Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics

Elevate - The Honor Society Magazine
Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics
Mar 29,2016

            My hands paused over the keyboard, my mind racing. Why was I hesitating? This was what I’d wanted for five years. This was my dream. Wasn’t it?

 

            The medical school application seemed to stare me down. I minimized the window, deciding it was a task for later.

 

Little did I know that I would never return to finish it.

 

            I had just completed my third year as a pre-med neuroscience major and had spent weeks preparing for and tackling the MCAT, but my summer was only just beginning—I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France for a few months. Already I was exhausted, worn thin from three years of little sleep thanks to a major I truthfully had lost my love for. Medical school was a small yet bright beacon in the distance, a high school dream now so close to fruition, and I was driving towards it stubbornly, despite my weariness.

 

            But I hadn’t yet had the realization yet. It was hovering there, a quiet whisper somewhere at the back of my mind—but nothing had brought it forth yet.

 

            And then, I met one of my six roommates in France, David.

 

            “What’s your major?” he asked me cheerfully after we had been introduced.

 

            “Neuroscience,” I replied.

 

            A troubled look crossed his face. “I’ve never seen anyone not smile when they’ve talked about their major before,” he said.

 

            And with that one sentence, all the things I hadn’t allowed myself to ponder became apparent. I was not happy with my major—but that was just the start of it. I was so stressed out and sleeping so little, my physical and mental health were deteriorating rapidly. The thought of medical school didn’t excite me like it once did; instead, it instilled in me a sort of deep dread, of possibly a decade more of studying a field that made me feel miserable. I had shadowed several doctors, many of whom were deeply unhappy with their careers, and who had cautioned me to avoid medicine unless my heart was truly in it. And, when it came down to it, my heart wasn’t in it.

 

            To say it was scary would be an understatement. Here I was, soon to be graduating, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life aside from not medicine or neuroscience. I had never even given myself the space to wonder what else I could explore, as I had been so set on med school.

 

After taking time to sort through my chaotic emotions, I thought back on the general education courses I had taken over the years, and realized that one had gotten me excited like none other: a Classics course.

 

            After I returned for my senior year, I managed to add in another Classics course while auditing a different one, and discovered that I loved every second of it. Classics in its simplest definition involves the study of ancient Greece and Rome, but it also combines all of my interests into one field of study: mythology, literature, language, archaeology, culture, science, and more. It requires hard discipline and fluid thought. It forces you to abandon what you know and step into the shoes of people more than 2,000 years removed. And, as an American, it reveals the deep roots of our society: philosophically, governmentally, architecturally, psychologically, linguistically, and beyond. The list goes on.

 

            And with this newfound passion, I decided to do what many people would be afraid to do. After graduating with a degree in neuroscience, I got a job as a science writer, studied a year’s worth of Greek and Latin, and went all in—I entered myself into a one-year degree program for a Classics BA.

           

            Now, I’m nearly done. I applied to graduate programs in my degree and was accepted to all of them, and I’ve been granted the honor of being accepted to the Agora excavation in Athens, Greece for the summer with the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It’s been long, hard, and a little scary, but I stuck to my guns and went for something that I truly love.

 

            I’m now extremely excited for what my future holds—and nothing will stop me from achieving it. 

About the Author
Susanna Pilny's picture
Follow us for the latest at HonorSociety.org


Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics

 Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics

Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics

Why I switched from neuroscience to Classics

            My hands paused over the keyboard, my mind racing. Why was I hesitating? This was what I’d wanted for five years. This was my dream. Wasn’t it?

 

            The medical school application seemed to stare me down. I minimized the window, deciding it was a task for later.

 

Little did I know that I would never return to finish it.

 

            I had just completed my third year as a pre-med neuroscience major and had spent weeks preparing for and tackling the MCAT, but my summer was only just beginning—I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France for a few months. Already I was exhausted, worn thin from three years of little sleep thanks to a major I truthfully had lost my love for. Medical school was a small yet bright beacon in the distance, a high school dream now so close to fruition, and I was driving towards it stubbornly, despite my weariness.

 

            But I hadn’t yet had the realization yet. It was hovering there, a quiet whisper somewhere at the back of my mind—but nothing had brought it forth yet.

 

            And then, I met one of my six roommates in France, David.

 

            “What’s your major?” he asked me cheerfully after we had been introduced.

 

            “Neuroscience,” I replied.

 

            A troubled look crossed his face. “I’ve never seen anyone not smile when they’ve talked about their major before,” he said.

 

            And with that one sentence, all the things I hadn’t allowed myself to ponder became apparent. I was not happy with my major—but that was just the start of it. I was so stressed out and sleeping so little, my physical and mental health were deteriorating rapidly. The thought of medical school didn’t excite me like it once did; instead, it instilled in me a sort of deep dread, of possibly a decade more of studying a field that made me feel miserable. I had shadowed several doctors, many of whom were deeply unhappy with their careers, and who had cautioned me to avoid medicine unless my heart was truly in it. And, when it came down to it, my heart wasn’t in it.

 

            To say it was scary would be an understatement. Here I was, soon to be graduating, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life aside from not medicine or neuroscience. I had never even given myself the space to wonder what else I could explore, as I had been so set on med school.

 

After taking time to sort through my chaotic emotions, I thought back on the general education courses I had taken over the years, and realized that one had gotten me excited like none other: a Classics course.

 

            After I returned for my senior year, I managed to add in another Classics course while auditing a different one, and discovered that I loved every second of it. Classics in its simplest definition involves the study of ancient Greece and Rome, but it also combines all of my interests into one field of study: mythology, literature, language, archaeology, culture, science, and more. It requires hard discipline and fluid thought. It forces you to abandon what you know and step into the shoes of people more than 2,000 years removed. And, as an American, it reveals the deep roots of our society: philosophically, governmentally, architecturally, psychologically, linguistically, and beyond. The list goes on.

 

            And with this newfound passion, I decided to do what many people would be afraid to do. After graduating with a degree in neuroscience, I got a job as a science writer, studied a year’s worth of Greek and Latin, and went all in—I entered myself into a one-year degree program for a Classics BA.

           

            Now, I’m nearly done. I applied to graduate programs in my degree and was accepted to all of them, and I’ve been granted the honor of being accepted to the Agora excavation in Athens, Greece for the summer with the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It’s been long, hard, and a little scary, but I stuck to my guns and went for something that I truly love.

 

            I’m now extremely excited for what my future holds—and nothing will stop me from achieving it.