During my first semester of college, I learned a lot about myself. I’m a sucker for coffee shops, I hate dining hall food, and I can somehow survive off of 4 hours of sleep, but the main thing I learned was this: I am not an engineer.
Looking back, I don’t know why on earth I thought I would be. To all of the women in STEM, you amaze me because I absolutely could not do it. It took me only a month to realize it, and let me tell you, the thought was absolutely terrifying. As far as I was concerned, everyone decided what they wanted to do for the rest of their life when they were 18 years old, and then it was set in stone. I felt so disappointed in myself.
When I was in high school, I had such high hopes for my college self. I got my first ever B my senior year, and it might as well have been the end of the world for me. I looked into my future and saw an engineering major and future lawyer. I saw someone who would breeze through college and stick to the plan. I wanted to be that person— that was the dream. The further I got through the semester, the more I had to accept that this was a dream I would have to give up.
You see, everyone tells you how much freedom you have in college, but it doesn’t fully hit you until you actually get there. You’re telling me I can skip class and no one’s going to call my mom? Obviously, I was going to take that opportunity; why on earth would I go to my engineering lab when I could go grab coffee with friends or watch just one more episode of New Girl? I was thriving… and then I was failing.
That’s when the guilt set in. I couldn’t stop thinking about what my friends would think, what my family would say when they learned I left the state and now I was flunking. I thought I wasn’t good enough, that if I couldn’t tough it out in order to follow my dreams, then I was a failure. I started digging myself into a hole.
At the time, the majority of my friends were STEM majors. I saw them all powering through their pre-med and environmental science classes, and that made me feel even worse. I was worried they would think less of me. Knowing what I know now, this was a ridiculous thought, but when I first got to college, others’ perceptions of me were always at the forefront of my mind. I finally told them how I was struggling, and I realized how worried I had been for nothing. I was met with so much support and love. College is hard, everyone gets it, and they were just the support system I needed. I even had friends helping me decide what my new major would be, going through class lists and making pros and cons lists. It was such a weight lifted off my shoulders.
Eventually, I decided on criminal justice and sociology. It felt right; the classes looked like something I would actually enjoy instead of suffering through. I enrolled in my courses and felt genuine excitement to go to class for the first time in a long time. The process was so much smoother and easier than I had imagined. No one shamed me, no one thought less of me, and suddenly college didn’t feel like a chore.
Now, I know this whole story may seem a bit dramatic, but I also know there are people out there in the same boat. What felt like the end of the world at the time is now just a minor bump in the road to moving towards the future I want. It was a tough decision, but I’ve never regretted it for a second. I now feel more confident, more optimistic, and regained the drive that I thought I had lost.
At the end of the day, your college experience should be about what you want and who you want to become. I am so glad that I know this now, and I hope that others do as well.