This past summer, I decided to transfer out of my engineering school. The confrontation of my intense desire to, as well as the actual steps I took to do so, were all extremely emotional. My mind was racked with disappointment, sadness, and so much guilt. Was I being a cop-out? Was I tanking my future? Who, besides myself, was I letting down?
I would ask myself these questions all the time, starting from the moment I first started having doubts during my first semester. Everything that I’d learn was interesting…but not exciting. I would find myself dreading class and dragging my feet on the way to lab, later returning to my dorm room drained and disappointed. My friends, on the other hand, would rave about their classes like they were in love. And in a way, they were, and I wanted that!
I primarily chose engineering in a very logical, process-of-elimination style manner. My thinking was this: What am I good at? Math and science. What has math and science? Engineering. Cool. DONE.
Yet what was truly lacking was passion. I didn’t have a “passion for solving problems.” I mean, yeah, that sounds great, but my heart didn’t leap at the words, “How are you going to fix this?” Instead, what excited me was communication. Interaction. Leading. People. I used to want to be a CEO and take the world by storm; deep down, that dream is still very much alive. And when I found myself at my technical internship, itching to collaborate and move around and not be in a cubicle all day, I realized that I needed a way out.
I made that decision on my first day. Being there jolted me awake, yet as soon as I acknowledged my desire to drop engineering, I felt bound by a straitjacket of doubts and possible regrets. It took so much thinking and discussing (and a teeeeny bit of crying) to make the first move. My guilt was so deeply rooted in…
- Commitment. So what if I didn’t like it? I came to college with the intent of graduating with an engineering degree. I needed to follow through with that. I had a plan and thought I should stick to it.
- Prestige. Engineering is hard. People look at engineering students, see their restrictive schedules and bloodshot eyes from a night in the lab, and say, “Thank god I’m not an engineer.” They’re brainiacs, often soon-to-be maniacs (note to all engineering students reading this: please get some sleep). And as strange as it sounds, I loved that.
- Feminism. I was a woman in engineering. YAY! Way to break down traditional gender roles in the job market, am I right? If I dropped, I felt like I’d be letting feminism down big-time.
- Nature. My family is very scientifically minded. And like I said before, science and math were my strong suits, seemingly by genetics. Would I be straying from what I was truly built for?
- Pride. There are so many reasons behind why people drop engineering, only one of them being that it was too difficult. Yet, that is the first thing most people assume when they hear that you dropped. I didn’t want to be thought of as someone who couldn’t handle the curriculum, especially if that wasn’t true.
And so where does that leave me now? Well, I still dropped engineering and am completely proud of that decision. I shook myself of the guilt by realizing that my impression of myself was the only one that mattered (this applies to all aspects of life!) and that passion is so, so essential. Before I made the switch, I would only be excited for maybe one or two classes, out of four, whenever I looked at my schedule. Now, I smile at the fact that every single one on there makes me itching to attend. And that is how I know I made the right decision.