Valuing the Process of Learning

When I entered college, around two years ago from this date, I thought I knew who I wanted to be. Rather, I thought I knew what I wanted from my four years: a degree that represented my interests. My schedule was filled with courses that you would guess was a track to medical school. Chemistry, calculus and the like. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that I didn’t understand why I chose this path. I struggled keeping up in chemistry, not because I couldn’t process the dense information, but because I didn’t want to. The subject was clearly not for me. I recognize that Emory has a reputation for trying to weed out students who are not “fit” for the medical field (or frankly any field), and I didn’t want to be another statistic who changed tracks.

I pushed myself to “like” the objective sciences, but in reality, I was lying to myself. I was lying to my parents. I wanted to read plays or write about absurdism. I wanted to understand the world through an economic lens. I wanted college to bring out the young philosopher in me. I didn’t like what I had done, I didn’t like the choices I made and I especially didn’t like living someone else’s dreams.

After one semester of life-changing experiences, internal/external dialogue and realizations, I knew it was time to confess to myself that medical school was not my goal and that it would be okay if I didn’t know who I wanted to be.

My transition from pre-med to I-don’t-know-what was rough. I thought I never wanted to see a science class listed in the course catalog again. I was so adverse to even the thought of going back that I closed myself fully to general education requirements (GER). I knew I would eventually have to try again, but I was hoping to put it off until the requirement of fulfilling a science GER (with or without a lab) would maybe miraculously disappear (or perhaps get “cut”).

Three hundred and sixty degrees later, I took biology for non-majors this past summer, and it changed my life. No, it wasn’t an “easy A” kind of course — and yes I did struggle in it. However, this class taught me that college is about learning things that you might not seem interested in. It’s about education on a more in-depth level, and it’s about experiences that you cannot find elsewhere. I told my professor at the time that if this class did not teach me how to “be a scientist,” I at least learned how to perceive the world in a different, biological lens (redundant for some, I know).

And here I am, two years later, on track for an economics and philosophy degree, arguing for Emory’s choice in general education requirements.

I think it’s important that people don’t view the world through a single perspective. The intersection of disciplines surrounds us, and college gives us the opportunity to explore such dimensions. College is like evolution. It is not goal-oriented. You are given an amazing opportunity to attend a top institution with many resources that you can’t find elsewhere. This includes a plethora of departments with amazing professors who really care about what you get out of their courses.

This summer, I learned that college isn’t only about getting that degree — it’s about expanding your search for truth. Such a search requires different perspectives of the world, and in order to get that, we must learn about the way in which other people look at it. This includes taking courses that you would otherwise scoff at. I have heard one too many instances of pre-medical students laughing at English classes or pre-law students trying to get out of taking a lab requirement. We cannot ignore these essential classes. There is a reason our administration has general education requirements. 

An Emory degree doesn’t only represent your “specialty,” but it also shows the world that you are a holistic person who had to take different kinds of courses to get where you are.

Major in what you want to major in. Take more courses in the things that interest you. But I urge you to take every class, including those outside of your discipline, with the same amount of seriousness and pride. Don’t look at classes as just “requirements” — they’re different methodologies or perspectives to live your life. 

And if you still don’t buy it, at least take classes that are out of your specific discipline to further enforce your original choices. Just keep an open mind; you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.

So here I am, two years later, with absolutely no regrets.

I am pre-law. I am pre-business. I am pre-graduate school. I am pre-med. I am pre-DJ. I am pre-barista. I am pre-artist.

I am pre-life.

Editorials Editor Priyanka Krishnamurthy is a College junior from Coppell, Texas.

Cartoon by Priyanka Pai

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