So today, I had lunch at the Daily Grind. The veggie quesadillas were out, so I went to go order a bagel. When I got to the counter, though, I hit my dilemma. In a neat little basket off to the side by the tip jar sat a double chocolate-chip “nutrition” bar. The kind that justifies your eating a candy bar for lunch. I’ve had other flavors of this bar, but this was, like, double chocolate.
My heart rate increased, my eyes dilated, and my palms got sweaty. The lady was approaching the register, her eyes cordially trained on me, unaware of the turmoil behind mine.
Bagel. No, bar. But the bagel. But double chocolate. But the bagel’s bigger. But double chocolate. And just then, as I was about to burst in a life’s worth of tension, it hit me.
I ordered both.
I guess this is the same dilemma I had when I started at Hopkins (AHH look at me, sounding like a seasoned college life expert). Registering for my first college classes over the summer sparked a huge internal debate about what I wanted out of my undergraduate experience. I had some constants. I knew I wanted to be a physician. I knew that neuroscience was my passion. I knew that I wanted to help people as a whole, not just persons individually.
Consolidating was a little too ambitious for a single major. Majoring in Neuroscience seemed like a no-brainer (PUN100%INTENDED). I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve just jumped from link to link on Wikipedia neuroscience articles in high school waiting for the day that I could take a legitimate neuroscience course. But as I started to learn more about the departments here, I came across Public Health Studies. It wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about for myself, nor had I ever thought hard about serious public health issues in the world. But I liked the sound of it; physicians heal person by person, but it seemed fulfilling and rewarding to understand the workings of healing a community as a whole. It was like macromedicine to me.
Double majoring always had this connotation of insanely intelligent, overachieving, superfluous rigor. It seemed like only the cream of the crops could even consider having two majors when so many people struggle with just one. And then I learned that it was almost normal at Hopkins. That’s not to say that the majority of students double-major, but it’s certainly accepted and relatively common.
I think a large part of the credit here goes to the fact that Hopkins lacks a core curriculum. Without an old parchment dictating how I should approach my education, I’m given the free will to take classes I’m interested in or have a passion for. This semester, I can’t think of a single class that I genuinely dislike. Because I picked them.
It’s a far cry from high school, for starters. Sure, I could “pick” my own classes. But then again, not really. As Napoleon declares in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” All classes are fair game, but some classes were more “impressive” than others. And this tacit rank of rigor kind of molded a lot of diligent, college-seeking students’ schedules over the course of the 4 years. Here, though, the lack of strictly defined “impressive classes” lets me and every other student follow our interests when it comes to course selection.
My double major between Neuroscience and Public Health is something I’m proud of for the sheer fact that it’s a convergence of my diverging interests. It prevents me from being forced to choose between something I love and something I want to explore. And that allows me to grow.
At Hopkins, I can have my bagel and chocolate bar and eat them too.