Studying Abroad

Spencer Morgan (CFA’23)

I have always wanted to study abroad; the ability to do so was one of the major deciding factors for me during my college search and selection process.  Interestingly, I am now part of an academic program that requires students to study abroad, such is the importance of expanding one’s world view to my college. I feel that my experience, so far, has done exactly that: my perspectives on place, identity, and culture have all be broadened while attending school, going to work, and traveling around one of the greatest cities in the world: London.

School

In the academic portion of my program, I decided to focus on history and art, which has meant taking classes on foreign policy, societal change, and of course contemporary and modern art.  I have not only been able to see some wonderful special exhibitions, unique monuments, and moving performances as a result of these classes, but in taking them have nearly completed a declared minor in History and possibly another in the History of Art and Architecture.

Work

In the internship portion of my program, I was paired with the City of Westminster Archives’ Conservation Department.  Over the course of the past few weeks, I have joined a small cohort of volunteers in mounting, framing, and packaging objects in preparation for a special exhibition, ‘Life in Victorian Westminster’.  It has been a wonderful introductory experience to the field, re-affirming my desire to go into the heritage sector.

Travel

In my free time, I made a point of going out in the city to explore the numerous museums, parks, and other points of interest.  I also traveled on most weekends to other towns, like Brighton, Kirkwall, and Dover, and major cities, like Edinburgh, York, Liverpool, and Bath.

I always knew that I was going to study abroad, but I could never have anticipated doing so during a pandemic.  I admit that there were challenges – travel restrictions, isolation requirements, and other necessary protocols – that made the experience different than what I had imagined going into college.  However, different doesn’t mean bad; I had an incredible time and was able to make some fantastic memories with some wonderful people.

I left London with a broadened world view and a new zest for life that I know will stay with me for many years to come.

Our Fave Five Things in Kilachand Hall

Caroline Perna (SAR'25) & Veronica McKinney (CAS'25)

#1: Chrissy

On the first floor of Kilachand Hall are the staff offices, which enable students to build relationships with staff and administration. When you first walk in, you’ll see Chrissy standing behind her desk with her welcoming smile. Chrissy is one of the newest additions to the Kilachand Staff, and she is always a light that brightens our days. Throughout our freshman year, we have had the joy to get to know Chrissy.  She is an awesome resource if you ever need to talk, get advice, or if you need a hug. Over the last few months, Chrissy has become a “mom” for us since we are physically far away from our families, and we have a lunch date with her every few weeks. Make sure to pop in and say hi, and tell her that Caroline and Veronica sent you!

Caroline & Chrissy selfie
Veronica & Chrissy twinning (accidentally)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2: Kitchen

We are lucky to have a fully functioning kitchen on the first floor of Kilachand Hall (one of the only kitchens easily accessible to freshmen at BU)! The kitchen is an awesome way to bring people together to cook, bake, and hangout! Our favorite cooking experiments have been: chocolate chip banana bread, brunch eggs and crepes, and a surprise birthday cake for our friend Tanvi! Although you have to provide the food and cooking dishes, the kitchen is recently renovated, right downstairs, and easy to use. You should definitely take advantage and show off your cooking skills! (Warning: don’t use anything you find in the fridge…)

Tanvi’s partially eaten birthday cake
Banana bread in progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hangout sesh
The beautiful kitchen

#3: Coffee & Snacks

In the offices of Kilachand Hall there is a lovely coffee machine (with more than 60 different possible drinks) and a box of snacks. We make sure to stop in the office nearly every day to get our yummy drink, or chips, or chocolate, or granola bar, or cookie… the options are endless. This has been a really convenient (and free) option to get some fuel for the day!  (And we were especially grateful for the steaming hot chocolates on the coldest Boston winter days.) Chrissy stays vigilant on keeping the snack box replenished, and she looks the other way if you want to stock up on some snacks for later… 😉 If you ever have the chance, you should definitely use this (did we mention free?) pick-me-up station. (Bonus: you get to see Chrissy while you’re there!)

