"So, what are you studying in university, Natasha?"
Yet another question about my major. Here goes, I say to myself. "Umm, microbiology?"
I might sound unsure, but saying it aloud brings a smile to my face. It is a big step forward from saying "Umm, I don't know. . . . I haven't decided for sure." Yes, I'm one of those students who was stuck in the middle of the spectrum—was not completely undecided, yet did not come into college having made all her decisions to the tee.
At the back of my mind, I knew I would come out of the University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Science degree in hand. Or that's what I thought coming in as a freshman, until I encountered the vast, flexible curriculum offered here. And then began my inward journey where, as a freshman, I took classes for fun, along with the necessary premedical requirements, to dabble in my interests and try out what I love enough to major in it, minor in it, or even cluster in it.
And to tell you the truth, I still don't know. And it's ok not to know (at least until you have to declare your decisions).
With the March deadline of declaring a major hovering above me since the start of sophomore year, I delved into some serious thinking. It involved a lot of self reflection about the the things I love. This is something I believe in: "When in doubt, just delve into what you love to do, and the world will be a better place." Works for me. You should try it out, too!
I came into college knowing exactly what I wanted to do: go to medical school and become a neonatologist. But college has given me the opportunity to explore and realize that there are so many things I love. Saying, "Yes, I want to go to medical school" is not so easy anymore. And even more difficult is writing about it, because there is just a tumult of thoughts that want to come out onto paper. There are just so many interests I want to pursue!
There isn't a reason for me to complain, though. If there is one thing I really appreciate, it is that the University of Rochester has shown me a way to unearth the deepest parts of me and really question what is my goal in life. The U of R has shown me that if you don't think, if you aren't confused by all the broad career spectrums, if you don't question, then you aren't realizing your full potential.
When you finally know, you would have gone through a journey of self thought and learning, after which you come out a better, more holistic and well-rounded individual, having dabbled in more than just your focus of study. And to me that speaks a lot about an individual.
And I'm sure I'm not alone when I ask you incoming freshmen if there are some among you who are still unsure about what they want to choose as a career, or even more so, what they want to major in.
On occasion, I would sit down with my chai and ask myself, "What do I love to do?" There would come a reply from the tiny voice inside my head: "Working with kids, volunteering, caring for people, biology, questioning, and . . ." So that would make a good career in the health professions, right? Then the voice would say, "Culinary, interacting with people, a broad international outlook, photography, traveling, psychology, writing . . ." And this would put me right back to where I started.
But as I mentioned earlier, instead of thinking, and getting stuck in this web of confusion, I would delve right into photography and trying out my culinary skills, in the hope that the answer would come to me. And sure enough, it came. Though vague, it still came. When you're involved in the kitchen, with nothing but the ingredients in front of you and your mind whirring and conjuring up images of the dish when it's done, nothing can be better. It is an exhilarating feeling. A strange kind of thrill. And then nothing matters. I see only the dish and begin to cook. And the satisfaction of conjuring up what I set out with clears my head to think. And one such fine day, I realized I shouldn't restrict myself.
I don't need to plan my career to the tee right now at this very moment. Life is unpredictable. Follow what you love, and it will fall into place.
And I decided to choose a middle path. One that could lead me to medical school, or to culinary school while dabbling in food writing, or to working with the health arm of the UN. I have decided to major in microbiology—I can study the science I love, and yet it is also a major factor in the food world.
What will come later, after I graduate with my degree from the U of R? I'm banking on a year off, volunteering with Teach for India. I am hoping that my experiences with people will teach me something about life and show me the way for the next big decision: apply to which graduate school? Medical, or culinary?
Till then, I shall take life as it comes, in small amounts. One step at a time.
This decision is one I am extremely proud of. It involved a lot of self discovery, something that does not come easy. And I thank the University of Rochester for that.
All you people out there in a similar situation, I can tell you this with certainty: Don't stress. Don't worry. One doesn't need to know now. If you do, it's great. If not, that's great, too. Just do what you love. It is never too late for that. And the answer will come. You will know exactly what you want, when the time is right.
But wait—my clusters are yet to be decided. Maybe it calls for a repeat of my journey. . . . What do you think? Haha! 🙂
Good luck! May the New Year give you many more opportunities to learn, explore, and discover!