Ask Natalie: I don't think I like my degree anymore — what do I do?

“Dear Natalie,

I’m not sure if what I’m in is what I want to do. I’m in first year and it’s really hard, and everyone else seems to be enjoying it while I’m kind of just… there for the degree. It’s not really a problem, but I’m not sure if what I’m in is what I really want to do. But I know I have to get some kind of degree, right?”

No, you don’t have to get a degree and quite frankly, I think the majority of us would be in a better place in the job market if we went into the trades. But I know what you mean, as for a lot of us when it came to university, it was “where” not “if.” 

Not to say that’s a bad thing, especially in this job market. Unless you’re literally coding or designing the robots that will be overthrowing the market within our generation, you’ll need some kind of plus on your resume. While a degree is quickly becoming the new high school diploma, you don’t really want to be stuck without it — unless you do end up heading towards the trades, but then you’ll have another set of hoops to jump through.

Not all of us have a passion for what we study. I don’t. Not really. I mean, I can talk for hours about the socio-economic effects of sex tourism in developing countries, but I’ll show the same vigour when talking about gothic churches or cats. Some people are driven by a goal where their degree program is clearly the path they need to take — I’m looking at you engineering! — while some, like me and a lot of other arts students, have a goal in mind with many paths that lead to it. We’ve just picked the one we liked the most. Also some people don’t have a hard goal they work towards. That’s fine too. 

I’m not sure what program you’re in, but if you can use your electives now, do it. Go beyond what your program is — take science credits, literature classes, music, forestry or chemistry. UBC offers a lot of courses and you should look into some of the ones that peak your interest. See if you have a passion, but don’t drop out yet. If you do take a course that changes everything, look into majoring in that or minoring if you have that option. 

If you really can’t find anything and you still want to get a degree, keep with your program. You liked it enough to pick it, right? Maybe you’re just feeling overwhelmed in your first year. Maybe it’s truly the love of your life. Don’t measure yourself to other people — measure yourself to yourself. Work hard and it won’t matter if you’re not completely in love with your program. 

It’s okay — this is normal. You can still do great things.

“Dear Natalie,

I went back home for Christmas and all my friends were really different. We all went to different universities and it was the first time I saw a lot of them since September, but it still took me by surprise. It’s only been four months. What gives?”

People change. It’s as natural as growing up because that’s what everyone is doing. People leave the comfort of seeing their friends every day, meet new people, new inside jokes, new habits — it’s normal and you’ve done it too! 

Don’t freak out. Your friends are still your friends and if the friendships are worth anything, you’ll keep in touch. 

When I was about to leave for university, my dad told me that I was about to make lifelong friends and that “high school friends will seem like bad decisions.” This was not what I needed to hear or the right thing to say considering I was about to move multiple time-zones away from everyone I knew, but I knew what he meant. We all did a lot of growing up in the first few months of university and it was strange going back to all our high school jokes.

But we’re still friends. We all just grew up a little.

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