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College of Arts and Sciences

An A&S education: Taking time to explore then finding your path

By: Amaris Janel Henderson
A&S Communications
October 14, 2020

Back in high school, Chloe Kalani ’23 was a science nerd — into every science and engineering fair and a member of the science club. But she also loved the humanities. When she came to Cornell, she thought she’d continue on the scientific path, majoring in chemistry and Asian studies and planning to become a technical translator.

But, like many students in the College of Arts & Sciences, Kalani took classes across a wide variety of disciplines and discovered fields within the humanities that she enjoyed even more.

She was drawn to Asian studies for a variety of reasons: her Japanese heritage, her desire to learn her mother’s native tongue, and the multicultural community from her home in Hawaii.

“I always thought Asian cultures were really beautiful and not often talked about,” she said.

Her interest in humanities would only grow stronger as her favorite courses became Japanese Poetry, Introduction to Japan and Japanese language classes.

“I really enjoyed them. It never felt like a chore even though I had many assignments for these classes. I think I always knew deep down that this was what I loved,” she said. “I’m still intrigued by chemistry, it’s just not something I can dedicate my whole life to.”

Making the change to Asian studies was no easy task. Kalani grappled with the decision for days before deciding to drop organic chemistry right before the deadline. To her reassurance, her parents were incredibly supportive along with her advising dean in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Now, Kalani has added a linguistics minor to her Asian studies major. She believes it will be useful for learning Japanese and improving her proficiency. In fact, paired with her major, the minor has influenced her new, future ambitions.

“Thanks to my linguistics courses, I’ve gotten more interested in the acquisition of language. I’m even considering doing the Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) after graduation. It gives me the opportunity to teach English at Japanese schools and in exchange, further my Japanese skills,” she said.

Confident in her revised path, Kalani hopes incoming freshmen will give themselves the freedom to try new things. For those deeper into their college careers looking for a change, she offers some words of encouragement.

“Start over when you can. There is no deadline for figuring out your true identity,” Kalani said. “Your time was not wasted. Get rid of the idea that you’re abandoning an academic subject. After all, you can always transfer your knowledge over to other exciting areas.”

Amaris Janel Henderson is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.