R’Perspective: What is an Asian person supposed to do as a humanities major?

“Aren’t all Asians supposed to be good at math and science?” As an Asian-American myself, the number of times that I have been asked this question before is truly astounding. Just as there are stereotypes for all different groups of people, the one for the Asian race seems to be that we’re all academically gifted in the sciences and mathematics, and if any of us fall short in these subjects — or let alone choose humanities-related career goals — we’re automatically classified as unintelligent and ill-suited for success.

As an Asian female who has never cared for, nor excelled in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field, I have fallen victim to a tremendous amount of judgment and unrealistic standards. From the moment I entered elementary school, I was told by my family and friends that I needed to excel in STEM courses because as an Asian student, those courses would be the determining factor of my success. However, even at the young age of nine, I knew that math was the last subject I wanted to study, and that rather, I wanted to pursue humanities-based careers.

My supposedly unorthodox interests in non-STEM related subjects confused a lot of people, especially my close peers. From the perspective of my friends and family, I was walking down a path that would leave me “homeless” and “nowhere.” Moreover, because my school district was highly ranked and predominantly Asian, the fact that I had an interest in the humanities rather than STEM led others to define my intelligence as substandard. In the eyes of others, it didn’t matter that I excelled in the humanities; the fact that I wasn’t pursuing a STEM-related career equated to a life filled with no achievements.

Soon enough, as a consequence to the colossal amount of judgment I was receiving, my confidence began to decline the more that I was told that advanced proficiency in STEM subjects was the only route to success. It didn’t matter that I was getting A’s in my English courses, or that my teachers were complimenting me on my essays, but rather, I actually started to believe that my career choices would lead me down a path that would only result in a dead end.

However, the minute that I arrived at UCR was a turning point in my life. When I got to college, I met an abundance of other people who were humanities majors, and I learned more about the career options that were open to me. In addition, I was no longer required to take math courses, which allowed me to take courses that I was academically stronger in. As a result, I slowly started gaining back all the confidence that I had lost throughout the years, and really started to believe in my capabilities again for the first time in a while.

I understand that because of the stigma associated with being an Asian-American who is majoring in the humanities, oftentimes, people may tell you that your future looks bleak. However, looking back, I feel almost foolish for believing the erroneous idea that STEM equals success, and that humanities equals failure. Currently, as a philosophy major, I am planning to become a human rights lawyer, and I truly believe that I can be just as successful any other STEM major. So, for all my fellow Asian-American students who wish to major in the humanities, but have been told numerous times not to, I encourage you to trust in your abilities and take the leap. Even if the world judges you based on a stereotype that couldn’t be further from the truth, pursue what you want, because there is no specific equation for success, and success especially doesn’t only apply to those who are STEM majors.

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