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How My First Year At College Helped Me Decide My Future

In high school, I thought that I knew for sure that I was going to be studying psychology in college. I had always been interested in the subject, it was something my parents would be okay with, and I had always leaned more towards social studies and English classes than I had math or science. 


But after taking AP Psychology in high school and researching more about careers, seeds of doubt started to be planted in my mind— and once they were there they were hard to get rid of. What was I trying to get out of this? Is this what I would be happy doing for the rest of my life? Was I actually interested in studying this, or was it just the least unbearable option? Was I really not smart enough to study a hard science? Psychology was becoming less and less of an option, unfortunately for me, since college applications were rapidly coming my way. In a haste, I ended up choosing English as my preferred major on my application, since that was what I was good at, and I could put off thinking about it for a while.


Graduation came and went, and as my first semester at MSU was rapidly approaching, I started to feel the same sense of dread  I had felt before. I went through orientation feeling somewhat dissatisfied, and I didn’t know what to do. Everyone in the English department had been so nice to me, and I felt guilty about having mixed feelings towards continuing the program. As I continued into my first semester, I fought with myself internally trying to figure out what I was actually feeling; was I really unhappy with this, or was I just struggling to adjust to college? Was I making myself overreact for no reason? Was I just tricking myself into being unhappy? 


When I started exploring what I could change my major to, I was faced with a lot of questions that I didn’t really know the answer to at first. So much of my primary education years had been focused on taking things one day at a time, since I had been struggling with my home life and other personal issues to the point where I couldn’t find anything that I was really passionate about. I had been an average student, and I thought that I wasn’t smart enough to tackle something science related, even though I had been interested in subjects like biology and ecology. It seemed like everyone I had talked to had had their entire future planned out and knew exactly what they wanted to do, and I became almost resentful of them because I was floundering trying to figure myself out. The clock was ticking and I was running out of time and money to make a decision.


But there was some kind of silver lining in taking a bit of time to figure things out. I took two Arabic courses for my original language requirement and I found that I loved the language, even though I wasn’t the fastest learner or the best student in the class. I took an intro to archaeology course and realized that maybe I could work in science, and that I didn’t have to be the smartest person alive to pursue it. I learned about political theory through one of my English classes, something I’m not sure I would have discovered if I hadn’t taken the class. And I began to spend more and more time outdoors— something that I had not had the chance to do in high school. I had always been passionate about climate change, but experiencing it through a new lens helped me realize that I wanted to do something more. I had always been looking for a purpose, but I couldn’t find it until now. Having the time to explore really seemed to make things fall into place for me, and I don’t know if I would have ever discovered those aspects of myself if I hadn’t done the retrospection that I did during that time. 


After researching MSU’s environmental science programs, I eventually settled on Fisheries and Wildlife. I knew going in that it was going to be a lot of work, but it didn’t bother me like it had in the past. I knew I would be surrounded by people much more capable, and honestly, more intelligent than me, but that didn’t seem to matter either. I knew I would have to adjust to the hard science curriculum, but I was ready for the challenge. I was suddenly feeling a new emotion that I hadn’t felt before in regards to my education; content. A sense of belonging. It might not have been the most popular choice, or the easiest one, but as I continue along, I find more and more every day that this is where I wanted to be. It had taken me a while to get there, but I am grateful for the time that I had to learn, because it helped me get over hurdles that I thought previously unjumpable. 

Kelly is a Michigan State University student pursuing a B.S in Fisheries and Wildlife with a concentration in conservation biology and a minor in Anthropology. She is passionate about environmental justice and science communication. She likes iced coffee, Stardew Valley, writing, digital art, The X-Files, and cold weather.
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