Virginia Peng

Not knowing your major as a sophomore at Yale is kind of like walking into Trader Joe’s on a Sunday night half-an-hour before closing. While the staff mop the floor and reorganize the shopping carts, you stare blankly at the shelf –– inundated by choice.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found numerous pumpkin-flavored or adjacent products in the store. The sheer variety induced an anxiety that reminded me of my own personal crisis choosing a college major. So I matched each product with every area of study I’ve considered, based on my own apprehensions and motivations towards them.

Pumpkin Flavored Joe-Joe’s: Economics 

In some warehouse in Iowa, a ginormous stand mixer stirs butter, flour and sugar into cookie batter, which a humongous cookie cutter shapes into a million circles consistent in pattern, diameter and height. The cookies run off into a gigantic inferno-like oven where, once baked, a machine will sandwich a layer of icing between two cookies and pack them off to be shipped to some middle class suburb –– ready for Adam Smith’s invisible hand to grab. Pumpkin flavored Joe-Joe producers have plotted the optimal point of profit maximization where the marginal product equals the marginal cost. 

It’s the Economics major, highly manufactured and impersonal but somehow enjoyed by the vast majority. It’s predictable, meeting your expectations and not much more. Don’t forget the “other natural flavors”: sadness, overwork and constant questioning if you are actually doing something constructive for society. 

Pumpkin Spice Hummus: Any double major

Pumpkin spice hummus is an audacious project. It attempts to combine two very distinct flavors together to make something even more powerful, the same way double majors attempt to intersect two conflicting fields. At times, the two build upon each other, as the textural thickness of hummus enriches the sweet pumpkin spice flavor. Other times, the two become so overwhelming that each loses their significance –– just like how the warm spices rival the garlicky tanginess, rendering each other flavorless.

Apple Caramels: Statistics & Data Science Certificate

Sitting on the counter or loose in your pocket, apple caramels are ever pervading, always there. When you pop one in your mouth, you don’t really have to think too hard about it and it always surprises you with its delectable taste. It’s something to enjoy after a really salty meal, or for a quick pick-me-up. Apple caramels are Statistics and Data Science Certificate, a lightweight addition to the humanities major who’s going to work at their dad’s venture capital firm postgrad. It only requires a TI-84 calculator — plus CE* — and a six inch note card with all of the formulas. And maybe some critical thinking.

Pumpkin-shaped Hot cocoa Melts: Theater & Performance Studies 

This product is really good at pretending. The milk-chocolate takes on the shape of a pumpkin but hasn’t seen one in its life –– the way a theater major can take on new personalities, gaits, facial expressions, styles and vocal registers. A cinnamon-flavored white chocolate “confection” encasing more chocolate and marshmallows, it’s a lot of things all at once like some of those Hamilton-rapping, sorry-I-can’t-it’s-tech-week theater kids. But you can’t go into a hot cocoa expecting simplicity, the way you can’t go into a play expecting a one-dimensional portrayal. It’s overwhelming for a reason.

Pumpkin Pepita Salsa: English 

In a feat of hunger, you stumble over to your cabinet. The pumpkin pepita salsa catches your eye. But after several bites you remember again why you don’t like it and place it back in its rightful place –– at the back of the cabinet, until the next midnight hunger pang. It’s English. Everyone at Yale can read and write, but only the finest can devour Ulysses in one week and still come to class ready to start their sentences with: “to what extent … ”

Pumpkin Spice Batons: Creative Writing Concentration

As a corollary to pumpkin pepita salsa, I must add pumpkin spice batons: the Creative Writing concentration. Creative writing courses at Yale seem to disappear as quickly as these crispy rolled wafers disintegrate into soft piles in your mouth.

Yogurt-coated Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies: Education Studies Certificate

These cookies remind me of the frosted animal cookies, whose nonpareils litter every memory from primary school. Those pink and white icing-coated horses, giraffes, rhinoceros and pregnant-looking cats taught me more about the animal kingdom than my elementary school biology curriculum. Pumpkin spice cookies remind me of Education Studies. They are not only quintessential to the American classroom, but something we are naturally disposed to snacking on and learning more about.

Pumpkin Spice Rooibos: Anthropology 

From the use of the term “rooibos” to the West Indies-styled font and curly ornamentation, this product screams exotic. But is it truly authentic? To the dismay of the middle-aged woman who has gone around asking every person of color in the store what “rooibos” is, it’s red tea. 

This is the Anthropology major, who has visited every continent in the world except the island of straightforward thinking and has somehow come out with Teva sandals and a nose piercing. Does the middle-aged woman really care about the complex colonial history of rooibos, or is she herself the colonizer exploiting exoticism for her own clout? Do Anthro majors really care about their research subjects –– eh hem, I mean informants –– or about their globe-trotting wanderlust, and dare I say publication and tenureship? 

Pumpkin Bisque: any joint Bachelor’s and Master’s degree

Despite its similarity to soup in a can, I find soup prepackaged in a glass tomato sauce jar illegal. It’s not supposed to be here, just like any joint Master’s program. Is this a sauce, or is this bisque? Are you an undergrad or a graduate student?

Moreover, I feel that joint programs are trying to expedite an experience that deserves time and effort. The pumpkin needs to be seasoned, oven-roasted on low, pureed, seasoned and simmered –– not cooked, blended in shelflife preservatives and packaged cold. In a dang tomato sauce jar.

Organic Raw Pumpkin Vinegar: Pre-med track

Doing the pre-med track is like drinking organic raw pumpkin vinegar. Your bloodstream will be a constant pH of -10. The pain needs no explaining. 

MICHAELA WANG