Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Laura Castro Lindarte: Studying abroad highlights choices in U.S. higher education

Laura Castro Lindarte, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Most American young adults can commiserate about one of the toughest choices they faced in their 18 years: choosing a college. Deciding where we wanted to study to earn our degrees was stressful and seemed almost impossible.

After making the tough decision of where to study, we had to decide what we wanted to study. And many of us change our majors after a semester or two because we realize that we didn’t really know what we wanted when we started college.

Imagine making those decisions at 16 years old with little to no opportunity to change your mind. That’s what Colombian students have to do.

Students in the U.S. should be grateful we have the opportunity to explore subjects outside of our majors, because most other students around the world don’t.

Recently, I met a 17-year-old boy in Colombia who was already in the second semester of his freshman year of college. I was shocked that this boy was at the stage of most 19-year-old students in the U.S.

Here in Colombia, high school ends after 11th grade, not 12th like in the U.S. Students enter college earlier and the higher education system doesn’t let them change their majors. When students choose their majors, they take classes related to their majors right away and they are given charts that detail how their college careers will progress. Students are placed in groups that consist of people in their major who they take most of their classes with.

It may seem like starting college at 16 isn’t that different than at 18, but two years when you’re still a teenager can make a big difference. When I was 16, I was dead set on moving to New York, not going to GW. My life would be completely different had I graduated two years earlier.

And I changed one of my majors at the end of my first semester at GW. It was a last-minute decision that I made because I realized I was more likely to get a job with a degree in political science compared to sociology, and I have always found politics interesting. In the U.S., and especially at GW, it was an easy decision to make because I hadn’t officially declared my major yet. It’s also helpful that we are required to take courses in different subjects.

Being exposed to a wide range of classes during my freshman year proved that when I started college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And I had the chance to rectify that choice. Students in Colombia aren’t given that chance and may not ever know if there was something else they’d rather do than what they decided at the end of finished high school.

During my time at the university I attended here in Colombia, I overheard some students talking about how it was almost impossible to take classes from other departments. I realized how much I, and other GW students, take for granted the chances we have to explore different subjects. It’s easy to complain about G-PAC classes. But some students find fitting majors or at least new interests through those required classes. 

I constantly hear GW students complain about having to take required classes outside of their majors, but being able to take a large array of courses is helpful. It allows us to open our minds to other ideas, learn things that might make us better citizens and, most importantly, be sure that what we have chosen a major that really suits us.

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