Our favorite little coffee machine
Coffee fixings and the snack box
Veronica & Nora
Chrissy & Rick with the popcorn machine

#4: 9th Floor Study Spaces

On the top floor of Kilachand Hall is a common area and quiet study room!  The main entrance area has a dance floor and stage because Kilachand Hall used to be a Sheridan hotel.  There are tables all over for you to work or hangout with friends, and a TV is available if you want to host a movie night!  If you need to actually get some work done, there is a VERY quiet study room (where you can literally hear a pin drop).  Kilachand Hall renovations are starting this summer 2022 (more information is up on the website), so the 9th floor will be upgraded with brand new classrooms, study spaces, and windows to overlook our stunning view of the Charles River.  (Around sunset, the whole floor is aglow in warm lighting that is perfect for selfies!)

9th floor friends enjoying a late night snack!
9th floor open space

#5: 1st Floor Lounge

Our recently renovated first floor lobby and common room is one of the most active places in the building! During the day, students will work in between classes, and in the evenings, the room is even busier!  While working, you may enjoy some nice ambient music from the public piano, or the aforementioned snacks and drinks from the front office.  If you need a quick study break, board games are available for anyone to use, and the blue couches are surprisingly comfortable if you need to take a power nap!  Our monthly Kilachand Teas are also hosted on the 1st floor, where you can get free drinks and food (our personal favorites are the chocolate covered strawberries and chips and hummus!).  Co-curriculars and events like the open KHC Closet (pictured below) are often held on the first floor because everyone coming into the building will pass by!

Friends studying on the first floor
KHC Closet

In conclusion…

WE LOVE KILACHAND HALL 

and all the fun people, places, and memories made here! <3


Photos © Caroline Perna & Veronica McKinney 2022

7 Tips for Balancing Academics, Extracurriculars, and Mental Health in College

Emily Yoder (CAS’24)

My freshman year of college took place during the 2020-21 academic year, during which Boston University offered hybrid courses and most of my classmates were not on campus. Although the coronavirus negatively impacted my first year in college in multiple ways (virtual classes and club meetings, take-out only dining halls, etc.), one positive impact that it left me with was an improved understanding of what habits cause me to be my happiest and most productive. Spending more time than usual sitting in my dorm left me thinking about how I could motivate myself to make the most out of my freshman year, even under covid circumstances. I’ve collected some tips below that have not only stayed with me for two years, but have also enabled me to be involved in multiple extracurriculars, all while getting the most out of my academic experiences and having free time for my hobbies too!

1. Find a routine that works for you, and stick with it!

Productive and healthy routines aren’t one-size-fits-all! Experiment with wake-up times, meal times, and study spots until you figure out your favorites. If you’re not a morning person, forcing yourself to wake up at 5:00 am won’t automatically make you more productive! One of the best general life tips that I’ve received is that discipline succeeds when motivation fails; keeping a consistent routine has stopped me from procrastinating even when I haven’t necessarily felt energetic or motivated.

2. Schedule your free time!

As the semester speeds up, midterms begin, and then finals approach, it’s easy to not see friends for a week or abandon hobbies. Add blocks of time specifically for seeing friends, reading, or doing whatever relaxes you to your schedule, even if it seems that you don’t have time to do so. The busier you are, the more important for your mental health it is to force yourself to take a step back! You’ll come back to your work refreshed and focused. Scheduling blocks of free time also incentivizes me to stay on track while working because I know that I have something to look forward to later, even if it’s just reading in bed for a half-hour or going on a quick walk with a friend.

3. Cast a wide net with extracurriculars, and then narrow your focus!

Finding clubs and extracurricular groups that are a good fit may take some time. Go to SPLASH, reach out to clubs that grab your attention, attend their first meetings, and then look for others if they aren’t a good fit! As you begin attending meetings, you can narrow your choices down to your favorites, but it’s useful to initially join every mailing list that catches your eye.

4. Recognize and combat burnout!

Even though BU is a large school, it can be tempting to sink into the same routine each day and never try a new dining hall, study spot, or off-campus cafe. When signs of burnout begin to show (fatigue, lowered motivation, etc.) switch up your routine even in small ways: try a new Starbucks drink, do your homework outside, or try grabbing dinner with someone you want to get to know better!

