daily californian logo


Figuring out college: A winding path

article image


We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

APRIL 21, 2023

Like almost all other Berkeley students, my path to getting where I am right now was in no way linear. Not only did it take weeks and weeks of confusion and frustration, but it still has not necessarily found an endpoint — I still, to this moment, often find myself rethinking what I’m doing. 

Since the moment I picked up my first Harry Potter book, I knew I would always have an interest in English. I loved reading, I loved writing, and English teachers adored me. English classes (at least in high school) came easy to me, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make to want to major in English out the gate. Officially, I came into Berkeley as an undeclared L&S student, but, in my mind, I was an English major. 

Now, this is nothing new for all my English majors, but fielding the sheer amount of “What are you planning to do with that?” questions was not easy for me. I quickly realized that I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do and I knew I had to first figure that out before I jumped into a major wholeheartedly. I will always have some inkling at the prospect of working in the publishing industry with an English major (yes, like Tessa from “After”), but I soon realized that, honestly, passion couldn’t get me everywhere. For some people this is possible, but, at least for myself, I knew that I needed to find a major that could cross my passion with the chance to find a stable job. 

From this point of indecision, I started brainstorming what I was interested in, what could lead to a steady professional career, and what major would be able to challenge me in a new and exciting way. I won’t say that my first college English class was what fully persuaded me to start this brainstorming, obviously coupled with my own soul-searching, but it did have a big impact. English 45B is no joke. Did I really want to be that student analyzing writing essays that were graded better the more convoluted they were? I wasn’t sure. So, I quite literally printed out a list of the majors available through L&S, took a red pen, and crossed out the ones that were fully off the table (like geophysics — no matter how much I call myself a STEM girlie now, physics is too far). 

This left me with a sizable list and is where Google came in. I looked up graduated Berkeley alumni and what they were doing with the majors they graduated with, and simply decided if what they were doing could interest me and check off my boxes. I was left with cognitive science, environmental economics and policy, global studies, political economy, public health and social welfare. This point in my life was determinative for me, and I will never forget sitting with my dad by my desk and walking through each of these choices, trying to decide, at the end of the day, what felt good. 

I landed on public health. I guess I can’t necessarily say that I always knew I was destined to be a woman in STEM — that is, if public health even counts as a STEM major (why is it a bachelor of arts and not science? We will never know). It was sort of always given as well that I would minor in one of the assorted Spanish minors, as I have been learning Spanish since forever, but I decided I could even minor in English as well to keep that old dream alive. This brief dalliance with a second minor (that even was going to be political economy at one point) was short-lived, but my overall point is that there is no clear path at UC 


If you’re like me, someone who is extremely interested in everything (and still isn’t sure they have landed on their forever path), just know that it is absolutely okay. Things change, and that’s beyond normal — it’s good. Your life plan is not set out for you the moment you walk past Sather Gate for the first time. The process of switching between majors or lengthening your time at Berkeley or simply trying to do what feels right is individual to every person and requires introspection, figuring out where exactly you want to go with a major from Berkeley. I can still confidently say that class enrollment and registration is the most stressful part of the semester for me because everything always sounds so interesting, so I’ve just learned to take advantage of being here while realizing that no one is ever decidedly perfect. 

UC Berkeley is an intensely competitive atmosphere where it can too often feel like everyone’s got it figured out and doing way more than you are, but no one really is. When it comes down to it, it’s beyond okay to take time away from it all to figure out where you fit, like I did.

Contact Alessi Ayvaz at 


APRIL 21, 2023