By Sam Negin
College is a time to figure out who you are and what you enjoy. It also helps prepare you for the challenges that you will face in the real world. This unknown future is at the center of much anxiety and causes questions for both students and parents alike. Students want to graduate confident that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. Parents want their adult children to learn and grow in ways that will help them live a happy, fulfilling life.
I had two major goals that I wanted to achieve in college. In addition to getting an education that would help me build a solid career, I also wanted to make long-lasting social contacts who I would be able to network with in the future. Being a charismatic, outgoing person, it is not difficult for me to form and maintain connections. Deciding my career direction was another story.
The most difficult task was to figure out how the world works and where exactly I fit in it. I had to learn how to navigate my mother’s nagging, along with my father’s insistence that I become an accountant just like him. My school guidance counselor also gave me sound advice. Almost everyone had something to say to me about my future, but in the end, I had to decide what I wanted out of life. To accomplish this, I had to stop letting other’s expectations determine my actions.
Self-exploration is the key to figuring out who you are.
One of the things I did was take a variety of different classes in my freshman and sophomore year. By expanding your horizons, you will gain insight into what subjects you would like to study in depth. It will also help you think about whether you are genuinely interested in a particular career path. These experiences will sharpen the skill-sets that you already have and identify others you may need to work on.
When I first started college, I thought I wanted to major in physics. I took the maximum amount of physics and math classes that I could during high school. I was good at physics and loved the lectures, so it seemed natural that I should major in it in college. When I thought about my career, I could see myself working as a research physicist in a lab. Being enrolled in a liberal arts college, I had some general education requirements to fulfill. I was so focused on wanting to do well in physics that I did not give much thought to what other subjects might interest me, so I picked some random classes. One of those courses ended up being an Introduction to Linguistics.
It was fortunate that I chose that class because I dropped physics about a week into my first semester. I found out that college level physics was more rigorous than what they had taught me in high school and that the concepts were much more complex than I had expected. Rather than being the star student, I was struggling to keep up with the workload.
I had neither heard of, nor thought of studying linguistics until I took that introductory class. I developed the same excitement about and love of learning linguistics that I had previously felt about physics. During the second semester, I took three more linguistics courses and then decided to major in it. Not only did I find something that I enjoyed studying and learning about, but people with backgrounds in linguistics can easily build successful careers in several fields, including publishing, law, biomedical research, and even speech therapy. I have chosen to pursue a career in the latter. This would not have happened if I had not tried new things and explored a variety of subjects.
Sam Negin is a freelance consultant specializing in the health care industry.