So You Majored in History?: A Personal Reflection

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By: Callie Prince (History ’17)

I knew I wanted to be a History major in college before I had even decided which school to attend. I pictured myself taking classes only relating to my favorite subject, 20th century Europe, and simply memorizing dates, names, and battlefields. I assumed that I would graduate with a complete knowledge of that time period and would ultimately be the perfect candidate for Jeopardy if they ever did a show simply on World War II. Alex Trebek would commend me on my extensive knowledge after naming me the winner. Yet, to this day after an almost completed major in History at Trinity, I would not call myself an expert of anything, even my thesis. I have only taken one history class that was directly related to World War II and I feel as if I am leaving Trinity with even more questions than when I entered. And I could not be more thrilled to say so.

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The History Department at Trinity is arguably one of the best departments at the college. The caliber and quality of professors has shaped my experience at Trinity and has kept me from transferring. I feel as if I end each semester inspired by the history professors I had that semester. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the Professors at Trinity is that they, nor their classes, were what I expected. The extremely different types of classes that I could take surprised me. I assumed that I would take classes only relating to my focus, but the design of the major actually pushed me outside of my comfort zone. While I was able to take classes in areas I knew, but I also found myself loving new areas of history as well. I had never imagined that a class on the Samurai of Japan would be just an enjoyable as my beloved Eastern Europe courses. I had not imagined I would chose to take a class on the history of the Middle East and enjoy it so much. The diversity of the department makes the major even more enticing. The abilities of the professors as lectures and for the leading discussions has kept me engaged for four years now.

I was equally impressed with the different way that the courses shaped the way I think about studying history. Rather than simply memorizing facts, each course taught me more about the types of questions historians ask of history. With the information at the center, different types of assignments and vantage points changed my perception and the way I approached a subject. The required courses for the major were equally important to this new understanding. The History Workshop course was the first time I truly asked a research question to which I did not even have an inkling of the answer before I began. In Historiography we learned about the way historians studying and write about history. This was an imperative part of my senior thesis and I felt as if I better appreciated the approaches and opinions of other scholars after a year of my own research.

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When it came time to pick a topic for my senior thesis, I thought I would finally be able to spend an entire year on World War II and use most of the information I already knew. Once again I was wrong, but in the best way possible. Picking conferences that preceded the Nuremberg Trials was a newer subject for myself than I expected. But I felt prepared not because of the amount of information I knew before, but because of the practice I had gotten with new topics over the years. It was the training I received learning which questions to ask and how to research them that were the most rewarding take away from my history classes at Trinity. I know have great new information for cocktail parties, but when it comes to my academic work, I feel as if I have been pushed to think more critically about the facts that I learn.

Writing my thesis was also a task that when I began seemed impossible. My final product is something I am extremely proud of, but the process was challenging everyday. It was a new learning experience, but again I felt as if my history classes had been preparing me. Being unafraid to ask new questions and working closely with my advisor to talk about everything from structuring the chapters to the smallest grammatical details; writing a thesis was the perfect way to end my History degree at Trinity. The commitment of my advisor and second reader showed me once again just how committed the professors are to pushing us towards success. Learning the skills to studying, research and write about history was the focus of my education and was extremely rewarding. With graduation in sight, I have nothing but fond memories and new areas of interest.

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