“I hate math.”
“I’m bad at science.”
“I’m just not a STEM person.”
At some point in high school, I found myself repeating these statements with a special kind of stubborness. Over time, everyone had gradually divided themselves based on which subjects they were good at, and I had identified myself as a “humanities-person.” I had lost my interest in science and math, increasingly jaded by the score-based, high pressure environment of my high school. My confidence in these subjects had long dissipated. Because of this, during my college search, I was infatuated by the idea of an unrestricted open curriculum. Never take another math class again? No hard sciences? It sounded too good to be—
“Tufts has a Distribution Requirement, you know.” Oh, right.
I preferred an interdisciplinary exploration within my comfort zone. Subjects I already liked. But surely I could handle two..? I bit the bullet and signed up for an astronomy course, secretly hoping for philosophical discussions on the insignificance of human beings on a cosmic scale. But then came PHYSICS. I found myself sitting in front of lecture slides on Newton's Modification of Kepler's Third Law. This may excite some of you, but I was irrecoverably allergic to physics since the age of fourteen. Wanders in Space: Exploration and Discovery projectiled me full force into a sea of repressed anxieties.
But being forced encouraged to explore was a blessing in disguise. The cosmos and the universe is inevitably fascinating once you learn how to conceptualize it. I began to relearned basic concepts I had skimmed over in high school. Helping hands extended everywhere: the Teaching Assistant, people sitting next to me in class, and my friends passionate about physics all offered to explain to me until I truly understood the concepts and how to apply them to astronomy.
The people I’ve encountered at Tufts all have two things in common: a wide range of interests and an enthusiasm to share them.This is the perfect recipe for good conversations within and across disciplines. I love this energy. I see it in my friend as his love for linear algebra takes form in his exuberant hand gestures. I’ve met people with broadly intersecting interests that majors seem too arbitrary as a labels to describe anyone.
The point is not that I’ve converted, that somehow I’ve switched sides. There is no need for a dichotomy in the first place. I still adore the humanities and the social sciences. And science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and other fields I had shelved away have returned in my life to enrich my understanding of subjects I already love.
At Tufts, you are never only a “STEM” or “Arts and Humanities” student. To isolate yourself in that way (at any educational institution for that matter) would be a true academic tragedy. I run into STEM everywhere on campus. Science, technology, engineering, and math follow me around like happy quadruplets. I am pleasantly surprised by how they continue to appear in my academic and social life in curious ways.
P.S. If you or a loved one has experienced fear, anxiety, hatred, or even general annoyance regarding mathematics at any point in your or their lifetime: