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A tale of two majors

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AUGUST 30, 2023

As complicated as the world may seem, everything is interconnected. We forge bonds and develop perspectives from shared human experiences. Our interactions construct a society, which influences our diverse perceptions of life. These perceptions craft our sense of purpose. 

And yet, purpose remains one of the most difficult notions for humans to decipher. We ponder and pursue ideas of success, but we struggle to find the impetus behind our efforts. At its core, the heart desires an answer for why it beats.

A single definitive answer may never appear, and it is easy to lose yourself in a labyrinth of possibilities for your existence. However, you are not hopelessly lost; you are en route to your destination. Where a curious mind wanders, a path to understanding is paved.

In a world of unique minds, several paths exist for each intended destination. After a rewarding journey of growth and introspection, my personal path made a pit stop at UC Berkeley. When deciding my academic majors, I allowed my mind to wander and embrace my heartfelt passions. 

Ultimately, I arrived at a crossroads between English and sociology. Down one road, I saw my love for writing and passion for expression. The other road explored my belief in society’s limitless potential for growth. Both roads were appealing, so I could not venture down one and depart from the other. 

Instead, I held both passions in my hands and refused to relinquish either of them. At the end of my freshman year, I declared majors in both English and sociology. Since then, I have only met two other students with the same major combination — one of them being my older sister, who is a partial inspiration for my choice. 

Rather than a “double major,” or a major combination, I view English and sociology as mutual extensions of each other. They intersect and form a bond exemplifying our complex yet interconnected world. This bond allows the energy society pours into us to be recycled through our creativity. 

We all possess values and gifts influenced by society, which are simultaneously capable of influencing society. My English courses analyze this influence from the perspectives of literary authors and readers. The stories we share and the emotions we encapsulate within them never remain trapped in ink; they jump off pages and into curious minds.

The connection between an author and their reader is a social interaction, which can spark additional connections and changes in society on micro and macro levels. Leo Tolstoy’s 19th-century saga “War and Peace” is historically acclaimed for its epic tale of Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia. Its cinematic narrative delves into the duality of violence and tranquility, while also exploring spirituality and society. Tolstoy’s creativity flourished from an era of Russian realism, and its impact on society extends to the present and future.

Society inspires literature, and literature inspires society. The union of my English and sociology majors constantly reminds me of this beautiful dynamic. One of my favorite pieces of literature is “Just Mercy” by attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson. The 2014 memoir chronicles Stevenson’s relentless legal representation of Walter McMillian, a Black man wrongly convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of a white woman. Each page details the ardent pursuit for exoneration and justice. 

I remember the first time I read Stevenson’s work, instantly knowing it was far more than words on a page. Death and life, persecution and hope, hatred and love all merged to form a true story. Lessons of resilience and compassion transcended the physical text into boundless inspiration. I thought critically about the content before my eyes. Yet, I felt emotion before all else. 

At the juncture between literature and society, the gravity of your existence feels different than usual — more powerful and profound. You are drawn into realities — whether fictional or non-fictional — that you do not have to personally experience to feel. Regardless, you enjoy the luxury of inspiration, a recycling of creativity between you, the author and society. 

Though I have not met many peers wandering an academic path similar to mine, the connection between English and sociology that I know and love can be found among other disciplines as well. Interconnected experiences and instances of creativity impacting society are ubiquitous across academia. Those who welcome curiosity and passion are likely to find them.

My matriculation at UC Berkeley means more to me than achieving a degree. I am always adding to my sense of purpose, revising and enriching it for the contributions I hope to make to society. English and sociology challenge me to evaluate how I speak truth and spark change. From my studies and life experiences, I have developed an earnest passion for law. I envision a career as an attorney, and I fully intend to take every lesson and inspiration with me.

After all, the greatest impact one can make in society arises from the love within their heart and the brilliance within their mind. Do not let your experiences and the emotions associated with them vanish into oblivion. Recycle them back into society. Let them drive you to new heights and vantage points. And when you arrive, remember to appreciate your progress.

Contact Michael Temprano at 


AUGUST 30, 2023