For most of my life I have known that I wanted to do something related to books later in life. I’ve almost always either wanted to be an author or work in publishing. So when applying to college, it was only natural for me to put English down for what I wanted to major in.
The summer before I came to college, I spent a lot of time talking to people about going to Berkeley and began doubting my choice of major. English made sense to me and what I wanted to do, but a lot of people seemed judgeful of it as my major. I worked in a small coastal town clothing store and when people saw me wearing my Cal hoodie, they'd often inquire about what I was studying. For whatever reason I decided that I would start telling people that I was double majoring in English and Econ. They were always impressed by the Econ and would make jokes about the English. The Econ idea went away once I actually got to school and realized that I wasn’t interested in it, I just thought I should be.
During my first semester I took a class that satisfied my social and behavioral studies breadth requirement (aka a class that fulfills one of our core curriculum classes in College of Letters and Science). It was an introductory Gender and Women’s studies class and the first week of class I was convinced that I was meant to major or minor in the department. The class was super interesting and almost like a history class in the way we learned information, but this idea did not stick for long.
Later on in the first semester I started becoming more interested in social work and student advocacy. I think this was partly because of my gender class and partly because of things going on in my life but I decided that being a sociology or social welfare major sounded really interesting. I planned my entire four years for scheduling how I’d fit a double major of English + Social Welfare + creative writing minor. (Yes, I am an organizing/planning freak). Fast forward to second semester, I was in an introductory sociology class.
While I really enjoyed the class and found it interesting, three weeks in I realized that I had gotten a little ahead of myself and social welfare wasn’t what I wanted to do. I dropped the class and picked up a new one… “Introduction to Roman Civilization”. This was a class that I only picked because I had dropped sociology and needed more credits. It fulfilled another breadth requirement and it fit into the time slot that I had dropped. It also had a lot of empty spots open and was easy to enroll in. I wasn’t expecting to love this class and yet, surprisingly this class was what changed what my college experience was going to be.
I have always loved Greek and Roman mythology and literature. I loved hearing about Greek and Roman gods, and this partly was started by my elementary school obsession with Percy Jackson and the Olympians. But I had never thought that I would want to study anything related to that. I was quickly drawn to our course readings and topics covered in class. A lot of the lectures focused on paintings or images and the professor would talk intensively about them and their connections to Roman life. More recently we visited the Center of the Tebtunis Papyri in Bancroft Library with our discussion sections and got to see ancient papyri texts that were excavated over a 100 years ago that are from 300 BC to 300 AD. Additionally, our discussion sections have been the highlight of my academic week some of the time, just because I find the topics and literature we are reading to be so stimulating.
So… moral of the story: you are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to not know what you want to do with your life. You are allowed to figure it out once you get to college. And honestly, it is okay if you don’t figure it out your freshman year either. I have friends who changed their major their sophomore year, and they are doing really well. Not knowing what your passion or plan for life after school isn’t the end of the world, you can figure it out and you will be okay.
However, I say this and I haven’t yet declared my majors. I plan on declaring next semester as a double major in English, and Ancient Greek and Roman Studies. Then, eventually I plan on completing a creative writing minor. But this still could easily change. Obviously I am hoping this sticks, and I really think it will, but I am open to accepting whatever comes my way.
Don’t stress out too much about deciding your major your first semester, or even your freshman year! You will figure it out as you go and you’ve got this! If you're in the College of Letters and Science take advantage of those breadth classes, you never know how they might change your college trajectory. (and Go Bears!)