When you first apply to university, most people are interested in what you want to study. You tell them History, Medicine or English and they say ‘oh ok cool’. But tell them something like American Studies an you’re often met with blank stares. There’s a silence that I often fill with ‘hahaaaa yeah I know it’s a bit weird isn’t it??!!’
No actually, it’s not. What it is is an interdisciplinary degree that focuses on a particular region of the world. It comes under the banner of ‘Area Studies’, and gives you a much better education than some give it credit for.
One of the things I love the most about Essex and my degree, is the freedom I have in what I study. My department is called the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC). They offer courses in American Studies, Global Studies, European Studies and Latin American Studies, as well as a course in Liberal Arts. The name of the centre is apt; my degree requires me to use skills from a multitude of disciplines.
I spent time as a Visit Day Ambassador, giving talks and tours to prospective students. My favourite thing to say when asked about module choices is that ‘the prospectus is your oyster’. I’ve taken courses from the Departments of History, Law, Sociology and Politics, all of which have been interesting and stimulating in your own way. The broad nature of the modules Essex offers allows me to shape my degree around my passions, and also gives me the freedom to explore something that I perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Because of this, I’ve been able to focus my modules on politics and media, whilst dipping a toe in the waters of jurisprudence.
My degree in American Studies doesn’t just mean I binge watch American Idol whilst eating a Big Mac. It means that I discuss the influences of popular culture in shows and brands like American Idol and McDonald’s, and how it affects things such as voting behavior or media consumption. I’m not doing it solely for the year abroad; although this is a great opportunity to learn from a new perspective, something I’ll talk about in a later post. My degree allows me to explore and understand another culture, and the similarities and differences it has with mine and others. Whatever it is that you study, I believe that it’s your passion for your subject that truly makes your degree worth the paper it’s written on.