The summer that changed it all- how I picked my major in college
You could say that I'm one of the lucky ones, because I have such a passion for the field that I am in. People are still telling me now, in their mid-20s, how lucky I am to have found something that I truly love doing. It sounds cliche, but I feel like I've always known that I've wanted to work with children. After those years of "pretend I'm the teacher" games in elementary school wore off, all of my friends ended up in different fields- but that feeling never really went away for me. But it wasn't exactly a straightforward path to where I am now.
When I started college, my mom was still convinced that I should pursue one of the "money-making" career paths, and to appease her I began as a psychology major with the intent of going to law school. Random, I know. But it was either that or medical school, and I had some success in high school on the speech & debate team, so I figured I'd give it a shot. But, after a summer of interning at a law firm I knew it wasn't for me. The strange and unfamiliar jargon of the documents that I filed, the long hours, the emotional clients sitting in the office... I just couldn't see myself doing any of that. And, what resonated with me even back then was this knowledge that picking a field meant finding something I'd want to do for the next 45 years of my life. And that, to a 18 year old, seemed like a massive undertaking.
College wasn't exactly the easiest four years for me. I had my ups and downs, and the many years of uncertainty along with personal issues sent me into a downward spiral. My grades plummeted, I was placed on academic probation for a couple of semesters in a row, and ended up going to counseling because I felt like I couldn't handle it all. Eventually, it took one summer before my junior year of college to make me realize what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was the summer I taught for Breakthrough Houston, which is an incredible program that supports students with high academic potential in underserved communities to place them on a college-bound track. Teachers for this program are college students, many of whom have great interest in in the education field. It was by far the most eye-opening summer of my life. The high expectations that were set for us as teachers forced me to take on a lot more responsibility than I had ever had in a job. And, it was never just a “job” or an “internship.” Aside from the daily faculty meetings, lesson planning, and observations that were required of us, I needed to be a mentor to the students in the program. I needed to be someone that they could look up to, and that's when it really hit me. Working with some of the brightest, most motivated children who were aiming to be first-generation college-bound students in their families showed ME that no matter what age you are, you should have big dreams and push yourself to achieve them. I easily worked 9-10 hours each day trying to perfect every aspect of what was expected of me, but all of those long hours passed by like nothing. At the end of the program, I cried alongside the children and the other teachers who had poured our hearts and souls into those short summer months. When I started school again in the fall, I switched my major to education, and I’ve never looked back.
That was almost 7 years ago, and so many of my students from back then are now attending some of the best universities in the country. They’re going to do great things, and the pride that I felt as I saw each one of them posting their acceptance letters on social media makes me so sure I’ve picked the right field.
Over the years, I’ve worked in a multitude of positions within the education field. I’ve been a tutor, an after school counselor, a summer camp counselor, a Mandarin teacher, a lead teacher in a toddler classroom, a lead teacher in a Pre-K classroom, and I’ve moved my way up to the administrative level as a curriculum coordinator in a privately owned preschool. I ended up not pursuing a K-12 route, but I strongly believe that the lessons I learned from that summer and from all of my experiences in the subsequent years have carried through to everything that I do now. I hope I’ve impacted all of the students I’ve taught over the years in all of these schools as much as they’ve impacted me.
For those who are still figuring it all out- don’t worry, you still have time! I didn’t switch my major until junior year, and I had plenty of time to build upon my experiences. My best advice to you is to try things out. If you have something you’re particularly interested in or passionate about, try to find something in that field and get your foot in the door. If you have no idea, you should try new things and you might find something you never expected to connect with.