When I started at Tufts, I thought I had everything figured out. I was going to be a Latin American Studies and Community Health double major while completing my pre-med requirements and hopefully also managing to study abroad. My friends who seemed to enroll in classes at random harbored a not-so-secret hostility toward my certainty about the future. Little did they (or I) know, my certainty would soon melt into the same confusion many of my friends were experiencing.
The first twinge of questioning came around the beginning of my second semester at Tufts, when I started to come to terms with the fact that I didn´t enjoy my chemistry classes as much as I had in high school. I wasn´t doing poorly in them—in fact I was doing quite well—but I found myself dreading lecture, and even more so my weekly torture sessions in the lab. My friends and I commiserated over the lab reports and exams. But, while I was genuinely miserable when it came to chemistry labs, they seemed to be hiding a secret enjoyment that I didn´t share. Not to mention the fact that these same friends spent their evenings and weekends participating in medicine-related activities and volunteering at the Tufts free clinic, Sharewood. I, on the other hand, could be found on the quidditch pitch, in the library, at home in my PJs—anywhere but doing what pre-med students are supposed to do if they want to get into med school.
I wasn´t turning my back on the health sciences entirely. In fact, I was thoroughly enjoying my coursework for community health, learning about social determinants of health and health policy. But the summer after my freshman year, I began really thinking about this whole pre-med thing. I mean, pre-med was the only thing standing between me and a year abroad in South America, so if I was going to sacrifice that experience, I had to know that it would be for something that I really wanted to do.
In the end, I decided it wasn´t worth it. If I was being completely honest with myself, medical school no longer seemed attractive. I was leaning much more toward the public health side of things. Besides, I told myself, I can always do my pre-med requirements later….
So I decided to throw myself in my Latin American Studies major. Latin American Studies is a very interdisciplinary major, so the next fall I enrolled in a literature class and a political science related to Latin America. That´s when it hit me. I didn´t like literature or political science or art or history or really any of the subjects I would need to study to complete a Latin American Studies major.
Cue major identity crisis.
I knew that I wanted to continue with my community health major, but the community health major has to be a second major at Tufts. In other words, I had to choose a first major. So, I did what any other young, confused college student would do…. I called my mom. Of course, she was supportive and reassuring, but ultimately not very helpful. How could she be? I had to choose a major that matched my interests.
Then I did what I probably should have done in the first place, the first day I set foot on the Tufts campus: I looked at the course booklet and tried to find classes that sounded genuinely interesting to me. In order words, I did what most of my friends had done 3 semesters earlier. And you know what? It was exciting! All of a sudden I had all of these incredible classes at my fingertips. I could study philosophy or German or child development. So I spent a night of course booklet ecstasy, imagining all of the possibilities my future held.
When I woke up next to all of the pages of scribbled notes and highlighted pages, however, I knew I had to snap back to reality. I still wanted to spend a year abroad, so if I was going to graduate on time, I had to make a decision about one major that I could feasibly complete in the three semesters I had left on campus. I did notice one theme in all of my crazy class-searching: sociology. Almost all of the sociology classes sounded interesting to me: immigration, family and intimate relations, medical sociology, urban sociology, race and ethnicity, and the list goes on. So then I did what any mildly insane person set on graduating on time did: I put all of my eggs in one basket and registered for a full schedule of sociology classes for the spring.
Now, don´t get me wrong. This is not something that I recommend that everyone do with only three semesters on campus remaining. In fact, you should really explore your interests in the first two semesters so that you don´t end up in a predicament like mine. But, luckily, it worked out for me. And the best part is that sociology makes a great complement to community health, as it informs that social structures and social factors that influence health care access and health outcomes. Plus, I was able to spend my entire junior year in South America as planned and even transferred a credit for my sociology degree.
I am thrilled to say that I will be attending graduate school in the fall for public health, and I know that my sociology degree will serve me well as I conduct applied research on health disparities in sexual and reproductive health. My only regret is not being so open to explore my interests sooner. There are many sociology classes I wish I had had the time to take, but because I was so set on my plan to study what I thought I wanted, I ran out of time.