Your major defines a lot about your college experience. The classes you take, the types of clubs you join, and the people you spend the most time around tend to relate back to your major in one way or another. Many undergraduates come into college knowing exactly what they want to major in, while many other students have no idea what they want to study. No matter where you’re at in your education, there are always opportunities to learn more and figure out what you’re most interested in.
When I was a senior in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to major in: mechanical engineering. I was on a robotics team and loved building things, so it seemed obvious to go into mechanical engineering. At the end of my first semester of freshman year, too, I knew exactly what I wanted to major in: chemical engineering. And now, at the beginning of my junior year, after three years at USC, I’m finally confident in my choice: environmental engineering.
So what happened? Mechanical engineering was a great major, and I did enjoy taking AME 101 (Introduction to Mechanical Engineering) here at USC. I made many friends in that class and learned a lot of skills that I still use today, including how to use Solidworks and how to build a tiny race car. But through the introductory course at USC, I realized that just because I was interested in building things, mechanical engineering wasn’t necessarily right for me. As soon as my professor started talking about planes and engines, I knew this wasn’t the right path for me.
Chemical engineering was major #2. I liked chemistry, and had always loved environmental science. By getting a degree in chemical engineering, I could end up an environmental engineering field with a broader, more chemistry-based background. For a whole year, I took chemical engineering classes, making friends with other chemical engineers, taking the Introduction to Chemical Engineering course (CHE 120) and learning all about process diagrams. I even took one of the toughest courses in the major: thermodynamics.
During my freshman year, I also started looking into research labs, and found Dr. Smith in the Environmental Engineering department, whose group studies the treatment of wastewater with anaerobic membrane bioreactors. After a semester as a chemical engineer, I joined his lab, began working with a graduate student, and realized: I had finally found what I was interested in. Environmental engineering was what I really, really wanted to learn about.
So, third time’s the charm, right? I switched my major, met a brand new group of friends, took another set of classes, and finally settled into my new course plan as an environmental engineer. In my senior year of high school, I was so confident in my choice to major in mechanical engineering, but after learning more about what it means to be in each degree program, I now know that environmental engineering is the major for me.
If you’re struggling to choose a major, or don’t know what you’re interested in, there are many resources available to learn more about your major! Research online, read student blogs about the major, read about jobs in the industry or research in the field, and take classes in whatever you’re interested in. Engineering is a great field to be in, and no matter what you choose to do, it will always be something exciting. Fight on!