Academic Diversity: My Journey From South to North Campus

[male student with dark hair in a dark colored suit, walking across a campus plaza]

Hello everyone! My name is Kedaar Sridhar (he/him/his), and I am a fourth-year international student at UCLA majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Digital Humanities. I am originally from India but was born and raised in Oman, in the Middle East. I am part of the Bruin Ambassador Program and Cub Tours here at UCLA, which both strive to improve access and equity to higher education. Before I dive into my academic experience here at UCLA, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate you on your admission to UCLA! This has been another record-breaking year for number of applications, and you succeeded! I am so excited to welcome you to UCLA!

You might be worried about what your career path going forward might look like or not even be sure of what you want to study at college yet. Don’t worry, I had the same concerns when I first started at UCLA! I want to share my academic journey and experience here at UCLA, just to give you insights into the life of a UCLA student and highlight the academic diversity here. There are 125+ majors and 90+ minors to choose from, so you are bound to find something you really like! These subjects are split into what we call “North Campus” and “South Campus”. South Campus is everything STEM focused while North Campus contains the arts, social sciences, and humanities.

Here is a little context about how I ended up choosing my South Campus major and North Campus minor. I always enjoyed problem-solving and creating solutions which is why I applied to our School of Engineering for Computer Science. However, I never considered myself to be a fully technical or STEM-oriented person since I like to express creativity. I enjoy exercising both sides of my brain. Throughout middle and high school, English was my favourite subject. I tried to double major in English and Computer Science when I first came, but as I found out, this was very hard to do. Balance is very important when it comes to being a college student. Even though it was possible for me to double major in these diverse subjects, it would have resulted in most of my time going into academics and less into other important spheres. It is very important to make sure that you are going to make the most out of your college experience, and put time into clubs, extracurricular activities, being social and engaging in professional development.

So, I decided to stop pursuing a double major, and by chance came across the Digital Humanities minor through an article posted by an alumna. She described how the minor helped her stand out in Silicon Valley, as she pursued an interdisciplinary role in tech. This really resonated with me, as I wanted to also pursue an interdisciplinary career in tech, where I could exercise both my technical and non-technical skills. I took the introductory Digital Humanities class and immediately knew this is what I had to minor in. Digital Humanities is all about telling human-centric stories through data and applying digital tools and technologies to humanistic questions. This was great for me because I love learning about people and societies, and it was great to explore various topics and conduct research with a diverse group of people. The classes are very collaborative and expose students to important tools and techniques used in industry and academia. The professors have been so supportive as well and cater classes based on what skills students want to develop. I have taken classes from Social Media Analytics and looking at Twitter data, to a class all about Pirates in the Mediterranean and learning about text analysis!

[image of student in yellow short sleeve shirt w/graphic on it in front of the letters U C L A on a grassy background. Letters alternate in the colors of blue and yellow]

With this combination of Computer Science and Digital Humanities, I had finally found the interdisciplinary academic lifestyle that I was looking for. This also fed into my career path of wanting to be a Product Manager in the technology industry. These contrasting academic pursuits helped me to get a couple of internships in this field, where I was able to use my diverse set of skills and experiences to create impact! I love creative problem solving, and these fields help me to look at problems from both a logical and analytical perspective but also a more creative and human-oriented perspective as well. This combination of my major and minor really helped me to figure out my career and passions, and I don’t think I could have been so successful without the academic diversity we have here at UCLA.

You might be worried about balancing two completely different fields, but it does work out! I can break up a heavy engineering course load from my major with an interesting Digital Humanities minor class every quarter. This helps provide a varying academic experience, which means I never get bored. Furthermore, this academic combination has been a key part of my experiences with the Bruin Ambassador Program and Cub Tours, since I am able to provide a multifaceted perspective on academics at UCLA, especially when talking to prospective students. Having a holistic academic experience has helped to better understand the challenges and benefits of being a North Campus and South Campus engineering student.

It is also important to realize that UCLA has hundreds of classes to take, even just for fun! If you find any class interesting, you should take it because college is one place where you can truly explore various academic interests! I have been trying to take advantage of this experience and take classes outside of my major and minor as well, just to get more exposure. To this day, I am still exploring who I am, and UCLA has helped me to grow and learn a lot about myself and my future aspirations. I really hope that you will take advantage of the great resources we have here and be proactive in trying to make the most out of your college experience too!