THINQ at UCLA
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THINQ at UCLA

Major Decisions | Non-traditional Pre-health Majors at UCLA

By Lauren Han, Dorothy Nguyen, and Nicole Yee

Major Decisions is a multimedia series about why THINQ at UCLA clinical fellows chose their respective majors, their experience with the major as a pre-health student, what tips they have to succeed, and more.
Watch the interview here!

Featured Fellows

Lauren Han: Third-year Anthropology major
Nicole Yee: Fourth-year Anthropology minor
Dorothy Nguyen: Fourth-year Environmental Science major, Environmental Engineering minor

Why did you choose this major over the other majors? Any like super important factors that stood out to you?

Nicole: I chose to minor in Anthropology because I took a few lower division classes and I really liked them. I wanted to continue to take more Anthropology classes and take some upper division electives.

Dorothy: I picked my major because I didn’t really know what I wanted to get into, and I wanted to try everything. The Environmental Science major allowed me to try everything. I started off as an engineer, but I didn’t want to work in petroleum, so I went completely the other way to environmental science. I still get the heavy sciences, but I also get the public policy. It’s a very interdisciplinary field that allows you to pursue whatever you want.

Lauren: I chose Anthropology because going into college, I knew I wanted to be a physician. I really do appreciate the scientific side of it, but I think the humanity side of it is also such a big aspect that not a lot of people pay attention to. However, that’s what’s really important to me because understanding each other as humans is something that physicians should do. I’m pursuing a B.S. in Anthropology, so I still have to take most of the classes that a lot of the STEM majors take, like the LS 7, Chem 14, organic chemistry series, and everything. But I still get the side where I’m learning about the humanities. I want to do both, and I get to do both with Anthropology.

Any perks about the major or any classes you like?

Nicole: For my Anthropology minor, I’ve really enjoyed the upper division classes that I’ve taken for it. I’ve taken some really cool ones — that’s also what I love about Anthropology. I’ve taken a language and identity course in various different fields of anthropology. In all the Anthropology classes that I signed up for, I always enjoy the readings and the discussions, so I’m really happy to be in the minor. There’s also so many cool upper division classes to take.

Dorothy: One of our major requirements is actually a senior practicum. So for the last three quarters, we’re enrolled in a class, but we’re also doing a capstone practicum project. For the capstone, there’s a lot of projects that you can pick. I think it’s really valuable because learning the knowledge doesn’t really mean anything unless you apply it. With a practicum project, you’ve finished your coursework and kind of start working as if you’re in the real world. So without COVID, we would be taking samples, talking to stakeholders, and going to collect valuable data. Even online, I think that we are learning a lot of really applicable skills. I feel like we are making an impact.

Lauren: I’m not the best spokesperson for Anthropology because I just started to take my upper division courses. However, the one I’m in right now about language and climate change is such an awesome class. You learn about things you would never think about, like how linguistics affects the way you think, which is just awesome. I think my favorite lower division was ANTHRO 2, which was about archaeology. It was really interesting and cool.

Anything you dislike or hate about the major?

Nicole: In a more STEM-heavy class, you might not do as many readings. For example, right now I have one that’s around 100 pages that I need to do pretty soon. It’s interesting stuff — it can just be really complex sometimes. They use complex terms and you have to look things up. That might be the hardest part of those classes — getting through the readings and staying on top of that.

Dorothy: What I don’t like about it is that there are classes that are only offered certain quarters. So if you don’t take something in the spring, then you have to wait until next spring. If you don’t plan well, or if you change into the major, that’s going to be really hard to deal with in your third or fourth year.

Lauren: Anthropology is not a huge major; it’s not like Psychology or Poli Sci. If you do have to take one class fall quarter, it’s not going to be offered winter/spring. So I think that’s the downside of being in a smaller major. Also, I just want to say ANTHRO 1 was super tough.

Do you have any tips for people coming into the major or going through “weeder” classes?

Nicole: There’s honestly a lot of material and being a life science major, I thought I’d be good with it. I thought, “Oh, it’s fine. I don’t need to do the reading.” You do need to do the readings, and you want to stay on top of it. Sometimes those tests, especially in the lower division classes, can actually be pretty hard. I’ve noticed that when you get into upper division classes, a lot of it is papers. It’s more just engaging with the reading and writing about it, so I like that more. The lower division ones honestly can be a little bit more work in that sense. In terms of tips for that, just make sure you do the readings, make sure you stay on top of it, and talk to the professors, talk in your discussion, and engage with it because it’s a lot more interesting when you do that. Hopefully, you enjoy it, and pick classes that you really like for Anthropology.

Dorothy: My advice is to make friends and to never take classes alone, which you won’t if you make friends in your classes. A lot of the people you’re taking classes with, you’re going to be seeing them again. As a fourth year, I still see a lot of the same people that I met as a first year. The weeder classes are the hardest classes. The Chem 20 series, the Math 30 series — that was rough. Never again. But it gets better! The weeder classes are the worst part. And once you get through that, just know that in everything else you want to do, you are a much better, stronger, resilient person, than when you took your lower div’s. When you also have friends in your classes in your major, that’s nice! It gets better.

Lauren: For Anthropology, especially Anthropology B.S., I think taking the LS7 series — it’s just going to be hard. Everyone struggles with it. Sometimes you’re going to sit next to this genius at UCLA who says, “Oh, I only need like a 64 to get a 100 in this class for the final.” Don’t fall into that mindset. You can struggle; it’s okay to struggle! Everyone does, but just keep at it, because in the end, it’s totally worth it. It just makes you a better student. The classes make you a better student and they make you study better. They make you more resilient. I think you grow a lot in college because of that.

Any regrets?

Nicole: This is kind of hard because I don’t really have any regrets with it. I’ve pretty much loved every class that I’ve been in. I’ve been able to engage with material that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I think going into college, I had no intention of doing an Anthro minor, so I’m very happy that I found it and decided to do that.

Dorothy: I don’t have any regrets about my major per se, just maybe how I planned it out. I switched in late, which isn’t bad. I like my major. Even when you change, I think that, like everything, all the classes that you’ve taken and every experience you’ve had are going to be important whether or not you’re using it explicitly. So I don’t regret switching late. I just regret not planning it out because I had to backtrack so much. When you’re taking five-class quarters to graduate on time, you’re not getting the most out of your classes, and you’re not really taking away as much as you can be taking.

Lauren: Honestly, I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was a Poli Sci major because I thought that would offer me the humanitarian side to health policy and stuff that I really want to do, but Anthropology really ties biology and social sciences together. I thought it was a perfect fit for me. Something I do regret is wishing I switched earlier. Like Dorothy said, that just makes your life so much easier. You’re less crammed for time.

The videos and articles in the Major Decisions series are produced by Therese Arevalo, Kevin Chen, and Callista Wu.

Visit our website at thinq.med.ucla.edu and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @uclathinq!

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A coalition of UCLA students striving to improve the quality of the healthcare system.

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THINQ at UCLA

THINQ at UCLA

We are a coalition of students at UCLA striving to improve the quality of the healthcare system and promote social justice. Learn more at thinq.med.ucla.edu.

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