Of all the questions university students get asked, “what program are you in?” is by far my least favourite. But it wasn’t always like this – I was once proud and even boastful of my academic path. I graduated high school with high hopes and big dreams; I was accepted into all the universities I applied to and my goal was medical school. I’ve been doing my research on Western University since Grade 9, and my dreams were finally coming true.
Come first semester, academics and reality hit me like a bus. I disappointed myself, time and time again, and I was confused with what to do next. I was lost. I didn’t know who to go to for help and I didn’t know where to find support or words of consolation. For the first time ever, I wasn’t getting the academic results I was so used to, and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I began tearing my self-confidence apart – I told myself that I was dumb, useless, and totally incapable. But the idea of disappointing my family broke me; I overworked and overstressed myself to do whatever I could to keep going, because I was doing it for them. I wanted them to believe in me, even though I didn’t believe in myself.
It took me a few months to accept that I didn’t enjoy what I was studying anymore. Like I said, I wasn’t doing it for myself, but for my family. Deciding that I wanted to switch programs lifted a weight off my shoulders, but this weight did not even compare to the disappointment I felt for shattering my parents’ dream. I wanted to be the model child, the one your parents brag about at family gatherings, the one that all the aunts and uncles praise, the one that your cousins look up to. But if being the model child means sacrificing my time and energy into doing something that I’m not interested in, it’s not the title for me.
In all honesty, although I knew switching programs was the best choice for me, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that everyone graduates with the program they came into the university with, and that switching programs was totally unheard of. Boy was I wrong – most of my upper year friends told me they had either switched programs or had thoughts of doing so. I was told that university is about learning about yourself, and that it’s okay to change your mind.
Actually taking courses you’re interested in is such a refreshing feeling. This year, I chose a handful of courses that genuinely appealed to me, and I can honestly say that I’m much happier. Don’t get me wrong, I still stress here and there, but it’s the fact that I’m actually interested in what I’m learning that makes it rewarding and wonderful. Although I’m still figuring it out and have no idea what the future holds for me, in this moment, I am happy.
I wrote this blog post to remind you to choose what you love. I can’t say that I know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I can say that I know what I don’t want to do. Sometimes, I wish I had a time machine to go back to high school and reapply to all my university choices with what I know now. But I am thankful for the choices and mistakes I’ve made, for they taught me what I know and made me who I am today. I am thankful that I chose to go into science, because although I did poorly, I won’t be left wondering “what if?” for the rest of my life.
“Find what you love and let it kill you.”
– Charles Bukowski
Author: Katie Chan
Katie is a third year MIT student at Western University. She loves to write and travel. When she’s not blogging, you can find her on Instagram @kvtie.