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Major decisions

Nicole Toczauer | Friday, April 29, 2011

Congratulations. You’ve just declared your major!

Other than DARTing, that was the highlight of this past week for me.

Wednesday afternoon: I finally walked into Flanner and nervously asked where I was supposed to go. Pressing the button to the elevator, stepping in and going up, up, up. I walk out and see it’s the wrong floor. Whoops. Let’s try again.

Back into the elevator. I look at the buttons and can’t help but imagine how annoyed the people in that tiny metal box with me would be if I slid my hands down the row and cried, “It’s a Christmas tree!” like Buddy the Elf… Mature. I resist the temptation and reach the correct floor.

Walk around until you find the right door. Sit down, fill out the paper work and you’re good to go! It’s exciting — you feel like you have some sort of direction in life, a set of goals to work toward, whether it be a senior thesis, pursuing research or just learning something you love. Even as an itty-bitty freshman (but not for long now!), you’re headed somewhere.

Looking at the classes you realize this is what you’ll specialize in. But what if you change your mind? What if you change it again after that? This may happen, but regardless of how many paths you start down and never see to the end, you end up getting somewhere. It seems to just all work out.

Though I’ve finally declared my major —and I’m extremely excited about it — I realize there is so much more outside of all of the majors, minors and supplements that go down on a transcript. In interviews I’ve had for articles I’ve written this past year, especially in those concerning academia, I’ve heard again and again: “Do something you love.”

In one interview with Dean Page, I recall the following advice: 1) to “sit quietly and discern what is really important at the very deepest levels of one’s existence;” 2) to “solicit honest feedback from trusted mentors;” and 3) to “realize that a decision need not be seen as irreversible.”

Granted, I’m speaking with extremely little experience, but Notre Dame students: As you go out this summer, think about these things. When you look for a job or internship, see if it’s something that you are truly satisfied doing, or if it’s something that could lead you to that point. This is you, out in the field, a training ground of sorts. Test the waters and see how you react. If you have an enlightening experience, have the courage to act on it, whether it leads you to continue what you’re doing or if it takes you down a different path.

For graduating students: You’ve gone through the paces. You’ve earned your degree and are setting out for a job. Congratulations! Still, there’s so much more learning to do.

Looking to my mentors, parents and those wiser than myself, I’ve been able to see that even if you take a complete 180 in terms of where you’re headed, it might be right for you. An engineer might reevaluate his life and decide to become a photographer. True. Or he may continue as an engineer and love his job. Also true.

As important as majors are in molding the path you take, I think it’s more about the experiences you gain in studying the subject and working with mentors who inspire you.

Summertime is coming, so I’d encourage everyone reading this to consider where you are currently positioned and how you feel about where you might be going. Honestly, I know this is just my opinion, but be bold. This is another opportunity to figure out what you want to do.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Nicole Toczauer at ntoczaue@nd.edu