5. Track every commitment and assignment!

My most important college habit has been consistently using a planner. Buy a planner or create an online calendar and write down every commitment, whether an extracurricular event, dinner with friends, or a meeting with your advisor, the minute that you commit to it. Create separate sections for normal homework, larger projects, and deadlines for quizzes and tests; assignments and events pile up quickly and it’s easy to lose track of smaller commitments! I also color code: yellow for academic/extracurricular meetings, purple for social commitments, blue for when I need to submit major assignments, and red for deadlines.

6. Work ahead!

I try to complete homework assignments two days in advance, so Wednesday’s homework on Monday, Thursday’s homework on Tuesday, et cetera. It isn’t always possible, but using this system has enabled me to spontaneously say yes to plans with friends, review topics with which I struggled, and begin larger projects further in advance! Additionally, if I realize that I missed an assignment, I have time to catch up before it is due.

7. Know yourself!

All of these strategies have allowed me to make the most of my college experience, but every person and every student is different and learns differently. Go through a process of trial-and-error to get to know what balance of academics, extracurriculars, and social life is best for you!

What I’ll Miss When I Graduate

By Morgan Donohue (CAS'22)

1. Being a short walk from just about anyone and anything

One of my best pieces of advice is that Google Maps lies about how long it takes to walk somewhere. On campus, your furthest walk will probably be no more than 20 minutes. This made getting to class, stopping for lunch, meeting up with friends, and studying so convenient, because your destination was never too far away. If something is a little far, the weather isn’t fantastic, or you’re looking to go off campus, the T runs right through campus and you can hop on with your CharlieCard. If you want to go even further away, there are several ZipCar locations around campus that make quick daytrips very convenient. I will definitely miss the proximity of all of the places and people I’ve grown to know and love over the past four years.

2. The Kilachand advising office

Being in Kilachand means that the Honors College offices are right on the first floor. This is where you can stop by for meetings with your Kilachand advisor and other members of the administration. Your Kilachand advisor is there to help you navigate your way through Kilachand and the Hub, but they are also there to support you as a person. I will absolutely miss going to the advising office just to chat, and having a dedicated advisor who was there to help me along the way.

3. Bay State Road

morgan1

When I visited campus for my first open house, there was no parking close to Kilachand, so my family had to park and walk back, all the way down Bay State Road. And boy was it worth it. Bay State Road is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful streets ever. It is gorgeous in the fall when the leaves change color. It is picture-perfect in the winter when it snows. It is beautiful in the spring when the trees start to blossom again. Even if you’ve had a busy day and you’re exhausted, it’s hard to walk down Bay State Road and not enjoy yourself. I am going to miss running down the street in the mornings and admiring the gorgeous buildings on my walks home from class.

4. The Dog Pound

I was never a huge sports watcher, and I am still not, but I will make an exception for BU Hockey. I absolutely loved everything about hockey nights, eating dinner a little early so you can get the good seats, learning the chants, hearing the BU Pep Band, and getting Raising Cane’s afterwards. With a Sports Pass, you can get tickets to any home game you want, and I highly recommend heading over to Agganis Arena for some hockey. I am going to miss putting on my hockey jersey and cheering in the stands, but I hope to come back and catch the 2022 Beanpot Champions at another game.

hockeymorgan

5. My on-campus housing

I lived in Kilachand Hall my freshman and sophomore years, and I absolutely loved my room. I loved having a bathroom in my room, being across from the Marciano Dining Hall, and living close to the Kenmore T station. This year I am living in South Campus in on-campus apartment-style housing, and I love it! I get to cook my own meals, so I am learning new recipes all the time. I live in a brownstone, so I have those iconic bowed-out windows that get plenty of sunlight. Living on campus kept me close to my classes and my friends, and I was able to make dorms and on-campus apartments into comfortable homes during the school year. I am going to miss all of that, but especially my current apartment and its view of Beacon Street.

morganroom

6. Student discounts

Your BUID comes with a lot, and I mean a LOT, of perks. With your @bu.edu email address, you can get access to discounts for digital subscriptions like The New York Times and Spotify+Hulu, software packages like Microsoft Office and MatLab, and many online clothes retailers offer discounts after you verify your student identity. You can also get free or discounted admission to museums like the MFA and the Institute of Contemporary Art if you show your BUID or order online with promo codes. I am going to miss the savings, but mostly I will miss the easy opportunities to go and experience something new without a huge price tag.


