How did you decide your college major?
Did you change your mind a couple of times? My eyes were glued to the list of undergraduate majors listed on the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee website for months before I completed my application. Once I chose my Geography major, though, it was there to stay. If you are considering a geography major, this blog post will be a great resource. I’m sharing what I learned and why I’m glad I chose a geography major in the first place. Have more questions about studying geography? You can always contact me.
Disclaimer: This post was created as part of my ongoing partnership with the apparel and lifestyle brand, Lake Effect Co. You can read more about their mission and movement here. Remember to use code WISCONSINISTA for 15% off any in-store or online purchase. As always, all words and opinions are my own.
What I Learned as a Geography Major
When I tell people I studied geography in college, they ask if I know all my countries and capitals. This question fires me up! I didn’t get quizzed on countries in my classes; instead, I studied everything from the culture of those countries to the way colonialism defined their borders, city layout, and even street patterns. I can tell you the politics behind suburban neighborhoods having cul-de-sacs and the racist practices of banks providing loans for homeownership. I can conduct everything from field surveys to property surveys and have had coursework take me from the middle of the woods to some of Milwaukee’s most impoverished inner city communities.
Though more complex than I had imagined, geography as a field of study was more complex than I could have hoped. It challenged me to take my understanding of the world to another level – instead of memorizing a country’s capital city, I now ask why it’s the capital; which individuals, political parties, or military forces determined that outcome; what the economic impact was of choosing that location; and whether disputes about the recognition of the capital still exist. It also challenged me to take my understanding of maps to another level – instead of simply consuming a map’s information, I now consider what motivated the cartographer to create a map, display X extent using Y projection, and what message they were trying to tell. I can even create maps myself using an engineering-based software program!
The real test of a major, though, is how (and whether) it continues to impact you after graduation. Sure, one good mark of that is securing a job in the field, but there are others, too. Personally, studying the intrinsic connectedness of people around the world makes me feel more of a pull to explore new places and engage with the people who live there. Knowing how the forests and lakes of Wisconsin have impacted me, for example, makes me want to see how the natural features in other parts of the world leave their residents in awe and wonder. My dream cabin in the woods has always shown northern Wisconsin as the backdrop, but where do other people who share my cozy cabin happy place see as its setting – Alaska? Scandinavia? Siberia?
Finding places that make you happy and feel safe is so important, which is why making maps feels like a humanitarian effort to me; people look to maps to find new adventures, clarity, or even the fastest route back home. That’s why I instantly fell in love with Lake Effect Co.’s Go Lake Topography Tee Shirt (pictured), which shows topographical lines used to determine elevation change, in this case, for a lake. Wearing this shirt is a helpful motivator to pick up the map when I’m feeling lost and look for the fastest route to the places that make me happiest. For me, some of those places include the Milwaukee River and Three Lakes Chain. Where are they for you?!