Oberlin Blogs

Call Me an Economics Major!

June 27, 2021

Charlize Villasenor ’23

Major declaration day! Not that it’s an actual recognized day because Obies can declare their major practically any day they’d like, but still a day that many students individually celebrate. I wish this were a blog post celebrating my major declaration, but I’m just one step away from that point! The process may have changed slightly due to covid, but overall it’s still relatively the same. Let the Academic Advising Resource Center and your current advisor know what major you want to choose, find an advisor in your prospective major and go over it with the chair of the department, then list which classes you’ve taken in the department and which classes you plan to take. I’ve done everything but actually turn in my paperwork to the AARC, so hopefully this post will encourage me to hurry and finish this process! In the meantime, as a prospective economics major, I’d like to give a rundown of the courses I’ve taken in the department. Even if you don’t plan on studying economics, I think this blog post will be a useful read!

  • Principles of Economics: This was easily one of the more difficult courses I’ve taken in the major (but in a good way). Plenty of non-economics majors take this course to fulfill their Quantitative and Formal Reasoning requirement, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for new students to explore their interests, make some study buddies, and create good academic habits. It was a bit difficult for me because I knew I had to learn all the material well since it would be the foundation for my later classes, but I know it definitely made me a better student and helped me make friends!
  • Calculus I: This class is a requirement for the major, but is part of the math department. I really liked that I was able to branch out to people from different majors and I find that the professors in the math department are extremely enthusiastic about the topics they teach. Even though I’m no math wiz, enthusiasm from a professor goes a long way when trying to teach and it helped me get excited to go to class and have the confidence to ask questions when I needed to.
  • Introduction to Statistics: This was another course in the math department that I enjoyed. It was my first course with a lab component and the professor was extremely helpful in making sure the content was understood and not overly complicated. I had the chair of the department as my professor, and I have felt (in my two experiences) that department chairs are amazing at teaching and they’re full of information if you’re curious about what being in a particular major entails.
  • Health Economics: This course helped me confirm my love for economics and taught me about its applications in the world outside of just theory. I learned deeply about how economics plays a role in everyday interactions such as demand for healthcare, the effects of policy and legislation like the Affordable Care Act, how different countries’ healthcare systems function, and more. I know I’ve raved about the professors at Oberlin plenty already, but this class was so eye-opening and taught me so much that I decided to take another class with the same professor this semester!
  • Game Theory for Social Sciences: This was the class with the same professor as Health Economics. Though the content is definitely more difficult, the professor explains the material clearly, follows the textbook, supplements with in-class and real life examples, and overall makes the content easier to understand. I believe this course is cross-listed with the computer science department, but it’s definitely helpful and interesting to anyone who cares about how people and/or parties make decisions when their decisions depend on the actions of other people or parties.
  • Chinese Economic History: Even though this course is listed under the economics department, it has a heavier history angle to it. I appreciate that it’s not extremely theory-heavy, and instead is like a history course with emphasis on the Chinese economy as China developed into how we know it today, explaining how different dynasties had varying beliefs and politics that impacted the region’s economic development. I started my time at Oberlin as a potential economics and East Asian studies major, so I love that this course is at the intersection of that. Though I’m still on the fence of deciding whether I want to be an East Asian studies major or minor, courses that combine interests are pretty common and are a great way to see how you can apply one field of study to another.
  • Intermediate Macroeconomics: There are a few courses in every department that are fundamental to the study of your chosen major; Intermediate Macroeconomics happens to be one in the economics department. It is a required course for the major, but even if it wasn’t I would have probably taken it regardless because I want to expand my breadth of knowledge. I know I enjoy microeconomic courses (several of my electives are in a specific field of microeconomics), but I think it’s important to expand interests, or at the very least try something new. Oberlin as an institution believes in the importance of trying something new as well, which is why taking courses outside of your major is a requirement when studying here. (Don’t worry, I have that part covered with other classes I’ve taken.)
  • Intermediate Microeconomics: Another fundamental course in the economics department is Intermediate Microeconomics. As I said earlier, I love microeconomics and its applications. Did high school me ever think I’d say I love microeconomics? Probably not. But studying at Oberlin with passionate professors and relevant courses has allowed me to realize my enjoyment for the subject. Since theory is the foundation for application, I think this course has helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation for what I’ve learned in my electives. 
  • Urban Economics: I stated earlier that courses taught by department chairs were amazing, and this course was my first insight into that. I felt passionate about the content being taught in this course and saw how economic policy plays a significant role in communities, even if it’s not so obvious at first. We covered topics such as zoning, segregation, access to necessities such as health care and grocery stores, and even the economics of parking spaces. This was one of the courses that opened my eyes to how many concepts economic models are able to describe in the real world and the impact that economic policy has on individuals either directly or indirectly.
  • Chinese Civilizations: This course isn’t technically in the economics department, but it still counts towards my major, so I’ll still write about it! This course is cross-listed between the East Asian studies department and the History department. In high school, I didn’t have much interest in studying history outside of the basics, but I figured that if I wanted to study East Asia, I should at least have some background in the history of a major country. I took it in my first semester at Oberlin, and I feel that it helped me become a better student. The class introduced me to renting class books from the bookstore (something I didn’t know was possible until I got to Oberlin), collaborative work for the sake of learning rather than a grade, and gaining information from different sources as well as seeing the different ways people sought information. We went as a class to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, and that experience helped me see that objects in history can be appreciated for their beauty as well as their historical value.
  • Political Theory Live: Here is another course that isn’t technically in the economics department but still counted for my major. Even though I swore to myself that I didn’t want to take politics classes because I thought they would go over my head, I registered for this course because I saw that it would go towards my major and it was one of the few courses that fit into my set schedule that semester. I’m glad it did, because it allowed me to see that it’s fine to give different courses and departments a chance! I judged the department before I even took a course in it, but I wound up enjoying the class. Since it was discussion-based instead of lecture-based, it was a pleasant change of pace from the majority of my economics classes, and I was able to try something new.

This isn’t a complete list of all the courses I’ve taken at Oberlin, but it’s quite a few. At the beginning of my time here, I thought I wanted to study economics, but I was afraid I’d be disenchanted with it the more I studied it, so I held off declaring it as my major. In fact, the opposite happened. With every course I took, I thought more and more to myself, “Wow, this is why I want to study economics. I could do this for the rest of my life.” This might not be the case for everyone, it’s incredibly common to discover new interests while at Oberlin, but it was the case for me. I have quite a handful of economics courses under my belt even though I’m barely entering my junior year in the fall, so now I have plenty of time to discover other interests (hello, Middle East and North Africa studies!) or possibly even study abroad. Whichever way I go, trust that I’ll make a blog post about it, and y’all will hear all about it. Until then, enjoy your summer!

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