Most young adults have faced the same incredibly daunting question that is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” For me, I had no idea. At the end of high school I knew that I liked physics and space, so astrophysics was the only next step.
Cut to: two years after making the decision of committing to UCSC as an astrophysics major. The last two years have undoubtedly been the toughest academic years of my life. This doesn’t surprise me, seeing as how it’s a university, afterall. What did surprise me is how much of an intense mental strain school had on me. Over the last few years of classes, I have learned that pursuing a physics-based major is much different than the lab-based physics that I fell in love with in high school (there is so much more math).
What I thought I was signing up for with this major was a lot more physical science—geography and atmospheres of celestial bodies—not just the mathematical physics of those far, far away bodies. I do enjoy what I’m doing for the most part, but being able to see myself doing this for the rest of my life has been a struggle.
Just last week, I was looking through the list of electives I need to take to be able to graduate and I came across one that drew me in immediately. This class is in Earth sciences, a major that is different from mine, but in doing a bit of research, I found that it consisted of the exact subjects that I had originally thought were a part of astrophysics, the major I’m currently in.
Of course, after coming across this knowledge, I began to freak out about whether or not I chose the right major. For a good chunk of that day, I researched the possibility of switching majors, seeing if it would be reasonable with the classes that I’ve already completed and my current graduation date. A few almost heartbreaking hours went by and I decided that the switch was not a reasonable choice because it would push me back academically by a year at the latest. In reality this isn’t the worst thing, but I just do not want to be in school for that much longer. Another thought crossed my mind—what about adding it as a minor instead? I originally did not want to minor in anything so that I could have time for a few fun classes, but Earth sciences just couldn’t get out of my head.
After a few solid days of personal deliberation, talking with people that had previously gone through major changes, and getting advice from an advisor, I decided that a minor really is what’s best for me and what I want out of my education. My heart was, and still is, set on all things space, so why not take as many classes as possible, especially from two different types of research.
This quarter has been rough for me, as online schooling has been for most people I know, so I’m not surprised that I was faced with such an intense internal crisis. As the title of this article tells you- being so overwhelmed with still not knowing exactly what I want to do after graduation had me second guessing myself and my academic choices over the past two years. I’m not going to lie to you all though, knowing that I could’ve pursued space without all the calculus makes me a bit sad and if I were given the chance to go back to high school me, I absolutely would avoid math at all costs.
Long story short: having second thoughts about your choices in academia isn’t the worst thing! In fact, it’s far more frequent than even I had thought. If you’re in a similar position as this, take your time! Being able to focus on what you really want out of your education is extremely important and can be a different journey for everyone.