Back to school

I can’t remember when I was this excited for school. Or scared.

I always envisioned my fourth year to be smooth, seamless and, frankly, second nature. But this doesn’t happen when you switch programs at the end of your third year. Instead, I feel like I’m in first year all over again—filled with the same excitement and anxiety, only compounded because I still have yet to figure my life out, and the clock is ticking.

I have friends who are already in law school, medical school and a bunch of other professional programs, while I’m still on the fence about my undergraduate degree.

The switch from Life Sciences to English was in no way easy. I’m still not sure if I’m better at counting the carbons in a benzene derivative, or the feet in a line of iambic pentameter. I’d like to think this is a sign of maturity, that I’m finally able to make my own decisions, but in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if I’m running towards something better, or away from something that was just too hard. I chose to go into science because I was good at it; in many ways, the validation I got from getting good marks, resulted in my doing better. When I came to university, everything changed. My marks were much lower than I expected and this steep drop caused my morale to drop.

For the first time in a long time I was facing problems I didn’t know the immediate answers to, and it was unsettling. And rather than trying to really figure things out on my own, I chose instead to find a scapegoat: I chose to blame all my academic woes on “the system.” Many of my friends have heard my tirades about the flaws of my former program and its inability to stretch beyond the constraints of the multiple choice test, but really what they were listening to was my own personal frustration at being unable to perform well on those tests.

Finally, after a landslide of less than amazing marks, I began to realize that these tests were making something glaringly clear: I wasn’t happy or truly engaged in what I was learning. I knew, however, I wasn’t completely lost because I was actually doing well in the English classes in which I was enrolled.

Throughout high school there was always this stigma of science being better than arts and I think it stuck with me. In applying to university I never once considered taking English or history despite garnering the most enjoyment from those classes. Science became the ultimate test of intelligence: only the smart kids went into science. I have no idea where I got this diluted notion from, but this is what I was basing my decisions on.

Upon arriving at Queen’s, I’ve met so many arts students who took science all through high school. But they chose to go into arts; it wasn’t as if they were relegated to taking arts because they weren’t smart enough to be in science.

With this in mind, I’m looking forward to my switch, occasionally looking back to remind myself of the journey that got me here.

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