Images © Morgan Donohue 2022 

Looking Back as a Senior: Advice to My Freshman Year Self

By: Anna Natrakul (CAS ’22)

These are some things that I’ve learned throughout my time at BU, and I wish it wouldn’t have taken me this long to really embrace these tips!

Enjoy where you are right now

Be present in the moment without always planning for the next thing. Intentionally make time for moments of reflecting on how far you’ve come, whether this is by talking with an old friend, taking a walk, or journaling.

Sleep is NOT for the weak

Seriously, even if you might feel fine at the time, sleeping only a few hours per night is not something that you should be okay with or proud of. Create tangible sleep goals and hold yourself accountable!

Be more open to uncertainty

Don’t underestimate all the amazing people and opportunities that you will meet just by being willing to explore new things.

Say “yes” more…

Say yes to joining that club, meeting new people, and just in general putting yourself out of your comfort zone!

… but also know when to say no

Don’t put pressure on yourself to commit to things that you’re not excited about.

Spend some quality time outside every day

Yes! And don’t trick yourself into thinking that this isn’t “productive” enough for you (after all, being outdoors truly is productive for your physical and mental health).

It’s okay to live by a schedule, as long as your schedule includes time for you to relax

Regularly make time for the things that you enjoy but aren’t required to do. Try sleeping in, reading a book, catching up with family, or enjoying your favorite food.

Remember that you’re still learning

Soon you’ll look back and be amazed at all that you learned and how you grew in such a short period of time. Don’t be so hard on yourself and celebrate every small victory!

Be kind to yourself (seriously), and let your actions show it

Don’t only go out of your way to do nice things for others; also do nice things for yourself! And I mean REALLY treat yourself. Go to that symphony concert or ballet show you’ve been dying to see, go out for dinner after a difficult exam, take a break and have that movie night with friends.

By putting these tips into action, one thing I was able to do was create this painting of the Boston skyline (it’s the view from the 9th floor study lounge of Kilachand Hall) last summer. Making art has always been meaningful to me, but I hadn’t allowed myself the time nor space to truly enjoy it in a very long time. I hope that this advice can similarly encourage you as well!

Anna

Photo/Painting © Anna Natrakul 2022

Club Spotlight: SVSN!

By Nicole Chiulli (CAS'23)

Coming into college, there were some things from my life in New York that I knew I wasn’t prepared to give up. Throughout high school, I spent a lot of time working with individuals with disabilities - I interned with a child psychologist where I met kids with varying forms of neurodivergence, and I worked for an organization which provided recreational programs for adolescents and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Through these experiences, I made so many genuine connections with amazing people; I had the opportunity to learn from individuals who see the world differently than I do, and I knew for sure that I wanted to continue this during my college career. To any prospective student who’s looking for something similar in their own future college, or any incoming freshman just looking for a fun and rewarding club to join, this post is for you!

SVSN stands for Student Volunteers for Special Needs, though I will add a disclaimer that the name may be changing soon. The student-run organization was founded at BU around 15 years ago; we are aware that the terminology is rather outdated, and are in the process of hopefully selecting a new name for our group. The goal of SVSN is to provide support for individuals with disabilities in the Boston area in a number of ways. Our primary activity is hosting Friday Night Club (FNC), a social event which happens a few Friday nights each month. We invite individuals with disabilities from around Boston to join us on campus to play games, listen to music, do arts and crafts, eat snacks and chat! We alternate hosting responsibilities with our sister club at Harvard, which means that some weeks we travel to Harvard to have FNCs there, which is always a fun excursion.

Beyond FNCs we are also currently working with Perkins School for the Blind, a school in Watertown, MA that provides all types of services for people with visual, auditory, and multiple impairment disabilities. We’ve helped out with a variety of things there, from painting one of their buildings and doing green space clean-ups to organizing their Braille library and assisting at their fundraising/awareness 5k walk.  These larger events are usually on the weekends, though there are additional volunteer opportunities with Perkins during the week for anyone who is interested!

