To The College Semester That Killed My Academic Passion

To The College Semester That Killed My Academic Passion

... and then helped me find my true passion.
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Upon attending a vocational high school, four years of engineering technology had me excited and proud of my technological background. I had spent years learning everything from mathematical formulas, to the pros and cons of different wood types, to how to create a design for, program and run a 3-D printer. I had spent countless nights, which turned into early mornings, using Solidworks, a computer-aided engineering design program, trying to get my assignments just right; taking and re-taking measurements, then sketching my designs, crumpling them up and throwing them away, and then re-sketching them. These activities took over my life, and I could not have been happier about that. Towards the end of my secondary education, I began applying to different universities. I had pinpointed my interest to the mechanical engineering field, and with each application, I became more and more exhilarated for my future as an engineer.


During the early Spring of 2014, I had been accepted to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and quickly accepted their offer. I even attended the university's Freshman Summer Institute (FSI), which was designed to prepare incoming engineering majors for the academic struggles which were to be faced come the fall semester. The program sampled some of the courses, as well as introduced me to some of my peers, that I would be encountering in the future, all of which simply widened my eagerness for the upcoming semester. Classes began just a few weeks later, commencing the best years of my life... Or so I thought.


My first semester of college was supposed to be perfect. Well, if I learned anything in my Introduction to Engineering course that semester, it was Murphy's Law. Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong," and Murphy's Law is real. That semester, I struggled immensely. I spent numerous nights, alone in the library, trying to teach myself calculus; math problems that took two pages, front AND back, to complete. You can only imagine how discouraging it was to finish a problem, and then realize that my answer did not match the one in the book. And let's face it- chemistry was no walk in the park, either. About twelve weeks later, as my first semester was coming to a close, I began thinking, "maybe integrals just aren't my thing." And then final grades were posted. My heart dropped as I learned that I had failed (miserably, I might add) my calculus course, and would be unable to move on to the next level in the spring. A minor set back for some, but this inconvenience would set my degree back almost a full academic year.


It is safe to say that similar struggles occurred throughout the next few semesters. Now, fast forward to the Spring semester of my sophomore year of college. I was in a meeting with an academic adviser who pointed out the fact that the courses which I seemed to enjoy, and excel in, were not my major requirements, but the humanities and social science courses. I had received an A in all of my English courses, philosophies, and psychologies. At this, she suggested a major change. She said that changing majors at this point in my educational career would set me back close to a year, if not more, but that I really had to make this decision on my own.


For months, I sat in disbelief that she could even suggest such a thing. I was an engineering major. I had always been an engineering major. I knew this is where I wanted to be long before I graduated high school, or even thought about applying for college. And then it hit me. Did I actually WANT to be an engineer? Or is that just where the path I was on was leading me? I absolutely loved studying engineering technology in high school. It was my first opportunity to think critically, use my resources, and be creative. But somewhere along the lines, it went from something that I loved, to something that I did. I finally realized that when I applied for college, the only reason I decided upon the mechanical engineering field was because I didn't know anything else. I didn't know that I could know anything else.


Newly aware that I no longer dreamed of being an engineer, I had to decide what path I truly belonged on. After hours and hours and hours of research, I decided that I wanted to become an educator. I sat down with my family and told them the news. Some were concerned that I had just suffered a tough semester and was making a rash decision, and others questioned whether or not this was the right route for me, but I knew deep inside me that I had made the right choice.


Fast forward to the present. I am now going into my senior year of college. I am a liberal arts major with a concentration in writing and a concentration in philosophy, and I aspire to be a middle school teacher. For the first time in my life, it does not feel like a chore to go to class, and homework doesn't feel like homework. More importantly, I no longer have to fight my alarm to get up in the morning; it goes off at 5:00 a.m. daily, and I wholeheartedly look forward to getting to work. I am now a registered substitute teacher in four different school districts, and I work a before school program with elementary school children, so it's not exactly where I would like to be for the rest of my life, but it is a step in the right direction.


Now that I have the opportunity to look back and reflect on my decisions, I am proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone. I left behind what I had known all of my life, and began to explore the unknown. I am so grateful for that meeting with my adviser, and for my boss who took a chance on me during the Summer of 2016. Who knew that a summer job as a camp councilor would be just what I needed to help me decide where I wanted to end up in life? To anybody out there who is walking in my shoes, just know that it is okay to let go. It is okay to make that risky decision and it is okay to acknowledge that you are unhappy, as long as you are taking the steps to do something about it. Just because you are somewhere, does not mean that it is where you belong. Please, go out and find your true passion, because there is so much more to life than being unhappy.


So here it is: the biggest thank you I could muster up to the semester that killed my academic passion. Thank you.

Cover Image Credit: QuoteFancy

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Saying "No" Is OK

It is okay to put yourself first and do what's best for you

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It's that time of year again when your days are filled with nothing but class, work, assignments, clubs, extracurricular activities and much more. Your time and brain are going in every possible direction. But what if it didn't have to be that way? What if letting go, actually gave you something back? That's right, I am talking about the word no and all it can do for you.

I too, fall into the trap of doing more is better. Having all my time devoted to activities or work is good for me. Taking nineteen plus credits hours somehow makes me a better person, even smarter person. Well, I hate to break it you, and me, that this thought process is extremely detrimental.

There are no rules that say we must do everything and anything. If there are, they are wrong. And that's why saying no is so important.

Currently, I am taking nineteen credit hours. Soon, I am going to make sure that it is sixteen. After the first week of classes, I discovered I was in a class that would provide me with a wonderful education, but it was not counting towards my major. After thinking about it long and hard, I decided that it would be best to say no to this particular class.

Before this year, I would have said, it's okay (even if it wasn't) and muster through the class. To the old me, dropping a class would be like quitting, but I cannot even begin to tell you, and me, how far from the truth that is.

Saying no is brave. Saying no is the right thing to do. Saying no allows you to excel in other areas. Because I have decided to say no, I am opening two more hours in my day. I am relieving myself of work and projects that would add to my already hectic schedule. I am doing what is best for me.

However, there is a part two to this no phenomenon. Continuing with my example, I now have two open hours in my week. The overachiever in me would try to find something to fill it. Maybe another club or activity. Maybe more hours at work or a place to volunteer. And while none of these are bad things to do or have in your life, you are just replacing a time taker with another. When you say no, mean it and don't fill it.

This is your year to say no. Not because you are lazy. Not because you aren't smart enough. Not because you can't. Say no because it is best for you. Say no because it frees you. Say no because you can!

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