In One Major, Out the Other

Courtesy of Jessica Pak

Courtesy of Jessica Pak

Before I went to college, I thought everything in my life had to be set in stone.

Parents pressured us to make quick decisions, teachers warned us about taking our futures seriously and people everywhere asked us the age-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even college applications required us to check the box next to one major out of hundreds that would ultimately determine the paths our lives would take and half the time we had no idea what that major entailed. It seemed like we couldn’t pack our bags and move into the dorms until we told the whole world about our plans.

But luckily for us, we soon discovered that college is actually the perfect time to be completely lost.

College may be an institution of higher learning, but you end up learning more about yourself in these four years than you learn about neurobiology or history. And, sometimes, what you learn about yourself is that you’re not the same person you were before you entered college.

You change.

Second-year English major Rebecca Chan knows a thing or two about change: she entered UC Irvine as a pharmaceutical sciences major before making the switch to English after fall quarter of freshman year.

“The main reason why I chose the pharmaceutical science major was because I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field,” Chan said about her initial decision. “Many of my relatives work in healthcare … I also wanted to be able to help people through my job, and I felt that I could do that as a pharmacist.”

But a series of events during the summer and fall of freshman year triggered a change of heart. Chan had always been interested in a profession in the humanities, but was weary of how limited the career opportunities were in comparison to being in the medical field. Chan enrolled in a university studies class through UCI’s Freshman Summer Start Program.

“One of the class assignments was to watch a YouTube video of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University, which really convicted me. I realized that if I really wanted to invest in my passions, I had to take a leap of faith,” Chan said.

From there Chan decided to stick with her major and take Bio 93 while also enrolling in Humanities Core.

But after just one quarter, Chan “was in love” with Humanities Core and officially switched to English, following her mother’s advice to go with her passions.

Whereas Chan has made her decision fairly early in her college career, second-year computer game science major Yanli Wang is currently stuck in the middle.

“The major that I’m transferring to is international studies,” Wang said. “I’ve currently not switched majors yet, but I’m in the process of taking the core classes that are required to switch into said major.”

While filling out his UCI application, Wang saw that computer game science was offered as a major and immediately signed up without a second thought, as he’s been a longtime gamer. But what he didn’t expect was classes centered around coding: the major proved to be heavy on computer science and lighter on gaming.

“My biggest dream in the world is to become an artist in the game industry,” Wang said. “Designers and artists need to have a vast well of knowledge regarding the world in order to effectively design new virtual worlds that have never been imagined before. This is why I’m switching to international studies.”

Wang still has a ways to go before he can officially change majors, but he’s confident that he will graduate on time and is more than comfortable with taking an alternate route to achieve his original dream profession.

“My old major was 100 percent technical, whereas my new major takes on more of an artistic way of thinking … which is right up my alley,” Wang added.

And for some students, like third-year film and media studies major Jessica Pak, it takes more than just one or two changes to figure out your niche.

Pak entered UCI as a biological sciences major, switched to psychology and social behavior, spent some time as an undecided/undeclared student, declared a criminology major, moved back to become a social ecology major and now is in film and media studies. Total number of changes? Five. But what was it that convinced Pak to jump from major to major?

“Honestly? Pursuit of happiness,” Pak said. “I don’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t want to wake up every day because every day is dreadful career-wise. I want to love what I do, and do what I love.”

Growing up, Pak originally wanted to be an actress or somehow involve herself in the entertainment industry, but was afraid of disappointing her parents. After her major changes, she decided to confront her family.

“It took me two, almost three, years to finally muster up the courage and tell my mom: ‘Look, I love you. And there’s nothing more than I want to make you proud of me and have you watch me be successful. But I can’t be successful the way you want me to be, I can’t build my success the way you want me to. I don’t want to be a doctor, I don’t want to be a lawyer. Maybe later, but not now. I want to make you happy, but I don’t want to waste another two years in college being miserable trying to battle through classes and subjects that I absolutely have no interest in. I want to be happy,’” Pak explained. “And surprisingly, she was more supportive than I had anticipated.”

Despite the amount of classes she needs to satisfy her major requirements, Pak is determined to graduate on time or stay just one extra quarter.

If there’s one thing college teaches you, it’s that you can’t waltz into life thinking you’ve already been taught. Whether you’re changing majors or changing perspectives, what’s important is that it’s up to you.

You don’t have to have everything figured out.