How Studying The Wrong Thing Helped Me Figure Out What The Right Thing Was

How Studying The Wrong Thing Helped Me Figure Out What The Right Thing Was

Thinking about the future can be incredibly daunting - if you’re like me and tend to avoid thinking about it at all costs you can often end up in some pretty sticky situations.

For me, one of these ‘sticky situations’ happened to be choosing a university degree that was ACTUALLY going to get me up in the morning.

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During year 12 I was so focused on keeping my sh*t together that I never gave any proper consideration to picking a university degree that was going to excite and inspire me. Instead I listened to everyone else around me and ended up in a degree that frustrated and challenged me, and not in a good way.

I chose to study Environmental Science. A great degree for some people. But I should disclose that I dropped both science and geography as soon as I could in high school. So why I then chose a degree focusing on these two subjects is beyond me.

Except this being ‘beyond me’ is a little bit of a lie. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t put anywhere near enough time and consideration into choosing what I should do after school. I figured I should do some kind of uni degree and I listened to my dear old Dad who suffered from a ‘Melbourne Uni or bust’ mentality (I should also add that this has now completely changed and he is very supportive of me doing things that aren’t necessarily studying at Melbourne Uni). In fairness to my Dad, he could sense I wasn’t giving enough thought to my future so he chose what worked best for him thinking that this would translate to me.

Spoiler alert! It didn’t.

I ended up JUST scraping into an Environmental Science degree at Melbourne Uni.

During my orientation week I received my timetable. I didn’t even know I could create my own timetable, so I got the one they made for me. As soon as I received it I was hit with an 8.30am lecture on a Monday morning for the entirety of my first semester. Things were off to a great start.

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I can confidently say I made it to about 3 out of the 12 8.30am lectures. As you’re probably gathering, I did the bare minimum to pass this degree and even then things were a bit touch and go. Clearly I was not happy or engaged. Looking back on this time and being completely honest with myself I realise I gave up before I even started. But I now know that this was because I was studying something I had no interest in.

I didn’t see a future for myself in Environmental Science. In my first week when I was meeting with the other Enviro students we had to sit in a circle and explain why we had each chosen this degree. I nervously answered, ‘I want to do garden design and plant waterfalls’.This was met with a lot of weird stares and a couple of awkward laughs and my friend yelling out, ‘you can’t plant waterfalls but thanks for trying’. This should have made it glaringly obvious that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted out of this…

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Towards the end of the year I had a bit of a confidence crisis (a meltdown, in other words) and I decided I needed to take the year off, move home to Sydney and work for a year. I decided to split my year into two different work experiences. The first being to work in childcare and the second to work in the fashion and digital world.

This year was one of the greatest decisions I could have ever made for myself. I was working in two fields that I loved and felt confident in. As the year was coming to an end I realised I wanted to start thinking about going back to uni and, while  this was met with some nerves (mostly because I was scarred by my first attempt), I could now consider a couple of degrees that were actually going to excite me and that made sense to my future.

I decided I needed to choose something that was going to get me out of bed in the morning (for those pesky 8.30am lectures). I ended up picking a Bachelor of Social Science in the youth sector at RMIT and I loved it. I made a fantastic group of friends and showed up to my classes, lectures and workshops genuinely excited and interested in what I was learning. This degree has led me to a couple of fantastic placements and internships and has given me the confidence to believe in myself.

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So what have I learnt? I’ve learnt that when you choose a degree that is focused around a subject or topic you love, you will have the drive and motivation to do the hard work that’s required. The same could be said for anything — work, TAFE, trade school, university, interning, volunteering. Whatever it is that you’re doing, if you love it, it isn’t a chore. I realise that’s a pretty big privilege to be able to have figured that out and to have the resources to pursue it. But, on the flip side, you could also say that if you feel as unmotivated and aware of that strong gut feeling saying it’s the complete wrong fit, as I was when I was doing Environmental Science, it’s a good time to try something else if you can. That’s how I figured out how much I love working in the youth sector.

That’s also not to say that I haven’t had my moments — of course I have. I failed an essay in my first year of Social Science and burst into tears at my desk when I saw the result. However, it was only because I was loving my degree that I persevered. I knew it spoke to my strengths and my interests, so I had to focus on developing some of them to get there.

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I’ve learnt it’s important that when you’re thinking about your next step after high school that you use all the resources available to you, rather than just taking advice from people who will do the thinking for you. If I could go back, I would jump on Google and research a variety of degrees to figure out what they’re actually all about. I’d talk to people working on jobs I think sound interesting to find out what they’re actually like and how they got there. I’d speak to careers counsellors. And I’d ask for advice from family members and friends. However, it is important to keep in mind that it’s your future — you’ll be the one rolling your tired self out of bed for it, whether it’s work, an apprenticeship, or some form of study.

Not to sound super cheesy but the refrigerator magnet quote says it best, ‘if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life’. Trust in your own judgment, put some thought and consideration into your future and you will end up happier because of it. It’s also good to know if you do pick one thing you’re not necessarily stuck in it. As the world of work changes and people are switching jobs and careers more and more, it’s likely more of us will be re-training and upskilling to switch between industries throughout our lives. It can be an exciting prospect if you recognise when the time is right to make a change.

Take it from someone who (THANKFULLY) realised I needed to make a change. Otherwise you never know, I could still be attempting to figure out how to plant a waterfall (and crying).

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