Following your passion is just as important as prestige
September 6, 2016
When I got the email saying I had been accepted into the College of Business, I was riding on a school bus heading to a high school speech meet.
I began jumping up and down in my seat, squealing, beaming — I felt like I was on top of the world. I was beyond excited to begin my freshman year in such a well-respected college at the University of Illinois.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how wrong the College of Business would be for me.
My first day of class in Business 101 was a bit of a wake-up call. I could tell the deans, professors and teaching assistants all meant business — no pun intended.
The atmosphere in the upscale lecture hall was tangibly tense. It was only the first day, but I got the feeling that all the other students in the room were in competition with me.
My suspicions were confirmed when we broke off into our discussion groups following the lecture. We began our discussion section with a variety of icebreakers to get more comfortable with each other. All the information my classmates shared when they talked about their pursuits had to do with how they wanted to manage a hedge fund, be a certified public accountant or studying supply chain management.
When I stood up to share about myself, I spoke about wanting to work for a nonprofit or charity organization.
The TAs had given head nods and looks of approval to the other students after they had shared. After I had spoken, there was nothing but a slight head nod from one TA along with the awkward scraping of my chair against the floor as I sat down.
I felt very self conscious and totally out of place. I was dressed differently than most of the other students in the room. It was obvious that I had a different personality and priorities, too. I didn’t click with anyone I had met in class. I felt like a complete and total outsider.
This type of situation continued to arise week after week. Every Friday, my 9am walk to Business 101 was filled with anxiety and dread. The college I had once been so excited for was now slowly becoming a nightmare I felt I couldn’t escape.
The environment, equality and social justice are the issues that matter to me. Pursuing a degree that was teaching me to focus so intensely on my own successes and wealth was continuously dragging me down.
So I did the unthinkable. I transferred out of the College of Business.
My academic advisors, parents and friends had all spent countless hours trying to convince me to not leave Business. It was such a prestigious college, so highly regarded by students and professors alike. I felt so grateful for even being accepted to the college, but it was a door that once closed, couldn’t be reopened.
Throwing caution to the wind, I transferred to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I was now a Communication major with a minor in Political Science. I was happy. I was at peace.
With my new degree and college, I’m actually passionate about the content of my classes. My classmates are like-minded individuals with whom I can have fulfilling, enjoyable conversations. Finally, I feel genuinely excited about the degree I’m spending four years of my life working towards.
Occasionally, it’ll take time to realize whether you love or hate something. Make sure when you realize that something isn’t for you, take action. You have one life, spend it doing something you love.
Hannah is a sophomore in LAS.