolutely love it!

The reason I’m inclined to list these areas of academic focus is not to be boastful. I’m just so interested in them all that it’s almost like having one large, expansive, discipline-spanning major. While I’m still not 100% certain what career path I’ll take, I’m confident that these combined majors and minors will give me the experience and know-how I need for whatever I end up choosing.

Now there are a few circumstances that have made pursuing two duos of majors and minors a relatively smooth process. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school that offered a great deal of AP courses, which allowed me to come into UD having completed a lot of core and breadth requirements for my majors. (So if there are any high schoolers who happen to be reading this, take advantage of APs if you can!). All of my majors and minors are also situated in the College of Arts and Sciences, and some courses I’ve taken have fulfilled requirements for more than one of them.

Additionally, figuring all of this out takes some thought and time. I came into college knowing that I wanted to study International Relations and the Russian language. I also had decided relatively early on that I wanted a Journalism minor, and after meeting with my advisor to ensure that it would be feasible, I declared it during my first semester.

Likewise, at the start of my sophomore fall semester, I recall being in Old College and seeing a flyer for a so-called “Museum Studies” minor. I was intrigued – museums fascinate me, and the chance to study them and their relationship to the public seemed almost too good to be true. I scheduled a meeting with the program’s director, who assured me that I’d be able to complete the minor even with everything else I was doing, and the rest is history.

And while pursuing two majors and minors has been incredibly rewarding and enriching, it has without a doubt taken some significant planning (and intensive Degree Audit and Course Search sessions) on my part. I always have to make sure that I’m staying on track for each major and minor, which can sometimes be a bit frustrating when course times overlap or certain courses aren’t offered in a given semester. This is where meeting with your advisor(s) and taking the time to really consider what skills or knowledge you want to come away from college with come into play. I also have to make sure that I’m meeting requirements for my Honors degree – remember that the Honors staff is always more than happy to help with this!

Additionally, if you decide to pursue multiple majors and/or minors, you’ll likely find that your interests might change throughout the journey. I, for one, have found myself set on taking a class for a given major or minor, only to have completely shifted interests a few semesters later. For example, I embarked on the Journalism minor absolutely certain that I would take all writing-focused courses. But after taking COMM 326: Field Television News Production, I’ve switched my outlook and now hope to spend my remaining required credits taking broadcast-related courses. Taking on multiple majors and minors in and of itself is a means of personal academic exploration – relish it.

Of course, one should never feel like they must take on more majors and minors. There are plenty of ways to explore your varying interests beyond coursework, and pursuing a specific course of study can allow for an in-depth exploration of something that you’re truly passionate about.

But if you find yourself wanting to expand but don’t know where to start, peruse the list of the university’s 150+ majors. Check out college and department websites to see what they offer. Ask your professors, friends, and classmates, as they may be able to make effective recommendations.

And check your inbox! Oftentimes departments will email you information about majors and minors being offered. Look at flyers around campus, which sometimes advertise majors and minors.

Should you find something that piques your interest, I recommend you schedule a meeting with your advisor to ensure that you’re able to pursue it given course load and credit requirements. It’s also a good idea to meet with the major or minor’s head to be sure that it really fits your interests and goals.

One important thing to note: you shouldn’t go into this feeling like you have to shape your career based on your majors and minors. If I don’t pursue a career in diplomacy, I’ll still understand the complex factors that shape global interactions. If I don’t become a journalist, I’ll still know how to communicate effectively and ask questions. If I don’t work in a museum, I’ll still appreciate all of the considerations that go into operating them. 

Pursuing multiple majors and minors can be occasionally stressful, yes, but if done right, it can also be a spectacular way to discover something new about the world and yourself.

And who am I kidding? It’s also a really, really good conversation starter.

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