A guide to the lessons my unexpected college journey taught me
By JADE BELL
I couldn’t do it anymore. I stared at the screen full of computer science word problems in agony. This would be the third time I cried this week. I researched on forums; I spent hours being tutored. Nothing assuaged the pit in my stomach, never mind helped my GPA. I was stuck and tired of it.
That was during my junior year of college when I was declared as an astrophysics major. It was a time when many life lessons about what it means to listen to your gut became most clear — and I hope they can be of help to anyone reading this today.
So, here are a couple of lessons I’ve learned as a soon-to-be college grad:
It’s Never Too Late To Change Your Mind
I think it’s drilled into us as students to always get the “right” answer. Sure, this can be helpful and necessary in fields like mathematics or science, but even then, trial and error is a must. Having this way of thinking made me paralyzed and unsure of myself that I missed out on doing things I loved, like writing. I stayed in my STEM major for three years, but I could not ignore the call within.
I made the decision then to change my major to English to see what happened. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far. I was forced to reconnect with my younger self, a five-year-old me who enjoyed scribbling on her Winnie the Pooh notepad.
Not only did my grades improve dramatically, but my spirit did too. I felt so happy and passionate about my classes. I’ve learned a variety of interesting literary topics from studying the works of Stephen Sondheim to learning about the historical significance of common themes like the “marriage plot” in 19th-and-20th-century literature.
I was on a roll. In the summer before my fifth year of college, I took another leap of faith — I applied to be a staff writer for The California Aggie. I only had so much time left before my college career ended, so I decided it was time to jump in and keep going toward what made me feel excited. I went through the application and interview process, and I remember saying that just being able to explore my love for writing in some capacity would make me happy. I received an offer for the volunteer staff position that May, about a year ago today.
The Path Meant for You Is Not Without Its Challenges
I’ve learned that once you accept your path, certain expectations must be let go of. Changing from a physics major to an English major meant that it took me five years to graduate instead of four. I had to grieve the fact that I would no longer be graduating from my original class.
In addition, since I was on academic probation for a couple of quarters, I could not officially declare a new major until my academic standing was up-to-par. So before making the official major switch, I had to take a chance and enroll in English courses and hope that I liked them.
I’m grateful that my path took some unconventional turns because it helped me to appreciate the entirety of my college experience and learn some life lessons along the way. I have made many friends and connections who have helped support me in this process, along with my family members. It all turned out fine in the end.
For the Next Chapter…
I encourage all of you — freshmen and upperclassmen alike — to keep trying new things. Your perspective will continue to change and you’ll get a better idea of who you are and who you want to become. With that, I say goodbye and good luck!
From a fellow senior (now alum),
Jade Bell is a staff writer for The California Aggie. She joined The Aggie in June 2022, as a volunteer staff writer, went on a brief hiatus to focus solely on academics, and returned to write as a staff writer on the campus news desk in March 2023. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Written by: Jade Bell