My Unexpected Double Major

My college experience has been a sequence of serendipitous moments, each leading me to a better and brighter place. As I have spoken about in a previous blog post, the deciding factor that led me to Cal was a chance moment of looking up the motto for the College of Natural Resources. I love talking about my experience in that college as a Society & Environment major, how supportive and welcoming that environment has been for me. However, I would argue that the defining moment of my college experience was when I decided to pick up my second major, Geography.

Let me just start off by saying that Geography is really really cool. I could talk about maps for actual hours (and I have :D). However, if you had told me five years ago that I would be a geography major, I would have likely laughed in your face. First off, I have a terrible sense of direction so it just doesn’t make sense for me to be a geography major. But more importantly, my perception of geography was totally different than it is now. It is not just knowing where things are on maps, it’s so much more complex and beautiful than that — but more on that later.

One of the beautiful things about my other major, Society & the Environment, is that it’s so interdisciplinary, which allows me to take classes from all sorts of departments. For my major requirements, I have tons and tons of options, so I often pick whatever class sounds the most interesting to me. So when I was signing up for classes for the second semester of my freshman year, I thought about what class sounded the most relevant to the minor that I was thinking about pursuing, Food Systems. Finding a class called “Food and the Environment” made me so excited because, of course, that’s exactly what I wanted to study! The one thing that didn’t make a ton of sense to me was why it was a class listed within the Geography department, rather than the Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (or ESPM) department. When I signed up for the class, I actually kind of dreaded what kind of Geography I was going to have to do in that class. It was not something I wanted to do, not a subject I had any desire to explore, but the topic of the class sounded interesting enough that I was still willing and excited to see where it went.

The class was phenomenal. As someone who hadn’t studied a ton about food systems yet, I was amazed. But what shocked me even more was how cool Geography was, how different it was from what I thought. I think a professor I had the following semester put it very well, stating that Geography is driven by the question you want to know the answer to, not limited by a particular methodology or subject. Geography is the study of the ways physical and human landscapes come together and determine the ways in which people act. I found myself learning about topics ranging from computer science to political ecology all in one class that I thought would just be about food and the environment. One day, I found myself sitting in class as normal and had an epiphany. Why was I not just majoring in this? Finally I’d found something that combined all of my interests and would be an ever expanding, ever evolving field that would never cease to keep my interest.

After doing some of my own initial research, I made plans to talk with my professor about the geography program. He himself went to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and was very familiar with the geography major as a whole. He got me excited about the program, recommended some cool classes I could take the next semester, and I felt genuinely set to switch over to that major. Society and Environment was great, but Geography was where my heart was at. Though it was certainly not a decision I had spent nearly enough time thinking about, I went to my major advisor and told him that I wanted to switch. But the more we talked about it, the more I realized that the best way to decide between the two majors was to not decide at all, I could have both! Now I am a double major and I could not be happier.

Kaelyn Schlegel

Author: Kaelyn Schlegel

Hello all! I am a second-year at Cal studying Society & Environment as well as Geography, coming from the small town of Ojai, California. Beyond being a campus ambassador, I am involved in student advocacy and community service. Ask me about 37.8751° N, 122.2387° W