STEM vs. humanities: a conversational guide

Picture this: you’re sitting in the Blue Room munching on a French toast muffin alone and someone asks to join your booth. You of course say yes, and in an effort to make sharing a table a little less awkward with a complete stranger, you look to the notes they are pulling out to make small talk about their classes. But alas! It’s all chemistry and calculus, and all you know is humanities. Disillusioned, you are forced to return to the uncomfortable silence and weird looks when you accidentally play footsie with your STEM stranger.

We all know and love and stress about Brown’s open curriculum, which gives us the freedom to take (or not take) whatever classes we choose. But the ability to focus on either STEM or humanities creates a gap in understanding our friends on the dark side (the dark side being up to interpretation).  Those awkward pauses in conversation when you have no idea how to comment on some class a friend is complaining about, or straight up don’t know what they are talking, are avoidable. We want to help you navigate those conversations with confidence, so study up.

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CS 15: First of all, I had no idea what CS stood for, and in the interest of saving others from the embarrassment of having to ask, it’s computer science. CS 15 in particular is essentially Intro to Computer Science, and the bane of existence for those students, so be sure to express extreme sympathy for people complaining about it.

Fishbowl: Where dreams go to die. It’s where are aforementioned CS students go to get help during TA hours, but are usually never heard from again. If your friend says they’re going there, send regular text updates assuring them they will some day see the real sun again.

Labs: It’s not your high school lab where things changed color and that was it. Chemistry labs in particular take up entire afternoons, and the pre-lab and lab reports that go with it, so don’t expect to see friends in lab much.

Barus and Holly: Commiserate with your new STEM friend about their incredible annoyances navigating B and H because of  the construction. Although you’ve probably never had a reason to go in there, act like you understand the struggle.



VISA 100: It has nothing to do with the credit card. It’s the notoriously hard to get into art class that is a requirement for all other art class (a great system, for sure!). Anyone who got in has incredible luck, and you should stick close to them.

Spectrum: Everyone (I’m assuming) knows gender is a spectrum, but did you know that also every other humanities idea ever can be part of a spectrum too?!? Give up hope of ever proving one side definitively.

Participation: A determinant of a decent percentage of your grade. You actually have to raise your hand and say something semi-relevant (watch Brunonia’s “The Section” for some too real context). Sitting in silence in humanities classes doesn’t cut it.

What is it about?: Many STEM classes have clear-cut answers, but humanities classes can leave a lot of ambiguity in what’s actually true. You might know what a book is about, but do you really know what it’s ~about~?


Midterm: Papers. So so so many papers.

Hopefully this gives you the base of knowledge to enjoy the ~best of both worlds~ of humanities and STEM. Here’s to being able to socialize with more people!


I’m so sorry for this bad joke


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