Eclectic Electives: Why my degree resembles an ice cream…

When applying to enter the undergraduate science program at USQ almost three years  ago, my former self had little clue that she would be experiencing much more than psychological theory and statistical jargon… She would be putting her fingers in all the pies, stealing the knowledge of many other faculties, and forming a degree that featured an assortment of different flavours and academic sprinklings – it would be like the making of one very creative, epic, delicious ice cream.

But I suppose I should really take a step back and start my story from the beginning…

When I was in grade eleven I stumbled across an amazing thing – they called it ‘Head Start’. What teenager wouldn’t want to drop a subject at school and instead attend a weekly, three-hour Uni class in which you mainly listened to music and discussed the Beatles and Rolling Stones? Whilst pretending to be a witty, laid-back, astoundingly cool Uni student of course…  I heard about Head Start at school and from friends and was excited at the idea, but the huge selection of courses to choose from posed a problem for the 16-year-old Georgena who had no idea what she wanted to do after high school. However, despite being the exceptionally indecisive person I was (and still am), I eventually chose ‘An Introduction to Popular Music’. The class – worth over $500 – was fully paid for by USQ, and I was told it guaranteed me a place there after school if I wanted it, and could potentially contribute to my future degree. I loved every minute of the course and thus began the creation of custom-made USQ journey.

Over the next year I decided a degree in Psychology was the way to go, and I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psych.

Decision made,” I thought to myself “bring on the predetermined classes and structured coursework!” This was not the case however. University threw me a curve ball; only sixteen of my twenty-four subjects were set – the remainder were (you guessed it) up to my less-than-experienced self to decide upon. Instead of a pre-made sundae I was given only the basics – a fifty cent cone which I then had to doll-up myself. You can imagine my dismay upon discovering the hundreds of subjects open to me yet again. And so, instead of a cleverly researched approach, I adopted a pretty happy-go-lucky/crazy woman one… “Introduction to Education? Why not, some of my friends are taking it…” “Journalism? Sure, throw that one in there” “English Literature? Didn’t mind it at school, sign me up!” I didn’t know what I was interested in at the time so I thought why not try a bit of everything; no need to choose between caramel topping and crushed nuts when you’re given the option of both.

I muddled along during first year, completing my set subjects as well as a good few not-so-set ones. I didn’t feel particularly attached to the semester one education course or to the journalism course I undertook in summer semester that year. But, third time’s the charm as I came across a winner in English Literature (thank goodness!) – My choice of subjects finally began looking a little less eclectic, a little less random (after over a third of my degree was already completed…). I decided to take on four literature courses; the four which are considered a minor within an arts degree (the last of which I am completing currently, in the final semester of my science degree) – and I haven’t regretted it since.

I consider literature a breath of fresh air when I get too bogged down in the midst of all that psychology work, and I’m thankful now that I was given so many electives to play around with, and that I experimented until I found the perfect combo. So here’s the final description of my rocky-to-start-with ice cream:

  1. A novice with no background in ice cream buys a flake before even considering the ice cream to be had (i.e. my music elective)
  2. Several years later (the flake maybe slightly melted and forgotten by this point), a much more enlightened being purchases the ‘base’; a very large cone and a generous serve of vanilla ice cream (i.e. enrolling in a science degree with the major of psychology)
  3. A bunch of crazy children arrive and drench the ice cream in mismatched toppings and sprinkles (i.e. the education, journalism, and first literature electives)
  4. Luckily, a seasoned taste-tester arrives and, appreciating the small amount of caramel sauce found, adds more and gets the balance near perfect (i.e. the following three literature courses)
  5. A final passer-by realises that the ice cream is being lost amidst all these new flavours and adds a final scoop, perfecting the recipe (i.e. the third-year psychology elective I chose in the summer semester of my second year)

I think the moral to this somewhat in-depth analogy is that, at the end of the day, your degree should be unique to you, and you shouldn’t be afraid of customising it where possible. Learning is a lot about choices and decision-making (as my former self quickly discovered) – and ice cream tastes a lot better when you make it yourself!!