An alternate title for this article could be “Yes, I Changed My Major Junior Year and Will Graduate on Time”, but I’ll get into that later.  Sometimes it can seem like everyone has it together in college, with their dream job at their dream company and a major taking them along that path.  Well, believe me, many of us start college without a clear idea of where we are going—everyone finds their own unique path to their ideal job and major. 

I was an undecided engineer during my freshman year, and even after taking an undecided engineering class (ENGR 102) and hearing from the head of each department, I had no clear answer ahead of me.  As a sophomore, I settled on Mechanical Engineering since it seemed the broadest of all the majors, but I went through the year feeling neutral towards my classes and potential career paths. The only insight towards the major choice (ha) I had to make came from my computer programming classes in the ITP department, which I thoroughly enjoyed and at least would have as a minor.  Suddenly, when I least expected it, everything changed—at an undergraduate off-campus housing fair, of all places—when I tried Virtual Reality (VR) for the first time.  I was hooked on its ability to offer new perspectives and its applications in fostering empathy and storytelling, and I realized that this was a field I could see myself working in long-term. 

My friend and I trying a VR Skiing experience in New York City–we also did surfing, and both felt unbelievably real!

The first step I took as a sophomore towards VR was taking ITP 380, Video Game Programming, where I explored coding in a more creative, narrative environment (and got to build many 2D and 3D games culminating in a first-person parkour game).  Over my summers, I interned at Facebook as a Software Engineer and got to build an Android game and then work on the Android News Feed team; my work experiences also helped me discover my passion for programming in a creative environment. With my interests heading towards the VR field, and my love for coding becoming clearer, I decided that Electrical Engineering and its Computer Engineering track would be the ideal combination of hardware and software to prepare me for a career in VR. 

As a junior, I took the risk of switching to Electrical Engineering—and it paid off!  This year, I have enjoyed my classes more than ever, gotten involved in USC’s VR club (XRSC), and have switched over to a Video Game Programming minor to complement my hardware background.  Beyond helping me enjoy academics and switch my major, finding my passion in VR has led me to Oculus this summer after I talked with my Facebook recruiter about my passion and explained my complex journey!  I’m eagerly awaiting my summer Oculus LA internship, and in the meantime, I encourage anyone having doubts about their passion to fully explore different majors—it’s never too late! 

Madelyn Douglas

Madelyn Douglas

MAJOR: Electrical (Computer) Engineering YEAR: Class of 2020 HOMETOWN: Bethseda, Maryland PRONOUNS: she/her/hers