Kathy Minko | Wednesday, September 30, 2015
College: a four-year period of fantastic memories, steadfast friendships and disturbing dietary choices. It’s a time that many parents constantly reminisce upon, exemplified by alumni home décor and hardcore football fandom.
For many high school students on the verge of making their college decision, the dream of university dictates their current classes and extracurricular schedules. I poured 110 percent into each assignment, club meeting and sports practice in order to be accepted by the prestigious Notre Dame.
Today, I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow. I am truly blessed to be here.” For some students, college is a time to strengthen passions and find stable jobs. Others may perceive college as a period to explore new opportunities.
Personally, college has consisted of my struggle to find a strong yet logical passion that will actually provide for me in the future. How am I supposed to discover my interests when the world is so competitive? Why do people shake their heads when I tell them I have switched tracks from pre-med to English? While I have yet to determine my niche or the perfect career, I will offer a piece of advice: find the thing that fires you up and run with it.
I remember first moving into Pasquerilla East in August 2014. I experienced an overwhelming sense of anxiety for change. I had never stepped out of my comfort zone: softball practice with my sister, studying a strict schedule of classes, asking my parents for dinner every night, and most importantly, my mom waking me up for school each morning. I sat in silence for the car ride, dwelling on each moment as a significant chapter in my life ended.
Once my parents pulled into the P.E. circle, I was immediately greeted by girls giggling, hugging and welcoming. I looked at the window: “Welcome Home Pyros.”
At the end of Frosh-O, or what is currently Welcome Weekend, while I began to spend time with my section mates, I experienced a bit of skepticism. Would my freshman roommate be my bridesmaid? Will college be one big party? Do C’s really get degrees? I wasn’t sure of anything through my first weeks as a collegiate freshman. And the worst part? I felt I belonged to the minority.
I developed a routine, which eased my day-to-day anxieties. But despite this groove, I began to doubt my place at Notre Dame. My peers were engaging in research, taking unique classes and finding amazing jobs. Why did I feel so isolated? Though I enrolled in classes aimed to provide a stable job, I had this voice in my head screaming for me to step out of my comfort zone.
I remembered the rigorous high school schedule required to attend Notre Dame. How could a school that demanded such strict obligations possibly call for students to “create their own path”? I considered pre-med a “safe” choice, and while the classes challenged me more than ever, I would try to survive. Stumbling upon this thought, a specific, hopeless word stuck with me: “survive.”
I remember sobbing alone in my room. I hated Gen. Chem., and the thought of sitting in a doctor’s office all day began to repulse me. I needed a change. Having no idea where to turn, I visited my literature seminar professor. He praised my work ethics and writing skills and assured me that though doctors make a significant living, the world needs good writers. He implored me to think of something that invigorates me. When I stared blankly through him, he asked, “When you sit down to study at night, what is the first thing you pull out of your backpack?” I subconsciously answered, “Literature.”
He encouraged me to take any opportunity to improve my writing. Though I already made up my mind about pre-med, I asked him if I could financially support myself with a career in writing. He listed a variety of jobs involving writers. At the end of our meeting, he described college as a place of self-discovery where people revere potential and passion. I took his advice with gusto.
A year later, I reflect on that conversation. Without him, I would not have had the courage to drop pre-med. I would probably be sobbing over mechanism No. 70 and hating myself.
Whenever I encounter someone struggling to engage with their classes, I ask them the same thing my professor asked me. I urge people to immerse themselves in their subconscious passions. Some may discourage a person’s decision to change majors, but take it from me: Judgments hurt, and self-doubt may occur, but you should never let that impede your college experience. College encompasses a greater purpose of self-discovery. So though the haters may hate, hate, hate, we should just shake it off.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.