A Place for Everything: How Barnard Lets Me Be All That I Am
When I tell people what I did this summer, they’re usually a little confused. “Wait, so you were in a NASA competition and then you went to archaeology field school? How does that even work?” The truth is, if I were going to school anywhere else, it probably wouldn’t. I’ve always been in this weird spot where my biggest interests are two or three very, very, different things. That’s manifested itself in different ways throughout my life, but right now it’s most obvious in the fact that I’m studying archaeology, but devote the vast majority of my extracurricular time to pursuing aerospace and astronomy.
I’m lucky in that I grew up with the idea that it was okay for me to be whatever I wanted to be (and in that I have parents who didn’t laugh in my face when I told them I’d decided to change my major to archaeology), but I’ve still always felt a pressure to choose--to pick a direction and stick with it, even if that meant leaving the rest of my interests behind. Sure, I was also told that there was a place in the middle where all my passions could come together, but I’ve never had much luck finding it. Everything I’ve done in pursuit one of my interests has felt like a step towards one and away from the other.
But not anymore. Being at Barnard is the first time that I’ve really, genuinely felt like I can do and be as much as I want to.
Here, I’m consistently blown away by how easy it is to pursue everything I love at once. As much as I’ve always loved space, my tendency towards to humanities made me believe that I’d have to give up on that dream eventually. But my first semester at Barnard, I took an astronomy class specifically designed for non-majors, which meant that I could learn more about what I loved without having a strong background in it. And within my first few weeks at school I joined an aerospace engineering club, the Columbia Space Initiative. I love CSI because the people and community I’ve found there are incredible, but I also love it because the other members of the project I joined took me, a self-proclaimed math-challenged humanities major, and gave me a role. Even though I’m not studying astronomy, aerospace engineering, or anything of the sort, I get to spend time each week thinking about and actively working with space, and I don’t think that would be true if it weren’t for Barnard and Columbia.
Archaeology came a little later. I started college as an English major, and stumbled into archaeology after a long line of attempted areas of study. But as I moved through the humanities in my quest for something that would finally be perfect for me, the one thing that remained constant is that I never felt like choosing one interest meant giving up another. Whether those interests were the many majors I loved but ultimately decided against or the outside interests I wouldn’t pursue academically, I knew that declaring a major didn’t mean having to sacrifice any other passions.
I might be the space nerd to my archaeology friends, and the humanities student to my space friends, but nobody makes me feel like I’m trying to be too many things at once or that it’s bad that I can’t fit into just one box. Here, I have the resources and the support to pursue anything and everything. I can spend part of my summer helping present a paper to NASA, and then two weeks later find myself learning how to excavate at field school. My school is behind me being able to have both of these separate experiences in the first place, but it’s also responsible for, really for the first time ever, showing me proof that I don’t have to choose.
It’s okay that I’m the space-nerd-archaeology-major who hasn’t quite decided if my future lies in looking into the ground or up at the stars. Whatever I decide, I know I’ll always have Barnard to thank for teaching me that I don’t have to be just one thing.