Choosing My Concentration

Category Student Voices


Olga Class of '22 Alumni
Authored on October 20, 2020


Concentration? Economics.

Secondary? Government.

Citation? Russian.

I look at my program of study, and I am excited. I love the social sciences. I firmly believe that, not only are politics and economics all around us but understanding the relationship between these two fields can only help us improve both economic and governmental policy. I have also been working on improving my Russian, the language I grew up speaking, one that I love, and feel grateful to know. Today, these three areas come together to form my interest in government and politics, as well as U.S.-Russia relations. However, just two years ago, I could have never imagined that this would be what I would be studying today. 

Before I even came to Harvard, I knew that I wanted to study economics. I really enjoyed social studies as well as math, and what better way to combine these areas than through the graphs and models that make up economics? After taking the intro classes, I turned out to be right - I did enjoy my economics classes, and this was something I became interested in exploring further. However, I also was convinced that the Applied Math/Economics track was the one for me. I had enjoyed my math courses in high school, so that must mean I’ll enjoy it as much in college - right? 

After taking my first math class at Harvard, I quickly realized that while I still enjoyed math, it was not what I wanted to do. Triple integrals, conic sections, optimization problems - all of these ideas were super interesting, but I did not see myself focusing on this for the next four years. And all of a sudden, something that I had enjoyed for as long as I could remember no longer excited me as much as it used to. So now what? What was I to do in a world where math was not a prominent feature of my studies?

Some of my favorite textbooks from my government classes, as well as the succulent and figure that stand in my workspace.

Some of my favorite textbooks from my government classes, as well as the succulent and figure that stand in my workspace.

Olga Kiyan

Everything changed after I took my first government class. For reasons I don’t quite understand anymore, I did not see myself taking any government classes when I started college - it just didn’t seem like something I would enjoy. However, a close friend of mine (who happens to concentrate in Government) convinced me to take a class with her during our first-year spring. Gov 1780: International Political Economy. Sounds interesting, I thought. It has the word economy in it - I guess I might enjoy this! Little did I know how much I would fall in love with political economy, and how these ideas would shape my entire college career.

It was that class that led me to pursue a secondary in government, and to take Gov 1243: Russian Politics in Transition the following semester. As someone whose family is Russian, and who grew up speaking Russian, this class was a watershed moment in my education. While I knew of Russian politics, I never considered it as an academic field. Now, not only had I found two fields that I enjoy greatly, but I was also able to integrate the Russian parts of myself into my work through the study of Russian politics and economics. For the first time, these two halves of myself were one whole, and I finally found what it was that I wanted to do. 

Looking back, it’s crazy to consider how, as a junior now, my interests are so different from what I had imagined them to be during my first-year fall. As someone who used to be convinced that government was not her thing, I now can’t imagine my undergraduate experience without these courses. Furthermore, I now see that it was not that I didn’t like Government - I just had not had the opportunity to take classes such as the ones available at Harvard before. I had never heard of political economy before or formally studied Russian politics and economics. I never imagined that fields such as these were ones that I could explore, and I am so grateful that I went out on a limb and tried out things I had never done before. Only by doing that was I able to find the subjects that I truly enjoy, and only by taking a chance and trying something new was I able to become the person I am today.


  • Academics
  • First-Year

Olga Class of '22 Alumni

Hey y’all! My name is Olga, and I am a senior studying Economics with a secondary in Government as well as pursuing a citation in Russian. I am from right outside of Fort Lauderdale, FL, but on campus I live in Winthrop House.

Olga Kiyan