One of the things that I’ve appreciated most about being at university is how much freedom one is given to choose how they spend their time and energy. College can be whatever you want it to be. You can start and join RSOs, take part in research and internships, play sports, and/or focus on your personal growth and fulfillment. College, after all, is a time to find yourself and explore your identity. Whatever you decide to do, it is important to remember that your opportunities are endless and you can always change your path.
When I was in high school, I was constantly wary of social and academic pressure from others. I cared greatly about getting into the colleges of my choice and wanted to be at the top of my class. I saw what other stand-out students were doing and followed suit. I joined some honors societies, started a club, had a job, volunteered, and took as many AP classes as possible. I practiced conformity and ended up not knowing who I really was. While I take comfort in knowing that many students did the same, I am very thankful that I’ve left that mindset behind and spent the past two years growing into myself.
Living in Redding last year, I encountered and befriended so many unique and amazing individuals. It was beautiful to see people following their own interests and exploring what the university has to offer. Seeing the vast diversity of chosen majors and extracurriculars inspired me to tap into my own passions. I talked to people who were truly passionate about their studies and this showed me that I was not where I was supposed to be. I had initially chosen to be a biochemistry major because I thought that’s what I SHOULD do, not because that’s what I wanted to do. After seeing others so enthusiastic about their majors, however, I was inspired to make a change. I became an environmental science major and my emotional wellbeing was instantly transformed.
When I changed my major, the world seemed brighter. I ended up loving my major so much that I simply could not wait to start research. By the end of my freshman year, I had set up two internships for the summer. I knew that starting research before one’s second year was not extremely common, but what was and wasn’t common didn’t matter to me anymore. I didn’t need to follow what everyone else was doing, and in the Honors community, I found numerous individuals who shared this mindset. Spending your first summer as a college student on campus can be intimidating, but it is easier to navigate when you have friends doing the same thing.
I ended up having a great summer and my internships were extended through the following school year– a very exciting development! What had initially seemed like an overly ambitious choice has ended up being the core of my college experience. I have loved doing research and reinforcing the passion for my studies has motivated me to work harder in my classes. It feels great to know what is waiting on the other side for me after I graduate. Highschool felt so aimless but college feels much more purposeful.
I have never felt so passionate about academics as I do right now and I owe that to the people and experiences that encouraged me to finally start building my own adventure.