Our club is pretty small, and with the pandemic over the past few years we’ve definitely faced challenges in finding ways to safely make a difference in our community. Now that things are moving back towards normalcy, we are excited to hopefully expand both our number of members and our volunteer opportunities. SVSN is low commitment - we send out a list of events happening each month, and our members can sign up for as many or as few as they want; it’s a very easy way to get involved with the local community and meet some fantastic people. Volunteers who attend our events regularly are also able to apply for any open executive board positions at the end of each year, so if you’re someone who wants to hold a meaningful leadership role during your time at BU, SVSN might be for you! If you’re interested, you can check out our instagram page (@svsnbu) or email me (nchiulli@bu.edu) with any questions. For incoming freshmen, you can also find our table at Splash next September in the Community Engagement section. We always have tons of fun, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to make even a small difference in the larger Boston community. If you’ve read this far and SVSN seems like a group for you, I hope to see you next year!

Why Not Having a Solid Plan is OK

By Carolina Becerril (SAR'22/SPH'23)

As soon as I started out my college career, I knew I had a plan or at least I thought I did. I would go on to complete my four years as a premed student, take the MCAT, volunteer, get clinical and shadowing hours and create an excellent application that would guarantee me entrance into medical school. All in four years! Nothing crazy. Well, that very quickly changed as soon as classes started and I realized how coming to college was a lot more complicated than I expected.

I don’t say that to scare anyone coming into college but it’s something that we are all bound to realize at one point or another, and that’s ok. After my first premed course, I felt defeated to say the least. I felt like I needed to keep trying so I could stick to my plan, that if I studied a little harder, stayed up a little later and cared a little more, that I could do it and make it to medical school. At whatever cost. That also very quickly changed and did not work. By the end of my freshman year, I was more than discouraged and lost. I realized that my plan didn’t work and I didn’t have a backup one.

However, the summer of my freshman year going into my sophomore year very quickly changed my perspective on me not having a plan anymore. I got my first job at the Dean of Students office and my first research opportunity and glimpse into public health. I very quickly developed a passion for what would later become my major and main field. I met and made connections with different people that summer that completely changed my perspective and made me realize that I didn’t really need a plan, I just needed to do what was best for me.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I quickly changed my major to Health Science and began looking into the 4+1 BS/MPH program. I continued doing research for the majority of my sophomore year, took more public health courses and grew more passionate about the field. I applied to the 4+1 program Fall semester of my junior year, got accepted and began taking MPH courses that Spring semester. I continued to do research on my own while remaining premed and becoming deeply immersed in the public health field.

While these last few years have proven to be challenging and exciting at the same time, I have come to realize that admitting to myself that having no solid plan is totally ok! As long as we get to do what we love most. I have learned that remaining flexible and being open to different options to achieve your career goals is the most important thing I can do to be happy and successful. Most importantly, I learned that we need to remind ourselves to be a little less scared about uncertainty and embrace whatever comes our way, even if it doesn’t quite fit what we want as it might just work our way.

The Keystone Project: Choose Something Fun!

By Marissa Carty (CAS'22)

The best advice I got from a Kilachand Alumni was to choose a Keystone Project that was fun. The Kilachand Keystone is a unique opportunity to do a year-long project on essentially whatever you want, with funding and advising. Many students choose to use an honors thesis in their major as the Keystone Project. However, for students looking to take on a more creative or interdisciplinary project, the Keystone Pathway is an amazing opportunity to think outside the box and not be bound to the requirements of a thesis. Students have designed playgrounds, written screenplays, written business plans, and so much more. If a traditional research thesis excites you, then go for it! But don’t be afraid to take a chance and do a unique project. I am so grateful that I took a less structured, but extremely rewarding path.

I love creative writing, and it’s been a life-long dream of mine to write a poetry collection. What started as a blurry passion project I inconsistently worked on turned into a beautiful piece of research and artwork. With the help of Professor Preston in the Keystone Proposal Workshop, I developed research questions to guide my writing, connected with two wonderful advisors, planned my goals and timeline, and submitted my proposal. The idea of a senior project can be intimidating, but the Keystone Proposal Workshop helps you work through your ideas slowly with a lot of feedback and guides you through the process to set you up for success.

