IN A society where people are expected to excel at various aspects, majoring in one single academic field had become out of style. In order to follow this trend, the number of students who chose to do double major or to minor in other fields has been increasing. However, there is another choice, not well-known to many students -- the interdisciplinary major. Although there are various aspects that make it worth trying for, there are also some downsides, leaving it incomplete.
Introducing the interdisciplinary major system
First of all, you may wonder what exactly the interdisciplinary major is. According to the Office of Interdisciplinary major, an interdisciplinary major is a mixture of several different majors that are related to each other. For example, history, philosophy, social studies and more are tied together to form a new interdisciplinary major called “Korea studies major.” Similarly, the major of diplomatic commerce is created through the blend of political science and international relations, economics and business. Students are required to take 36 credits, and are allowed to plan their own curriculum for the interdisciplinary major; there are no required courses, so students can take whichever classes that are within the major of the interdisciplinary program. After taking 36 credits, students are officially given the interdisciplinary major as one’s second major.
Any Yonseians who have finished their freshman year can apply for the interdisciplinary major. The application date is often right after the final exam. Students should get on to the Yonsei portal site and fill in the online application format, then the professors decide whether or not the applicants can get the interdisciplinary major considering their GPAs, online applications and so forth. If you get the approval, you can plan your own curriculum for the interdisciplinary major.
Why so intriguing?
The interdisciplinary major offers various advantages. First of all, students can easily grasp the opportunity to study other academic fields while feeling less burdened. As of now, a lot of university students are doing double major or minor in other academic fields since the Korean society requires students to be competent in various aspects. However, doing double major can be extremely burdensome since there are numerous people who want to do it while only limited number of students can get approval. Thus, students have to compete with each other and get as high grade as possible in order to apply double major for popular departments. Such burden for high GPA is much less in case of interdisciplinary major. According to a staff from the Office of the interdisciplinary major, “In most cases, one’s GPA plays such a big role qualifying the student to double major. However, interdisciplinary majors are usually less competitive as fewer students apply, so it is relatively easy to get approval.” Alex Haym, (Soph., Dept. of German Language & Lit.) who is currently doing interdisciplinary major also said, “Unlike the double major, interdisciplinary major seemed to give much less pressure on GPA. I was able to acquire it with ease due to the relatively low competition rate.” In a nutshell, through interdisciplinary major, students can satisfy their academic desire without much pressure.
Moreover, interdisciplinary major is a good way to receive holistic education. In other words, the interdisciplinary major is the very method to acquire a comprehensive knowledge regarding various academic fields, which is the ability that the society requires in students. This is because the interdisciplinary major is created through the integration of various academic fields. Humanities and social science, art, language, all of these different subjects are connected together to create a positive synergy effect that overcomes isolation between different academic fields and at the same time assist the students to receive a true holistic education they deserve.
Reasons for the somewhat hollow reality
As everything has two different sides, interdisciplinary major system is not an exception. First of all, the interdisciplinary major system lacks the sufficient assistance from the professors. This is because in most case, professors of the interdisciplinary majors are those who are already affiliated in their own academic fields. Due to the absence of the professors who’s designated department is one and only the interdisciplinary major, the students miss the opportunities to receive in-depth assistance on the curriculum. The school believes that a direct help from the professors is not needed, but, students seem to disagree. According to an anonymous alumnus that has completed the interdisciplinary major in Yonsei University, “Due to the lack of assistance from the professors, I had a hard time coping with difficulties that I had while planning my own schedule of the major courses.”
The most serious problem is that the interdisciplinary major do not have a strict, specified curriculum. Students often expect to take courses exclusively made for the interdisciplinary major, yet the reality does not fulfill such expectations. On average, there are less than five specialized courses for each interdisciplinary major, and students are required to make up most of their remaining credits by taking the courses of other majors. What’s more is that, the number of courses that the school admits as a course of the interdisciplinary major is very limited. The anonymous alumnus added, “Because the number of courses allowed for the students that take the interdisciplinary majors was not as much as I expected, it was hard for me to complete taking all the 36 credits.” As we can see, the seemingly solid interdisciplinary major still contains flaws and complaints that need to be dealt with.
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Through the flexible integration within various academic fields, the interdisciplinary major yields a chance for students to acquire competitiveness and excellence. However, there are still several factors that hinder this system from being perfectly managed; the lack of guidance and the unclear curriculum. As mentioned in the drama “News room”, “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.” Thus it is high time that the school confronts these shortages and implements a fully complete package of the interdisciplinary system.