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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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My messy and polyamorous majors story

I take Chemistry and Political Science to be my lawfully wedded wives but my heart remains with my mistress Literature

Three years ago, if you were to tell me the hopeless romantic with rose-tinted glasses for eyes, who had just come to Knox as a Literature major, on the pre-law track, that I would be graduating with a double major in Chemistry and Political Science, I would have screamed and dropped out.

But here I am, a SMC rat, permanently damaged from Organic Chemistry and shaken to my core by the theories of American constitutional law (which I must tell you are more enraged by kids holding banners saying “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” in schools than kids bringing guns to school, and I am not lying: these are actual Supreme Court cases). So how did I make this turn and end up where I am?

I came in as a Literature major but I always knew I wanted to go to law school after college, and knew lit majors could. So my first day at Knox, I attended a pre-law session and I remember the pre-law advisor telling us that for our personal statements to law school, we would need a compelling enough reason for why we wanted to be a lawyer (which was not making money).

In response, someone had said that they didn’t care about making money from their job and I could not relate. Financial stability had always been my priority when it came to picking a career. I was coming into Knox with barely enough money to graduate, and unsure about my future in the U.S.. For me, law was the best option that I was both passionate about and would allow me to make money, unlike literature, who gave me all the pleasure in the world, without the promise of future stability.

I could always go back to where I came from. As much as I would have liked to choose that option, it isn’t one that is financially sustainable because of the economy of my home country. Based on my math, after graduation, I would be making around $150 a month from any job I picked. For example, some of my friends who are medicine doctors, make as much money as I make as an RA. So, no. I had to find a way to stay in the US. I decided to major in Political Science so I would be prepared for law school, and literature to follow my passion.

So how on earth did Chemistry come into the picture? Summer of my first year, I interned at the courthouse in Galesburg. There, I learned that to be a patent lawyer (which was the type of law I was most interested in), I needed a degree in a STEM field. Based on research, I learned I had to get eight credits in Chemistry or Physics. The last time I had learned either of these subjects was in 11th grade. I was scared, but I decided to pick Chemistry, the better of the two options.

While pursuing the eight Chemistry credits, I had to give up the dream of majoring in literature because I didn’t have enough time, money or credits. I realized that if I added two more Chemistry credits, I could complete a major and triple my chances of getting a job and staying in the U.S.. This was a decision I made last minute (in my senior year) as I learned that other visa/immigration options were seemingly impossible after thorough research throughout my time here. STEM majors get three years of training in the U.S., while non-STEM majors get only one year, and as much as my Political Science professors would like to argue for, poli-sci is not STEM.

In layman’s terms, as an international student with an F-1 visa, which is the student visa, once I graduate from Knox, I can work in the US for a year (provided I find a job that is willing to sponsor my visa). I then apply for a lottery to get a permanent work visa H1-B, and if I don’t make the lottery (which is extremely hard because of the massive number of people who apply), I have to go back. As a STEM major, I get three tries with the lottery, and three years to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love both my wives. I try very hard to learn them. But, my heart still lies with Literature. Every now and then I tell myself, once I have made money from law, and stayed in the U.S. long enough to get a green card, I will pursue literature and do what I actually love, which is the craft of writing, but like many, I was not born with that privilege.

If you got to pick what you are studying, then know that you are privileged. If you don’t have to worry about making money from your job, or worry about which country you will have to go to next if this one doesn’t want you anymore, then you are more privileged than most people on this Earth.

But what do I know, I am just a philanderer of literature, and there are myriads of verses longing to see paper, and pages of books I haven’t read yet, resting in some dark corner of my brain, locked up in a box. After all, there is only one international student majoring in literature at Knox.

In the lab, I have learned to replace the rose-tinted glasses with safety goggles. And don’t get me wrong, I am excited about combining political science and chemistry for a career in chemical patents or chemical policy. I am grateful for all the support from the phenomenal Chemistry department at Knox.

In the end, if nothing works out, maybe I will find a country where guns are considered worse than a “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” sign, but for now, I can only hope.

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About the Contributor
Areesha Saif
Areesha Saif, Staff Writer
Areesha Saif '24 (she/her) is a Political Science major at Knox. She has been working as a Staff Writer since Winter 2023. She grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, which in her very biased opinion, has the best food in the world. Awards: Honorable Mention Critical Review ICPA 2024

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