As a psychology major, I knew I wanted to write my poetry collection about well-being. So often when we talk about mental health, we talk only about mental illness. I decided to focus on flourishing instead. The two questions that guided my research are:

What factors contribute to well-being in young adults and how do they manifest in us today?

How can poetry and psychology inform each other to develop a broader, more holistic definition of well-being?

I conducted a literature review on the psychology of well-being and a contemporary poetry review to study scientific, lyric, and visual forms of poetry. Then, I began to write and submit 5 poems a week to my advisors for revision. I also got to travel to Copenhagen, the city with the highest rates of human flourishing in the world, for my research! My writing centers around themes of love, belonging, mindfulness, spirituality, nature, and therapy. I used 3 main poetic techniques, 1) documentary poetry which uses archives like psychology textbooks or therapy exercises and draws out the poetry in them through lineation or erasure, 2) imagining the story of someone who embodies a research statistic to reinsert the humanity into that statistic, and 3) writing from a purely experiential perspective of well-being that does not rely on scientific data. I currently have a manuscript of 90+ edited poems and a first draft of my artist’s note, which details my process and reflections on the project. 

The best advice I can give you is to think about your interests as early as possible and to choose a project you’re sincerely passionate about, rather than doing what you think you “should” do or what others expect you to do. You may never get an opportunity like the Kilachand Keystone again!

The author in Copenhagen.

Vale vale vale

By Marie Kimball (CAS'23)

“Vale!” Hearing this expression in my home, in class, and on the streets was confusing at first. Throughout my time in high school and at Boston University, I had been learning Mexican Spanish. Now that I was in Spain, there was a lot of new lingo I had to learn, including “vale,” which pretty much means “OK.”

For my fall semester of 2021, I decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

On the very first day a bus dropped me off at my host family’s house, and this probably would’ve been the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life if I hadn’t just been on two different planes for ten hours. So actually, I was about to fall asleep and didn’t have anything else on my brain. But, I had never lived with a host family before, and didn’t know what to expect. Well, it was one of my favorite parts of the experience. I lived with a family with three young children, and between the lively family dinners, movie nights, and weekend strolls around the city, I grew very close to them and was sad to leave.

My classes were fantastic, as well. BU Study Abroad students in Madrid attend the Instituto Internacional, in which students from many American universities take classes in both English and Spanish. My three classes were about literature and women’s history, and all of them were in Spanish. Professors who had lived through the Movida of the 1980’s and Franco’s regime from 1939-1975 all shared their firsthand experiences with us while we learned from their expertise. It was a great experience.

While in Madrid, I also had an internship at La comisión para la investigación de los malos tratos a mujeres, or what was essentially Spain’s commission against gender violence and prostitution. Not having just gotten off of a plane this time, I was extremely nervous my first day. Tackling a job in my second language was a daunting task, but every day was better, and by the end I felt like I had developed meaningful relationships with all of my thoughtful and patient coworkers. My coworkers and I still text on what’s app to check in!

Also, I met great friends with whom I travelled within Spain and throughout Europe on the weekends. Between visiting Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Barcelona, Italy, and Portugal, I had so much fun, and learned so much about different cultures. That I had this opportunity to travel still seems surreal. It was incredible.

Finally, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous few semesters combined. Living in a different culture from your own, without any familiarity (at first at least) with the people around you allows you to unlock parts of yourself you couldn’t before. For instance, I learned how to spend time with myself, and began to love it. I spent plenty of time with myself, going to different museums and cafés, or even just walking around the city to explore and think. I enjoy being with myself like never before. Also, from all of the new experiences I’ve collected, I have a better perspective every day. This one is harder to explain, but I feel as though I have my priorities in line more now, and have achieved more balance in my lifestyle.

And it’s true that you might read all of this, and simply say “vale, vale.” However, I hope you take my experience as reason to study abroad yourself. You won’t regret it!


Photo credit: Marie K.

