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What major to study

Popularity 1Viewed 1505 times 2016-3-7 16:48 |Personal category:education|System category:Life| major, interest

What major to study?


Being a teacher, I have asked many students in which area they are going to major when they study abroad? For those who have finished their bachelor degree in China, this doesn't seem to be a difficult question to answer. But for most senior high school students, this seem to be an impossible question to answer. 


Based on my own experience of being a student as well as a teacher, I have found that Chinese senior high school students generally are not equipped with the ability of independent thinking after 12 years in the education system. (Of course, I have to admit that with the advancement in education, more and more high school students are not only able to think independently but also to figure out where their interests lie. This is happening probably only to students in metropolitan cities. It still needs a long time before this can be seen in many cities of China. )


When I was a senior high school student, I had asked myself many times why I should study so hard and what I was studying for. I had never figured out answers to these questions.  In the end, I had to tell myself that studying seemed to be the only thing I could do then and there. I could not think of a single other thing I could do at that age. I also convinced myself that things would be much better once I entered university. That should be able to end all these nightmare-like days. Now, when I recall it, it was only self-cheating. 


After becoming an English teacher, I am afforded plenty of opportunities to communicate with students at different ages and from various backgrounds. This is the most enjoyable part of being a teacher, in my opinion.    In the past, it had never come to me that I was actually a people person. I mean I was such an introverted and shy person, never talkative. I was even to a certain extent socially disabled. It seems that the old me was too self-conscious to tend to feel very uncomfortable when placed in a group of people. But now, it's different. I appreciate every chance offered to talk with people. In this sense, my job has changed me into a better person. 


Due to my overseas education experience, students are inclined to ask me loads of questions regarding studying and living in a foreign country. Among all the questions from my students,"what should I study?" is the most-frequently asked one. 


Honestly, this is too big a question to answer and too important a question that I can't just slight over. I always start my answer like this " I think you should study something you are interested in. You know, your interest in the major will be the strongest catalyst for your study. Then it will be almost natural to invest enormous time and energy into your study. The process is therefore much easier and more enjoyable for you." (This is probably a foolish response as I suppose if they really knew their interests, they would not even ask the question in the first place.) 


More often than not, students would reply " But the thing is that I don't even know what I am interested in! I have no idea about all those majors frequently-mentioned by others." 


I would respond "It is totally OK not to know what you are interested in. It's hard to imagine that you would have the time to explore your interests since as far as I'm concerned, most of senior high school students' schedule is so tight that they can barely spare any time to do any other things except for studying. Plus, exploring yourself isn't something that can be done in a short period of time. It takes a long long time to get to know yourself. But what is really nice about studying overseas is that you normally are given some time to figure out what major you are interested in. You are going to study many general subjects in the first one or two years. After having some knowledge of all the subjects, you should find it easier to make a decision. Do not really make this an once-for-all decision. Always bear this in mind: there is no such thing like once-for-all decision in reality. Many times, you can't just get things done. " 


When I first came to study in Australia, I didn't chose TESOL as my major. Instead, I decided to study primary education as my Australian friend believed it would be a better choice for me. (She used to be an Australian public school teacher).  Knowing not much about both these two courses, I followed her advice. 


I started that course 2 weeks after arriving in Australia. The intensity of the course soon wore me down. Meanwhile, I had to deal with adapting to a completely new environment and language barriers. (I was the only student from Asian countries so teachers and students in class never really slowed down their speed of speaking to cater to my needs). After 2 weeks, I decided that I couldn't take it any more. My very obliging tutor noticed this first and after knowing my plan for future career, she kindly suggested me to transfer into TESOL. I then discussed this with my friends. They helped me contact the coordinator of TESOL and we had a long chat with her. After that I finally decided to study TESOL instead. 


You'd think then that should be it. I had finally found the major about which I showed great passion. But, no! After the first semester of completing my TESOL certificate, I found TESOL wasn't all that interesting and was considering transferring into a different course. My reason was that a lot of theoretical knowledge I gained in that course was boring and impractical. It seemed to me there was an unbridgeable gap between the theories I acquired in class and the practicum I had in a language school.


I was considering studying English literature since I had always had great passion towards it;meanwhile finance seemed to be a good choice as at least it didnt seem to be all that difficult to study. 


My friends asked me " Have you ever thought of the question: What if after transferring the course, you should find it is not what you like?


I pondered over this for some time and finally decided to stick to the same course. In the next year, when I was studying for my master degree in that area, I gradually changed my opinion on this course. The theories in linguistics I studied in my third semester suddenly turned to be understandable and even engaging. It dawned on that they are actually quite feasible in English learning and teaching. TESOL, after all, is an interesting major.


When it comes to choosing a major, we should not only be patient but also be open-minded.


Three years ago, I found it very difficult to understand why there were so many students majoring in the field of finance or business. They seemed to be very abstract courses to me. Even when I was in Australia, I still didn't reckon they were courses with great prospects. Deep down in my heart, I thought students studying those courses were either because it is easy to finish those courses or because they had companies to inherit from families. (How stupid I was!!!) 


Due to a random chance, I got to read a book on microeconomics. After finishing reading the first chapter on ten primary principles in microeconomics, I was soon gripped by it because it has taught me to see the interesting and underlying links between different things. This has helped me to acquire a better understanding of things in life. 


You see, we change our perspectives on things with the change of time. Nothing is absolutely certain. What you didn't like may turn out to be what you love. We should be patient and be open-minded when we embark on getting to know a major. Get rid of the stereotypes and be curious of the major. You may be surprised like I did with economics. 


In the end, I'd like to share with you that being interested in a major doesn't necessarily guarantee that the process of learning will be full of fun. But you should never give up on trying to discovering the fun bits of that field to fuel your learning. 


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (2 comments)

Reply Report Lily_ly 2016-5-31 16:26
To be honest, I really admire your English writing skill. I will read your blogs more so as to improve my English language ability.
Reply Report Min1989 2016-6-1 09:31
Lily_ly: To be honest, I really admire your English writing skill. I will read your blogs more so as to improve my English language ability.
Thank you very much for your encouragement. I will be very glad if you can learn something from my blogs.

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