What’s it like studying Liberal Arts?

Livia Verlini

I’m studying Liberal Arts – a course I didn’t even know existed until I was doing research and applying to universities and courses in school. It’s essentially a multidisciplinary degree that lets you study a range of subjects across departments in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, with at least half of your modules in the Arts. At Durham, this means that out of 120 credits, at least 60 need to be in Arts subjects (which includes languages). Not many universities offer this degree in the UK, and not many people have even heard of it! A lot of Liberal Arts students start off studying two to four different subjects in their first year and focus their studies on less in their final years.

So many subjects, so little time!

I did the International Baccalaureate in school, which is the equivalent to A-levels but meant that I studied six subjects (and additional Theory of Knowledge, extended essay, and service-learning) instead of three. This programme taught me to view learning as a holistic endeavour, constantly seeking out the connections between areas of knowledge and using different approaches to problems.

When the time came to choose a degree for university, I really had no idea what I wanted to study and was apprehensive about limiting myself to one subject for the next three to four years. I just found so many different courses so interesting – how could I choose?! When I stumbled across the concept of Liberal Arts and other multidisciplinary degrees (such as Combined Honours in Social Sciences), I realised that designing my own degree was the perfect solution to this problem. In my first year, I studied Spanish, International Relations, Anthropology, and Classics. This year I’ve swapped my Classics module with one in Visual Arts. I’ve really loved the opportunity to study things I never have before and to be part of different departments in the university.

One thing I’ve really loved about studying multiple subjects is how I can recognise connections and relationships between fields, and use them to advance my understanding and academic growth. For example, learning about digital culture and algorithms in my Visual Arts module and applying these concepts to examining the role of media in politics in my International Relations modules. I feel as though this interdisciplinary approach to learning has deepened my understanding of each individual subject.

Day to day

Another great thing about Liberal Arts is that my days are quite varied and different. I can go to a Spanish grammar class in the morning, take a break to catch up on my International Relations modules in the library, then have a lecture on Anthropology in the afternoon. This way I don’t feel too overwhelmed or burnt out with one subject.

I would really recommend this degree to anyone who feels like they’re just too interested in everything to choose just one subject at university!

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Find out more about Liberal Arts at Durham here

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Livia Verlini

I’m Livia, a second-year Liberal Arts student at John Snow College. I went to school in the Philippines but moved to the UK for university. Outside of my degree, I’m the social secretary for the Durham University Yoga and Pilates Society and have been a Student Ambassador since my first year of university.

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