Staff Writer Solomia Dzhaman has been mistaken for a CC student one too many times. 

If you saw me on college walk, or in line for biscuits at Ferris, you would not give me a second look. I blend in. My cuffed jeans, my obscure band t-shirts, and my high-top sneakers would not surprise or amaze anyone. I have Jacob Collier in my earbuds and dangly earrings. Sometimes, I rock a beanie.

If you cared to say hello, or ask about my day, I might complain about all of the reading I have to do for my literature class. I might talk about the Columbia theatre production I recently attended, or the indie show I went to over the weekend. When you mention your Odyssey reading, I chime in with thoughts about Calypso, and when you discuss essay ideas for Song of Solomon, I ask what your thesis will be. I use words like “homoerotic,” “romanticism,” and “subtext.”

If you knew me better, enough to venture into my dorm room, you would see posters of Gustav Klimt paintings, calendars of impressionist art, and a collage composed of blackout magazine poetry. An essential oil diffuser makes my room smell like jasmine and I have single-origin coffee ready to cold brew in a mason jar.

My clothing is thrifted, my tote bags are sustainably sourced and peppered with fun slogans. I wear denim on denim as a personality trait, and I read books for fun. I’ll carry on a conversation about postmodernism (or better, the Dadaist meta-modernity of today’s media landscape), and even submit to an occasional literary magazine. I write for Bwog.

But when you finally ask me “so, what are you majoring in?” the answer surprises you. “Mechanical Engineering?” you ask, “isn’t that in SEAS?”

Yes. I am in SEAS. Despite my wardrobe, my literary interests, or my pretentious conversation topics, I do take Physics Lab, I suffered through Art of Engineering, and I am enrolled in Multi. I always get the bewildered look—how can this person, this seemingly interesting fun person, be in SEAS, the paragon of stress and dullness? I am what they call “CC passing.” I can write an essay, read a book, and carry on a convincing enough front, but eventually, the illusion breaks down. I complain about the latest Physics p-set or the eighteenth Gen Chem midterm. I out myself as a STEM person, and then when I mention my Art of Engineering group or my Mechanics class, the mask falls away. I am nothing but an engineer that has deceived her way into a liberal arts conversation.

I am in SEAS, but I am CC passing. If you’re an engineer that has ever been mistaken for a history major, you might be too.

Image via Bwarchives