Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Growth; New Branches

Some people think I'm crazy for changing majors the way I did. I changed majors 3 times! I didn't pick my final major until the second semester of my junior year!

I came to MIT my freshman year thinking I would be course 2 because I had enjoyed machine shop and building robots for design competitions. I was interested in course 3, but only in passing. I used to joke that it was my back up major! I spent my freshman year in Concourse, trying out philosophy, natural history and I even took a Women and Gender Studies class. All of those experiences and classes changed my outlook on life! Once I was taking the introductory course 2 classes in my sophomore year, I realized very quickly that I didn't enjoy them. It wasn't the same hands on process that I loved in high school. I had wanted to take classes in both course 2 and 3, but the schedules didn't work. So I had to wait until my junior year to begin course 3.


From the anthropology and archaeology classes I took in the spring of my sophomore year, I became more interested in 3C. I pursued my interests, narrowing in on a field that interested me. A lot of students expressed doubts about the process I went through. Why did I do the Friday seminar readings when they merely skimmed? Why did I meet with my HASS professors to review early drafts while they turned in their unedited first attempt? Why did I continue to sign up for difficult and writing intensive classes while they stopped after fulfilling the requirement? Why did I take an unpaid internship at the Smithsonian when they took a summer off? I didn't know then; I only knew I wanted to be challenged and learn. I do know now.


(Image via, source)

Now I am looking at 21E and Anthro, so that I can pursue the mix of classes that art conservation grad schools will expect. I tried a lot of things in college. All of those uphill meanderings led me here. The extra mountain scaling gave me the perspective to be where I am. I'm still trying new things. It was only by pursuing tangential interests - occasionally trying things just to see if I could - that I found a field that came easily to me, both in interest and in talent.  The detours gave me strength and faith in my legs. College was the first time I could pursue so many opportunities with both freedom and support. I am pursuing a degree in something I enjoy in order to have a job I love enough to do for free - unpaid internships turned into stepping stones to paid research positions.

I'd encourage students to explore the niches of knowledge at their university, be it Medieval Studies or a operating printing press. The skills and interests you develop can turn into a fulfilling career (or maybe just a hobby). If you hate your first major, try another. Don't lock yourself in based on an admission essay wrote when you were 18. Your major is neither static nor defining. Changing and growing into new interests and inspirations is almost certainly part of your college experience. Embrace it! Embrace your growth!