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My nonlinear path to academic fulfillment

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SEPTEMBER 14, 2023

Three years ago, I didn’t expect to be at UC Berkeley studying media studies and journalism, nonetheless alive. I was a freshman at my local community college, whose world was turned upside down by a pandemic and multiple college rejections. The combination of being unable to leave my house during mandatory quarantine and realizing my high school grades were all for nothing led me to enter a yearlong severe depressive episode.

My 18-year-old self had my life all planned out. I was going to major in English and minor in journalism, attend a prestigious university and eventually write my own novel or be an incredible journalist. That didn’t work out.

Like many people, I had lots of time on my hands to think about life during quarantine. This wasn’t in my best interest, and my thoughts soon became my enemy. I saw the pandemic as an opportunity to reset my life, academic and career goals.

I gave up my own dreams of being a professional writer, convincing myself that I wouldn’t make a sufficient income, despite writing being one of my biggest passions.

So after much thought and anxiety convincing me that I had picked a “bad” major, I decided to pursue business administration. I was interested in marketing, but no other aspect of the business sector. I was just hoping my degree could land me a cool social media marketing job. To me, being uninterested in business was worth it as long as I got a high-paying job.

I was determined to transfer to the best business universities in California. I met with advisors early on and even joined my community college’s business and economics club. I was still frustrated about having to attend community college after being rejected from everywhere else.

I kept telling myself, “I just have to get through these two years and it’ll all be worth it.” What wasn’t worth it, however, was being constantly depressed, unmotivated and uninterested in my academics.

Being a business major was incredibly unfulfilling. Doing my assignments felt like a dreaded chore. I found myself crying while completing accounting problems because I was so bored and despised what I was learning. I was constantly confused during lectures because I put no energy in trying to understand the concepts. No doubt these were useful courses to take, but they simply weren’t for me.

At the end of my freshman year, I came across a Reddit post about California community college transfer students’ experiences. One comment struck me as particularly interesting — someone commented that they applied as a media studies major at UC Berkeley. I spent my night on the UC Berkeley’s media studies homepage and basically read every word on it.

I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders knowing there was a major available where I could study all my interests and not feel like college was a burden. I finally felt excited about something, a feeling I hadn’t experienced for an entire year.

For those who don’t know, media studies is an interdisciplinary field that explores media history, practices and technologies. I continued to look through the course catalogs and found that this major allowed me to take classes from various disciplines I was interested in — marketing, journalism and more.

Changing my major a year into college and still being able to transfer wasn’t an easy process. I had to take summer and winter classes and took way more units. I still thought, “I just have to get through these semesters and it’ll all be worth it,” but this time I was confident that it would genuinely be worth it.

That fall semester I was officially a declared journalism major, which was the closest equivalent to media studies. I joined my college’s newspaper, where I rekindled my love for writing and journalism. I owe a lot of gratitude to my community college for where I am now — writing for The Daily Californian.

A couple of months later, I received my acceptance letter to UC Berkeley. Now, I’m in my senior year and couldn’t be happier that I pursued media studies and journalism. I get great satisfaction from attending lectures that are more relevant to my personal experiences and writing essays on fun topics such as TikTok.

I was so riddled with stress and depressive thoughts my freshman year of college to the point where I didn’t think I would make it to senior year. I’m glad I did. I’m still on my journey of deciding what I want to do with my life, but at least I know I’ll pursue something I genuinely love and care about. So, long story short, I’ve come to the conclusion that no amount of money is worth it if life feels unfulfilling.

Contact Sophie Ward at 


SEPTEMBER 14, 2023