Asking about majors is a staple of college introductions. In an exchange-heavy university most initial conversations can be put into three categories: majors, countries and why Sweden. Depending on the differences in native languages, a fourth category on pronouncing your name properly can also be added.
Majors such as international business administration and teaching are the most common. Then come various language studies or, my personal favorite, peace and development studies. When asked, students of peace and development seem to all be planning on solving world hunger and curing AIDs, before retiring to work at an embassy in a war-torn area and bringing about peace to the world.
They are lovely people, but not a group I would want on my side in a zombie apocalypse. Or any form of apocalypse. With the Mayan deadline approaching, these apocalyptic-ally concerns become increasingly relevant.
Another batch of lovely but not quite apocalypse-worthy people are the American studies majors. I freely admit the first time Aleksandra Tylenda (Poland) told me her major, I thought it was a joke. Sort of, look an American, let’s pretend I’m studying her country as a college degree, ha-ha, I’m so clever. I would put the “look an American…” part in quotes
No, turns out it’s a legitimate major, her friend Aleksandra Szewczyk (also Poland) has the same major.
After incredulously demanding of other Americans if they had ever heard of something so ridiculous, my error was corrected. Japanese studies and Latino studies are majors at many American institutions along with other culture-based majors, so who am I to say America can’t have a major dedicated to it? That is a foul form of reverse discrimination.
Though my objection to their major was quickly dismissed, the next question seemed far more reasonable. Studying America for up to five years is all well and good, but then choosing Sweden as the destination for studying abroad doesn’t make much sense. If learning about American culture is the point of your college education, it would make far more sense to actually go to America.
Further investigation into the European college system helped shed some light on the somewhat bizarre major choices of my new friends. In most cases it is expected a bachelor’s is not enough; the bachelor’s serves as a stepping stone into a master’s, where the focus is narrowed and considered a prequel to your future career.
Take Aleks Tylenda for example. An American Studies major, she hopes to go into a master’s program for sports management after her graduation.
“It’s something I can actually see myself doing and enjoying,” she said. “Studying American politics? Not so much.”
You and me both, sister.
Master’s programs in the States usually prefer the prior bachelor’s degree to have something to do with the program you are going into. According to some European students, the more technical master’s like Biochemistry or Physics are the same. Less technical ones (like sport’s management, apparently) simply want to ensure applicants can keep up with the workload, which just about any bachelor’s degree will prove.
Perhaps that is the fate of the peace and development majors. To spread to the four winds in search of curing cancer, AIDs, insert-scourge-of-humanity-here, only to choose a different master’s programs for practicalities sake. The presence of a peace and development master’s program does detract something from this theory though.