How Do I Know I’m in the Right Major?

By Charlie McMahon (SAR ’23)

One of the great, but often intimidating, parts of college is choosing a major. For many students, this is the first time you have real control over what you are actually going to study. For some, it may feel liberating. For others, daunting. I am here to offer some advice about the process both before entering BU and after matriculating.

First, what actually is a major? The best way I can describe a major is a specific pathway through a college or university. While you will always have some freedom in the courses you take, a major has specific requirements and often includes a suggested timeline for when you should complete each course. Many majors often have overlapping courses, so you will definitely be interacting with students from all across the school, regardless of what you study.

As you apply to schools, many applications will ask for your “intended major” or “major of interest.” Some people come into college knowing exactly what they want to do, while some people have no idea. Whatever situation you find yourself in is totally ok! If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, I would recommend browsing the course catalogues online to see what classes different majors require. While short descriptions do not do justice to what actually goes on in the classroom, often you can get a good feel for what the class may be like. If you’re feeling truly lost, many schools have “Undeclared” options, where you can sample a bunch of classes from a variety of disciplines before choosing what suits you best after a year or two.

Now we are going to jump ahead a bit. Imagine you have matriculated, enrolled and are going to classes. College life can be difficult at times. It is an adjustment from high school, and everyone will make the change at their own pace. It is totally normal to begin questioning your path after matriculation. I would honestly be a bit concerned if one didn’t question what they were doing at least once or twice!

Here is the most important part of this post: how do you know you are in the right major? Obviously, there is no magic formula that tells you if you are on the right path. Rather it is highly individualistic. However, as someone who loves their major and has been in the program since matriculation, I can offer a few pieces of advice or “wisdom” I have picked up along my path in the Human Physiology program.

Like I said previously, questioning is incredibly important. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your classes, it is vital to stop yourself and ask what your motivations are. Are you studying this topic because it is truly interesting to you? Perhaps there is family (or even internal) pressure to go into a specific field. The most important question to ask yourself is “Am I happy?”

I cannot sit here and pretend that the act of taking a Chemistry or Physics exam makes me happy. However, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I often find it helpful to look at the bigger picture. Though I do not enjoy the stress before an exam, I generally do enjoy going to my lectures everyday and find myself excited to learn more about the topics relevant to my major. I love making connections across disciplines, like when Biology and Chemistry interact in Systems Physiology. For me, the tradeoff of my love for, and general interest in, the disciplines outweighs the frustration and temporary stress of exams and deadlines.

If you ask yourself this question and realize that you aren’t happy or excited by your classes, I would challenge you to ask yourself a further question - is it just one class or is this a trend? You will take so many classes with so many different professors. As professors are people too, you will click with some and not others. Unfortunately, sometimes this personal connection carries over into the classroom. You are bound to have some professors that do not fit your exact learning style every once and while. No one is expecting you to love every single class you take. If you notice that this unhappiness seems to be a relatively isolated incident, I would make note of it, but carry on.

If you notice that this unhappiness seems to be a trend within your courses, then it is probably time to meet with an advisor. They can help you to figure out exactly what about your program may not be the right fit and potentially help you adjust to a better suited curriculum.

My parting piece of advice is this: when you are really stressed and frustratingly asking yourself “why did I have to pick this major,” ask yourself, “what would I be doing if I wasn’t studying this topic?” Personally, I do not have an answer to this question. As I said, I cannot say I love writing out my Chemistry mechanisms in a high stress timed environment, but when I picture myself doing something different, it just does not feel right. This grounding exercise can be quite helpful when I am overwhelmed. It forces me to think about what I appreciate about my program and consistently for me, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Thus, unfortunately, there is no magic way to know if you are in the right major. It will take some introspection and reflection, and perhaps a late night venting session with a friend over a T. Anthony’s mozzarella stick pizza, but you will find your path eventually! It is also important to note that what is best for a friend might not be best for you. College is a personal experience, so try to resist the urge to compare yourself to others. You are only competing against yourself, regardless of what anyone else may tell you! So take some time to figure out what you like best, what motivates you and how you can incorporate that into your studies. It’ll be so much better in the end!