English Major Musings is an evergreen Paperback Paris column curated by Contributing Writer Alicia LeBoeuf.
While there is certainly a number of students who start college as “undecided” hopefuls, a lot of people often come to college extremely confident and absolutely aware of what their career path will look like.
An aspiring teacher sets their eyes on the education program. Then there are those who’ve already latched onto business or accounting courses because he or she already knows they’ll be able to find a job in their field post-graduation. I, myself, came to college convinced I was going to be Registered Dietitian (RD) majoring in human biology with an emphasis in nutritional sciences and dietetics.
And though it might be obvious — since I run this series dubbed English Major Musings (maybe you’ve heard of it?) — but you should know that I am no longer the human biology major I started. So what happened? How does one go from a STEM major to studying liberal arts? What was I thinking? What do I think of my choice today?
This is an experience relative to all college students out there, for those who just as terrified of switching their major as I was then and those contemplating the switch right now. Yet, this story, my story, will focus on the transition to becoming a student of English, which has long been incorrectly deemed “impractical” or “too easy” to accomplish. This is untrue, and the best way to prove them wrong might be to share my own journey to liberal arts, and how it shaped my perspective today.
And to do that, we must start from the very beginning.
I selected the college I’m currently attending because it was one of three public colleges in my state that offered an accredited program in dietetics, and because of this, I decided to cut out a number of institutions for consideration because they didn’t offer the major I thought I was destined for. It was freshman year: my class schedule was rounded out with math, biology, and lab courses. Needless to say, I struggled big time. Math and science have always been my weakest areas, and even these introductory courses proved a huge challenge for me. But I convinced myself that once I braved through these four years, I’d be able to become a dietitian. That it would all be worth it in the end.
During my spring semester of freshman year, I took a creative writing course because I needed a break from the rest of my course load. This creative writing class was my favorite class by far, and it forced me to really think about the path I was on and if it was, in fact, the right choice for me. I finally reasoned that I am not good at math and science and that I am definitely wasn’t passionate about these areas. If I was struggling with Math 101 (yes, literally) and the most rudimentary biology labs, how, then, was I ever going to survive statistics and chemistry? Why did I insist on failure when I could be playing to my strengths?
Dietetics was losing its appeal to me at that point as well. An area that piqued my interest in high school no longer seemed exciting or even a remotely good fit for me. Instead, I remembered a greater love that had been with me all along: reading and writing. Ever since I was young, English was the subject that not only called to me but also happened to be the area I excelled most in. After long conversations on the phone with my mom and many nights lost in deep thought, the answer became startlingly obvious and crystal clear: I am an English major at heart.
One fateful day in the end of April, I canceled my enrollment in all the classes I had lined up for the beginning of my sophomore year: statistics, anatomy and physiology, and others vanished from my curriculum. Thankfully, all the English classes I needed to take were still open and I will never forget the thrill of this new journey. This was where I belonged; in fact, I don’t think I can properly describe that moment in any other way than absolute certainty.
Something clicked, and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I am proud to be writing this post to you as an English major in the middle of their junior year, and I honestly could not be happier with my decision to change courses (literally). Instead of feeling inferior in my area of study, I feel confident and understood. Instead of feeling boredom and dread during class, I feel excitement and stimulation. I took a narrow career path and transformed it into a world of possibilities. I don’t feel an ounce of regret.
To all the college students out there that are pushing themselves through courses they can’t stand just to get a job in a ‘stable’ career field: stop and take a good look at yourself. It’s one thing to be challenged, it’s another to constantly feel miserable and lost. If you don’t follow your passion, you will regret it someday. Switching majors doesn’t mean you are giving up. It means you know that there is something better out there and that you’re not afraid to chase it.
It’s never too late. Declaring a major is not a binding contract. I know that lots of students probably fear that they won’t graduate on time if they decide to switch their major, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I will be graduating on time through careful planning and taking classes during the winter break. And so what if you graduate a semester or two later than originally planned? If it’s a major that truly makes you feel accepted, it will be worth the extra time. I promise. You only have one life.
Stay tuned for the next installment of English Major Musings at Paperback Paris!
How have you dealt with feelings of doubt as a college student?
Do you have a topic you’d like us to feature in our next EMM?
Let us know in the comments, below!