This article and artwork were both first published in Lot’s Wife Edition 2, 2021.
It started and ended with a Bachelor of Arts, but what happened in between wasn’t an ordinary route.
During Year 12, I was set on enrolling into the Bachelor of Arts because there was a wide breadth of subjects available. At the time, I didn’t have a career path set in stone, which caused me many dilemmas later on.
From the get-go, I changed my minor from human rights to behavioural science within the first few weeks of the semester. I thought that I would enjoy human rights, but although I liked the concept of the unit, studying it was a very different experience. Coming from high school where weekly readings were not the norm, I found it difficult adjusting to university readings at the start of my tertiary studies. The majority of Arts subjects contain many readings, and in human rights, they are long and complex. It was a subject that I couldn’t settle into, and that’s fine, because I know that I would have struggled with it for the whole semester.
Afterwards, I confirmed psychology as my major and behavioural science as my minor. This seemed like a good combination, as the two could complement one another. I survived my first semester, where I wrote essays and had tests and exams. It was an accomplishment, and I was glad that it was over. In the second semester, I wanted to try criminology, as I was thinking about transferring to the Bachelor of Laws (Honours). At this point, I had an inkling that psychology was not the pathway I wanted to pursue, as I couldn’t see myself working as a psychologist. Research was not a field that I wanted to go into, so my options with the major felt extremely limited if I wasn’t going to become a psychologist either. I enjoyed my criminology unit, as I have always had a passion for social justice and the law. Nonetheless, it was a unit that felt too grim for me at times, and I knew from this unit that studying law would entail a similar feeling, as you cannot avoid seeing misfortune in the law.
The end of the year was approaching, and by then, I knew that something had to be altered in my second year. I was unsure and indecisive, as I had wanted to keep my options open, which the Bachelor of Arts allowed me to do. However, I knew that I had to change something now, or I would risk wasting my second year on a course that I wasn’t passionate about.
I made the decision to enrol in a double degree, Bachelor of Arts and Education (Honours), whilst changing my major to journalism instead of psychology. Teaching was always an interest of mine and I felt that I would enjoy a career in education. This was a huge decision for me, as it added an extra year to my studies and would require me to start a first-year unit in my second year (which meant a lot to me). I would also need to travel cross-campus from Clayton to Caulfield, all on a whim, as I had never studied journalism before, not even as an elective.
The year started off extremely busily since I had decided to overload, meaning that I had five subjects across two year levels and two campuses (ask your faculty about prerequisites for overloading and underloading if you are interested in learning more). It was definitely hectic, to say the least. I was doing all the work and attending all the classes, yet I was still unsure if I had made the right decision. I was finding it hard to keep up the pace, and I knew that I would burn out if I had to overload for my whole degree.
At the semester’s conclusion, I contacted the Arts faculty, but as course transfers are completed at the start of the year, I would need to wait until the next year to move back to the single degree. This is where my course progression map got a little confusing. I was given permission to unenrol from my Education subjects and only enrol in my Arts subjects. The next semester was a lot easier for me, and I finally had a sense of where I was going. I decided to complete my journalism major and begin a literature minor, as I wanted to enrol in the Master of Teaching, specialising in English. From my double degree experience, I had decided that I still wanted to pursue the teaching pathway, but I wanted to solely complete my Arts degree first.
The rollercoaster wasn’t over yet when I entered my third year. I needed to graduate that year, and I had nine units left, meaning that I could underload for three semesters or overload for one. I chose the latter, and it definitely took its toll. It was overwhelming overloading for a second time and having to travel cross-campus (this was before COVID-19, when the only option for tutorials was on-campus, and attendance was marked every week). This was the year where I had to use recorders and cameras for journalism units, meaning I had to drag equipment from bus to bus just to return it all again. Although I managed to get through it, I would not recommend this load unless it is your only option.
Completing my Arts degree felt like a success. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief and hang my degree on the wall to remind me of the many ups and downs I went through to achieve it. But just as my whole course was complicated, so too was the graduation process. Graduations in May were postponed due to COVID-19, so I waited a year to get my diploma in the hope of an on-campus graduation. That wasn’t possible last year, but I did still manage to celebrate by booking an on-campus photography session.
I am now in my second year of the Master of Teaching and writing this piece at the conclusion of my second placement round. This goes to show that the indecisiveness and problems you face in your bachelor degree won’t last forever.
My advice for you
Trial and error
At Monash, we are fortunate enough to have the chance to pick our electives and change our minors and majors. Make use of this, and try a unit you have always wanted to learn about. Yes, you might not like it, and yes, that will mean that you’ll be a little behind in your new unit, but at least you will be able to witness whether you like a subject or not first-hand and not have any regrets about it later. Don’t be afraid to change degrees, but consider the effect it will have on your course progression and duration.
Choosing the right course
This is something that I have had to do myself because when picking a course or a career path, one can get ideas that are too big to be realistic. Analyse careers that you think you would enjoy, and then look more specifically at the courses related to those careers. Ask yourself if you would like the content and enjoy what is being taught. Do you like placements? If you want to study nutrition, are you aware that there will be chemistry classes? Do you know that some units require weekly oral presentations? Is this something that you feel comfortable with, and if not, is the course—and the job it leads to—right for you?
If you are struggling to pick a course, think about what job you would like to do. We all have passions, and for some, it is difficult to pick one to build into a career. Hence, think about what you would be satisfied doing full-time because at the end of your course, it is you who will need to look for a job in that field.
I hope that my story can help you see that you are not the only student who is feeling torn between courses and careers. Take your time to figure out exactly what you want from your course and your future; only then will you feel confident in your decision.
Art by Ruby Comte.