Op-ed: Letting instincts shape my education, not my major

At 2 a.m. one morning, I broke down and called my mom. Frantic about my decision to change my major, I told her how scared I was because journalism was all I ever thought I could do—it was all I ever planned for.

I thought I couldn’t change my major because, as a sophomore, I am too deep in the curriculum. My journalism peers would disparage me for veering from the pack. My anxiety took over; it forced me to believe I was stuck, but this couldn’t have been any farther from the truth. All students should feel they are able to change their major without fear of falling behind or being judged, because during college is the time to develop and change our minds.

I wanted to be a reporter since the age of 12, when my middle school’s newspaper published my work for the first time. All of my endeavors after that revolved around becoming a journalist. In high school, I led the initiative to resurrect the school newspaper. I quickly became known as “the crazy newspaper girl.” It was my identity. I wore it with pride. I recently became embarrassed to tell people that I wasn’t this person anymore, that I was wrong about what I wanted. I have always struggled with anxiety, and during my first year at Emerson it got worse as I adjusted to college life in the city.  As time went on my general anxiety lessened. Because of this, I believed my doubts about being a journalist would disappear. But they didn’t. My anxiety continued to get worse.

Anytime I got an assignment, my anxiety grew. I didn’t want to scramble all the time to get information from people. I didn’t want to be on call at anytime to finish edits. I simply just didn’t care anymore, and this feeling scared me. I have never been someone that didn’t want to climb the ranks or push myself, but now I was. The more articles, videos, and audio pieces I produced, the more I lost my passion.

This year I watched my peers climb the ranks of the journalism field. I watched them land internships, editorial positions in the paper, and become lead anchors on screen at WEBN. While they were finding their individual and professional identities, I was losing the only distinguishable identity I had: “the crazy newspaper girl.”

After an honest conversation with myself, I realized that I wanted a career with a more sustainable work-life balance. Being a full-time reporter comes at a price of being a slave to the endless news cycle, which is something I am not suited to do. I am someone that needs to be able to clock out for the day, to have time to take care of myself, or else I am not able to produce good work. I want a future with equilibrium and stability, something our society does not teach us to aspire to.

A report from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that 33 percent of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree change their major at least once in their four years of undergraduate education at larger universities.  Another study shows that students who change their major graduate at a higher rate than those who don’t. Although these statistics are from universities with a wider range of majors than Emerson, they still show how common changing majors is among undergraduate students.

Unlike these large universities, students at Emerson take courses relating to their major during their freshman year. Due to the small population size, the departments at Emerson can feel like impenetrable factions—once you are in one, you’re stuck. This is not true. Although Emerson may be smaller and have less major options than other colleges, we still have a wide variety of majors in communication and the arts. I will start the process to switch my major to Communication Studies, which teaches a variety of skills that offers students options into public relations, digital strategies, and social media campaigns. Students even have the ability to create an interdisciplinary major if they want more options, too.

As college students, it is easy for many of us to feel like we don’t have much agency over our lives—we’re stuck in an uncomfortable stage between adolescence and adulthood. If anything, we have the most flexibility to change our minds now than we will have once we get careers, mortgages, and maybe children of our own to care for. Now is the time for us to take advantage of our education and to not limit ourselves based on preconceived notions of who we are.

I also realized I cannot live an objective life. I want to go out and be apart of the change, not just write about it. I decided I want to pursue communication studies with an emphasis on public relations, in hopes to one day represent nonprofits and organizations I support such as Big Sister Association and various animal anti-cruelty companies.

Now is the time to listen to our instincts and reshape ourselves. I urge all students to not base their self-worth off of their major, ranking in class, or number of published articles. Our identities go beyond these superficial accomplishments. I implore every student who feels a loss in passion to be honest with themselves about what they want. Contact your academic advisor and look at the course descriptions before registering for spring semesterdon’t mindlessly follow what everyone else is doing. Follow your gut—it is rarely ever wrong.

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