To be clear: I know very little in the grand scheme of things. At twenty years old, I like to think I know more than I do, but two decades is not enough to really know the world despite travelling and spending my whole life in school. But one thing I am certain about, the one thing I am sure I got right, is that I chose the right major.
I am a Classical Studies major, and the most common question I get with this degree is: so what are you going to do with it? This is not the first time I have discussed this topic, either; in fact, I wrote a paper on it in an English Composition class during Spring semester 2016. My argument was that with this major, I could do anything I wanted to do. In fact, I believe I have more opportunity with my major than most.
It may sound ridiculous, but hear me out:
Overall, the focus of my degree is in the ancient civilizations, particularly Greece, Italy, and the Mediterranean. As a young child I was introduced to the ancients and archaeology, and it was just the beginning of something that I could never wrap my head around. It has intrigued me to this day. I hope there is never a time when the lives and achievements of those thousands of years prior to my contemporary life will lose its charm for me. And those achievements are great, too: some of the ancient civilizations held a better standard of living and development, and had a more functioning society, than some of today’s modern civilizations.
The classical degree enlightens in all areas of study. I study individuals and empires; war and politics; religion and business; dress codes and traditions; art and architecture; language and literature. By studying civilizations, I understand vast groups of people and all that they have been and will become. Classics majors see it all. We study business ventures of emperors and kings, battle strategies in multiple terrains, and literary genius from both epics to plays. We can rattle off dates and languages and names like they are our own. We also learn to be open-minded due to understanding bias, interoperation and the reliability of both contemporary and non-contemporary sources.
By studying the history of people, you realize how very little changes and how much history repeats. I can promise you: classical history teachers, professors, and lovers of the classical world can look at issues with government, immigration, war and religion, and know in depth its consequences. Leaders, royalty, tyrants, and idols all have their doppelgänger in history, I am certain. Learning about people in such a wide and varying degree of light is more enriching than any other class I have taken.
Have you ever noticed that there is always, in all classes, a link to the ancient world somewhere? For someone who strives for knowledge in all areas, it is perfect. But hopefully you understand now why my frustration sets in when I get asked: so what are you going to do with it?
What am I going to do with a degree that teaches me so much about the world? Anything I want to. Taking Classical Studies is the most enriching decision I’ve ever made.
I like knowing that even though I still have very little idea of what I want to do after college and where I want to go, I am not restricted at all. I am excited for the challenge. Besides, I can always learn more. My Classics degree has turned me into a better and stronger candidate for all fields of work for my future. I still have so much more to learn, but if my degree choice tells you anything, it is: I am not afraid to go and learn it all.
et ideo fortior. . .
Bethany Anne Miller
Class of 2019
Classical Studies Major