One of the major selling points of Imperial is that its specialises in science and engineering. In terms of environment, there’s nowhere you can go where you can be more surrounded by maths geniuses, mad inventors and generally very scientifically minded people. Personally, I’m more of a fan of the interesting personalities and generally more philosophically stimulating conversations that comes with people that study arts, but you win some, you lose some. I’ve never been one of those people firmly rooted in a love for maths and science. I loved writing essays (weird, I know), something about making an argument, and thinking about things in that totally non-sensical, non-linear liberal artsy way was compelling and freeing from the straight logic of science.
When it came to deciding what subject area to pursue at university, I was seriously torn. On one hand, in today’s modern technological age, science offered the better employment prospects by far. (It’s also generally agreed to be much harder to study, #contacthours). In Australia, the university culture is much more vocational, they go to uni to get the job at the end of it, not for the intellectual pursuit. If you studied English, people asked “what are you going to use that for?” That’s what I liked more about the English uni system. It was totally acceptable to study something like English and History, and afterwards your employability was still increased because you learnt to think a certain way (if only thinking skills could be demonstrated quantitatively like maths and science).
I ended up choosing the wimpy compromise, applying to universities which offered joint majors in Computer Science and Philosophy, as well as straight computing courses. Ultimately, for reasons 80% shallow, 10% logical and 10% Imperial, I arrived here with a massive liberal arts itch to scratch. Thank God for Horizons.
The official propaganda for the programme is “The Imperial Horizons programme offers a wide range of courses for all Imperial College undergraduates. It is designed to broaden your education, inspire your creativity and enhance your professional impact. ” They offer languages, humanities, arts business subjects in a neat bundle of 2 contact hours a week, zero commitment and no fail record. Totally voluntary and impossible to mess up. It literally screams “at least give it a try” and it works, almost everyone I knew signed up for some Horizon course or other. Some people did it for their resume… seriously there’s a course called ‘Skills for Employability’, those who wanted a more ambitious resume booster probably signed up for a language and those who were just genuinely curious did philosophy, globally challenges or a whole mirage of things that all sound fascinating. Too bad you can only pick one per term.
Let’s talk about the the drop out rate. I know people who didn’t even make it to the first class. I know people who dropped out halfway through the first class and I know people who…omg wait for it… actually stuck out the first class. So far, people who stuck it out are few and far between. Talk about commitment issues. By the way I’m still attending and proud, but then I did start the post with an extended love song to the arts. I picked French because I studied it all through high school and well its like a deep passion of mine. Tbf, my class actually didn’t diminish much, I guess we had all already committed to learning French for ages and were more motivated than the guys in the beginner class. Its actually great, I get to flex my french muscles, do some lateral thinking, research, write essays and it really doesn’t matter what grade I get.
The way I see it, if I don’t think of dropping out as an option, French is just part of my degree. Its a good distraction, a welcome break and heaps of fun. If its a chore, don’t do it. If its for your resume? Good luck making it through the term. Do it for yourself, otherwise don’t bother. The system welcomes everyone to try it, but it does nothing to keep them there. It weeds out all those who have false motives and I think its genius. It’s one of the best opportunities Imperial provides and its completely up to you to take advantage of it. As Shia LaBeouf says… JUST DO IT.