On: double minors

*This is about the German university system. I don’t know how other countries’ systems work, so…

I am currently in the middle of a B.A. program at a German university, my major being English Studies. Double majoring is impossible at a German university; you must have a subject that makes up the majority of the credit points you need for your degree. Unless you are studying law, medicine, pharmacy, your degree program is most likely to be a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (unless you already have your Bachelor).

However, it is possible to have double minors. This applies only to students who are not studying to become teachers because those who do have a different plan mapped out for them. Anyway, since I don’t intend to become a teacher, I can have two minors. And I do. They are Dutch Studies and North American Studies (yes, I pulled a 180 and decided to go full-out for Humanities).

Here is what I love about having double minors:
1. I’m not confined to one field. This is a good thing because I am interested in many things, and English and North American Studies have quite a few points that overlap and contrast against each other.
2. I am exposed to various environments regarding students, teachers and the discipline as a whole. Dutch Studies for example is a very small group of people, but it offers a more cozy atmosphere and allows a deeper one-to-one interaction between a student and a teacher, which is a very, very rare thing in a university. Most of the time, the teacher doesn’t even know your name after spending one whole semester together because there are just too many people in one class. Same thing among the students. I know only a handful of names in each of my classes. In my Dutch I, I know everyone’s from the smaller group (because it’s a language class, the whole group is split in two).
3. My unique combination of subjects allow me to connect content from one subject to another in a way that helps me to understand both subjects better. I just have a bigger contextual pool to fish from, and I love how one thing can connect with another when I was least expecting it.

Here is what I hate about having double minors:
1. The workload. Just because it’s called a “minor” does not mean that you only have two hours of classes per week. Actually, I spend as many hours in class for my minors combined as for my major: 12 hours each. And that’s just sitting in a classroom! Factor in the readings, the homework, the assignments, the tests, the exams, and it can get capital-S Stressful. This directly leads to the second point…
2. Spreading myself out too thinly. I’ve never been a good juggler, both literally and figuratively, and it shows. I find myself wanting to get deeper into one subject, but I can’t because that would mean neglecting some other subject(s). I hate just skimming the surface, though. Sometimes I try to dig deeper into all subjects, but that leaves me without enough time to sleep, eat and enjoy life. In the end, what could be an interesting study into a topic just becomes an assignment to finish and hand in, because another one is looming right in front of me.

Forget my love-hate relationship. Here is an advice if you are considering a Major + Minor 1 + Minor 2 combination:
Don’t overburden your schedule. This is actually a crucial advice to anyone studying anything. It is more difficult for the double-minor people, however. We have three subjects whose classes are spread out in and planned for six semesters, and we all want to start all three in the first semester so that we don’t fall behind.
I get it. I really, really do. Falling behind sucks, because it means that you usually have to wait a year to take the Intro class. This is precisely the reason why I had planned the monster schedule for my first semester. I was so sure I could get it done, you know? I was super motivated and so cocky in believing I could keep up the motivation throughout the semester. Apparently I didn’t consider the fact that I am a human.
Plus, I thought all I had to do for the classes was to show up, do the reading, and participate in the discussion. It wasn’t until after I was enrolled in all those classes that I learned what the teachers expected from each class: three essays, lots of homework, some tests sprinkled throughout (esp. language classes), and to top them off, lots and lots of readings. You never know how intensive a class can be until the first week of university. Everyone thought I was crazy when I mentioned that I had a 28-hours-per-week schedule (I tossed in another 4-hour French class, because why the hell not, right?). And damn it, they were right. It was doable and enjoyable in the first few weeks. Maybe even a month. Then the assignments and tests started creeping in, and I was struggling to keep up with the readings and sometimes even with attending the classes.
The rule of thumb is around 18 hours per week, or maybe 20 hours, tops. There is a reason why it’s a rule of thumb.
HOWEVER, it must be mentioned that the consequence of not overburdening your schedule each semester is very likely going to be not being able to finish in 3 years. Most students don’t finish “on time” anyway, but if you are unable to indulge in the luxury of prolonging your studies for whatever reason, then you must carefully map out your six semesters – what classes you should take when – and stick to the plan.

I hope you get what you want out of your university program, whatever it may be!