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Photo from the Off Campus category of the 2014 Undergrad Photo Contest, run by the Office of the VPUE.

Finding My Major: Rosie La Puma

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Photo from the Off Campus category of the 2014 Undergrad Photo Contest, run by the Office of the VPUE.


This is the story of how an embarrassing moment with my dad during New Student Orientation led me to me find my perfect major. Actually, don’t tell him that; he’ll never let me live it down.

Arriving freshman year, I had everything prepared: car loaded with bags, iStanford app downloaded, Approaching Stanford booklet read. There was only one little problem: I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do at Stanford.

My freshman fall I plunged in with The Science of Mythbusters (Thinking Matters), Contemporary Women Fiction Writers (an IntroSem), Chem31X (prereq for a lot of upper division science courses) and Music 160 (Stanford Symphony Orchestra).

My first three quarters were all a similar mix of WAYs/PWR classes, potentially “practical” classes and {lots of} classes I just thought sounded interesting. Freshman year was like being a little kid at the ice cream shop that let me try unlimited samples. In my two years thus far I can say I’ve tried: Chemistry, English, Music, Theater and Performance Studies, Math, Sign Language, Spanish, Psychology, Economics, Political Science, Engineering, Feminist/Gender Studies, Iberian and Latin American Culture, Psychiatry and Law.

Too much breadth and not enough depth, you say? Perhaps. But all those classes managed to overlap in frequent and often surprising ways: one particularly amusing week I was studying Cuban politics in my Latin America class, researching Cuban music for my Spanish class, and reading a novel on Jewish-Cuban identity in an English IntroSem. Oh, and the next week Obama happened to mention that he was reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba. Life is funny that way.

Two weeks before the end of sophomore year, I finally declared International Relations as my major and Creative Writing as my minor.

This brings me back to that mildly embarrassing moment with my Dad during NSO. We were at an Open House for the Office of Religious Life, and my dad charges right up the Catholic Community table and starts talking to Lourdes, the campus minister. Five minutes later, he has volunteered me up as a graphic designer. Within a week I’m designing the weekly newsletter, then I’m having my first immersive service experience on the Catholic Alternative Spring Break trip, then I’m getting a recommendation from Lourdes for a summer internship with Catholic Relief Services, then I’m suddenly starting my sophomore year and wondering if, just maybe, I might want to chose a major with the subtitle “Social Development and Human Well Being”.

The butterfly effect can certainly be overstated; perhaps my decision was actually because of the conversation with an IR major during a hike in Muir Woods, the amazing book I read called The Underground Girls of Kabul, or from listening to NPR every day on the drive to my high school.  Either way, at Stanford you’ll confront ideas that you might never have considered before – and they just might be the ones you fall head over heels for.

Rosie La Puma

International Relations
Class of 2017

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