How I got here, or “You couldn’t have it all” (part 1)

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Along the way, I realized that more specifically, I wanted to be a historian. The logical step was for me to study History, right? Somehow I decided that while I was very firm on the history thing, first I wanted to gain a little more perspective on the other stuff that interested me very much: mainly philosophy, literature, and Latin America.

So the best choice for me was enrolling in Latin American Studies: on the first couple of years of the program I’d gain further insight on philosophy and literature, while all through the four years of it I’d develop a sense of what Latin America is, and I’d still be able to focus most of my subjects in history. It really sounded like a win-win! And…well, it is, except for a couple of details that nobody mentions when you sign on for this particular major.

First off, you have to deal with constant input from all kinds of different subjects that are always very fascinating. You’ll not only have philosophy, literature and history, you’ll also have economics and geography and composition and even a sprinkle of psychology, not to mention ethnology, anthropology, and aesthetic appreciation. This is all very good, what humanist in their right mind wouldn’t enjoy this kind of education? The problem is that you can’t possibly become a specialist in all of these areas. Usually if you want to succeed in your profession, you have to stand out in some area. In my experience, most teachers try to resolve this issue among anxiety-stricken students by throwing-in the word interdisciplinarity out in the open like it was nothing, as if it came as a natural consequence of taking a bit from here and a tad from there. Instead, I see it as some kind of philosopher’s stone: it’s practically unachievable and it means something different to every latinoamericanist, yet it is the quest for it that matters.

Going back to all the different options you have when you enter this particular major in this particular school:  imagine going to the best restaurant in town, and the waitress brings you everything that looks good on the menu. You can’t possibly eat 8 or 9 dishes but they bring them anyways. From then on, your dinner can go in many different ways: you can devour your first dish ’cause it’s so delicious, only to find out you can’t take more than a tablespoon of the rest. You could decide to stick with 3 or 4 plates and moderately enjoy them, each one has a specific seasoning and yet they all seem to work together. You could try out all of them but save your stomach for dessert or whatever dish you think is best. Or, you can be naive and try to eat them all out, you’ll probably not only end up with indigestion but you won’t remember each plate individually, their particular tone and spark will probably be lost.

The biggest problem is that at UNAM, where I went to school, you don’t have a counselor. At all. There is no one to warn, help or guide you about the different paths you might take. And so, you start dinner with nothing but hunger, only to discover midway through it that you need a plan if you don’t want to end up passed out, drinking Pepto-Bismol out of the bottle, or acknowledging you simply didn’t enjoy it as much as you could have done.

Some of us are lucky enough to know what we want to do with our time at the faculty, and this helps us whenever we get so overwhelmed we don’t know what to do. However, the profile of a lad who enters this major is that of a confused person who doesn’t really know what to do with their life, or more exactly, can’t decide what plate to order, so s/he thinks is a good option to go where they serve you everything at once.

This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. As far as I know, there are 14 majors in my faculty. Wanna take a wild guess at which has the lowest graduation percentages? Not surprisingly, that would be Latin American Studies. Half the people drop out, another part changes majors, and the ones who remain simply don’t graduate…ever.

Now, even when the graduation thing is a related topic, I think it deserves an explanation of its own since it’s a whole other level of crazy (which in my case ended up with the creation of the Frankenthesis). So, I’ll leave that for another post, stay tuned!

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6 thoughts on “How I got here, or “You couldn’t have it all” (part 1)

  1. Hmm, you bring back memories of my double major undergrad. Anthropology and Women’s Studies. I wanted to Honours in both, but it became complicated, to say the least. But I got what I needed from the BA and chose a more creative route. Not sure it was the wisest move, but that’s what happens when, like you say, you have no plan!

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