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Amelia Rivera Barreto's picture

Why the College of Liberal Arts?

Choosing a college within a University was kind of a foreign concept to me, especially when I had to pick College of Liberal Arts instead of "school of anthropology" or "school of music" as I would have to do back home. Most universities in Guatemala or Colombia, where I grew up don't have different colleges and each program has a pre-defined curriculum for any degree you might pick. This of course might be good for some types of people who don't like having too many choices, but I personally prefer the more open system offered in a place like the University of Minnesota, where you can choose from a variety of colleges. I am in the “College of Liberal Arts” (CLA) and will explain why I chose this college.

Biology classes

The part that I like the most about the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is not necessarily the more open curriculum, but the fact that my area of knowledge is not limited to program and career related subjects and themes. I remember when looking at universities in my countries to study Economics that all of the classes required for the program were practical numeric courses, philosophy of economics (very specific philosophies depending on the University), management and business related courses and maybe a politics class, but that is not the case in CLA at the University of Minnesota.  

In the College of Liberal Arts you are getting a degree in whatever field you are interested in, but with a wide understanding of the world around you. It makes you a more aware, how to think critically, and an active member of society as you understand things beyond your field and you are able to have educated conversations with a wide range of people from different academic and professional backgrounds. In my opinion getting a CLA degree in any field like psychology, anthropology, music, economics or whatever other program you choose, makes you more competent in your field as you learn to look at cause and effect in politics, economics; the connection between art forms and expression and political movements, the history of technology and its effect in society and a broad understanding of many philosophical trends in the world in the past and present. 

The way the CLA degree works is that it gives you fields of knowledge to fulfill for which you have multiple courses from which to choose. As an anthropology and music major I've had to take biology courses that have opened my eyes to current advances in technology and science. This helps to make me more aware and able to participate in debates on the issues without getting too carried away by the emotional campaigns you hear about from leaders and organizations. I have been able to see my trade as a musician and artist from a broader perspective and understand the impact music has in society and vice versa, it enriches my experience with the arts, instead of just giving me skills to sing an impeccable lied. For example I became interested by the fact that all vocal literature courses were on German, Italian and French repertoire and researched and found projects on Iberoamerican Art Songs. For me the CLA degree makes me want to reach out and go beyond my comfort zone.  I have also taken political science courses, a literature courses outside of my fields (music and anthropology), physical sciences like geology, a second language (I chose French and Portuguese), among other courses I would have never considered if I was at a University back home. 

Singing the Iberoamerican repertoire I learned about during study abroad.

If you have any questions about my experience at the College of Liberal Arts I would be happy to tell you more and help you. You can send an email to passport@umn.edu and ask for Amelia! Or send us a message on the ambassador Facebook page