I go to UCLA, one of the top-rated public universities in the country. I am incredibly lucky to attend this institution, but it is not for without reason. I was privileged enough to go to a good high school, worked hard to earn a high GPA, did plenty of extracurriculars. I continue to do well academically at UCLA while also participating in several extracurricular activities and holding two part time jobs.
Yet I still feel like I need to prove why I’m qualified to attend this university.
Our school is quite literally divided into North and South campuses. “North campus” is basically shorthand for humanities majors, while south campus majors correlate with STEM majors. Each side has specific stereotypes. North campus majors are usually thought to be smoking hot with a vibrant social life, but won’t be able to land a job after university. South campus majors are reduced to the ugly nerd stereotype so often overdone in 80s films, but expected to achieve the pinnacle of success in their post-collegiate career.
In my first year, I became intimately familiar with these divisions. The year was filled with awkward introductions always ending with a condescending, “Oh…what do you want to do with that?” once revealing that I major in English and history. Ironically, a majority of the people I befriended were south campus majors, as I found myself part of a tight knit friend group on the floor I lived on. I was the most “north campus” of anyone in the group, at least by the standards of my majors. My friends easily bonded over difficult professors and prerequisites, studied together and painfully chuckled together when they learned the class average for their final was a 30 percent.
Meanwhile, I hadn’t taken a science or math class since my junior year of high school and thus did not remember of things my peers considered “basics.” My schoolwork and exams looked different than those of my friends, and to some, it looked like I didn’t have to put in effort to receive high grades.
I remember a specific incident in which my roommate at the time recorded me trying to help her with a chemistry problem; I mistakenly referred to carbon as a metal. My roommate and other friends burst out laughing at my mistake.
She went as far as to post the video on UCLA’s meme page (the post is still there to this day).
The post received excessive attention, with over 900 people reacting to it on Facebook and over 200 people commenting on it. My roommate didn’t hesitate to update me on how many people liked or commented on the post; she specifically made sure to inform me of the particularly harsh comments, such as one saying that I didn’t deserve to study at UCLA at all.
For weeks after the post surfaced, I was sad and angry. Angry at my roommate for exploiting my mistake, angry for people not accepting me as an intelligent person because I major in something completely different than them, angry at people who laughed at me but turned around and asked me to edit their papers.
I got this sense that UCLA students only felt that south campus majors were truly intelligent and that they were the only ones that would contribute anything beneficial to society. But I soon realized that that line of thinking is simply untrue. Many of the people we depend on and look up to the most—politicians, artists, educators, screenwriters, directors, musicians, historians, sociologists, poets, authors, journalists—are rooted in humanities. The pen that a north campus major holds today can help lead to revolution, protest, and new outlooks on life as we know it.
This isn’t to say that one portion of campus is smarter or worth more than the other; we’re just intelligent in different ways. Both are needed to have a functioning, diverse, healthy society.