Changing My Mind: My Journey to the History Major

Changing My Mind: My Journey to the History Major

I came into Barnard as an English Major, something I’d always planned on studying. I was convinced that English was my path and that it made the most sense with my career path (book publishing). I’d always loved History as well, though, so I took a class my first semester called “Introduction to European History: 1500-1789” and it changed my path.

I fell in love with the class. The stories of family dynasties, the scholarship of the field, and the ability to track cause and effect in History fascinated me. I didn’t take an English class my first semester because I already had a pretty heavy course load, but I decided to put one on my schedule for my second semester.

Although I love the English class I’m taking this semester (“The Modern Novel”), the second part of the introductory History class from my first semester has captured my heart. We’re studying the French Revolution to the Present, and every class I leave with this feeling that my brain is going to explode with knowledge--and that excites me. Once I identified that feeling as passion I knew that I was meant to be a History major. When I sat down to pick my classes I wanted to take six History classes and nothing else (something you can’t do, as much as I wish I could!). I’m obsessed.

And that’s why I switched. I haven’t officially declared my major in the History department, but I’ve met with the chair of the department, Lisa Tiersten, and planned out the major. I’ve decided to hold off on declaring because I have to also declare my concentration, which is a History major requirement, and I’m not quite sure of my concentration. The History department does thematic and regional concentrations, and right now I’m thinking of doing European History, but the thematic concentrations are also fascinating to me! So, I’m leaving my options open.

The History department at Barnard is truly an incredible place. Every professor is so welcoming and intensely passionate about what they study. A great conversation starter is to ask them about what they’re currently working on--it makes their eyes light up and you can’t get them to stop talking! When I went to visit a Eastern European History professor at Columbia, we sat in her office and talked about the history of Communism and Nationalism for an hour, all because I came in with questions about a paper I was writing for a different professor. Every History professor I’ve talked to at both Barnard and Columbia have been nothing but amazing people--and it’s made me certain that the History department is where I belong.

Don’t be afraid to switch your path and to try new classes! I came into Barnard with this feeling that I could only major in English and that I had to take every class with a purpose. Now, I’m realizing that I can major in whatever I want and that it’s important to take classes just because the descriptions sounds cool. College is all about exploration, and it’s important to let yourself try new things--even if they’re not in your plan.

(Also, if you want to talk History with me, my inbox is always open.)

-Willa

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