the MAJOR journey

When I came to The University of Kansas in the fall of 2015, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. After all, the journalism program was the deciding factor for my attendance. I was so sure, yet I also acknowledged my curiosity regarding coding and software development. So while I entered as a News and Information major, I began to search for ways to possibly minor or double major in Computer Science.

After a series of conversations between myself and a few J-School professors, I learned of the “Interdisciplinary Computing” major. From KU’s EECS website, “… graduates collaborate with scientists or other professionals, applying their computing expertise to large-scale problems. They might use grid computing to study the first few picoseconds after the Big Bang or process enormous data streams from telescopic mapping experiments to analyze the orbits of potential Earth-crossing asteroids.”

Sounds pretty cool, right?

As I learned more about the degree and what it would entail, I became further immersed into the idea of it. Initially, I chose News and Information because I knew it would keep me on my toes (also, I couldn’t stand the idea of a 9-5 office job). Plus, I had been writing, reporting, and editing for four years in high school. It was what I knew. However, with Computer Science I was captured by it. Though in the long run a job for it would be copious amounts of sitting and working primarily on code, it would be something that challenged my mind and kept it running.

So I began the journey to change my major. This of course entailed many proceedings that I had to follow in order to just be accepted into the Engineering School. I couldn’t dip my feet in just to try out some EECS (electrical engineering and computer science) classes since one had to be admitted into the school to take them. And to get into the school one had to have successfully completed perquisite courses.

That hurdle for me came in the form of math.

In high school I took up to AP Calculus, however I didn’t take the final test, nor did I try to test out for college. Therefore, I had to start at the beginning with College Algebra. Though I didn’t mind this since I really enjoy math (says me, who is still taking math classes to this day), the process to complete the prereq course, Calculus I, would have taken over a year. Because I wanted to accelerate my admission time, I took Calc I during the summer of 2016 and thereby was admitted into the Engineering School for the Fall of 2016.

Thus began my short-lived journey as a Interdisciplinary Computing major (with a Journalism, Strategic Communications emphasis).

When I started my EECS classes, which was Programming I and Intro to Digital Logic Design, I was fascinated and excited. Though the coursework was heavy, I generally liked it. Along the way though, there became a dissonance between coding and I. While I thoroughly enjoyed Digital Logic Design and what I was learning in that class, I began to dread attending my Programming lecture and lab.

Initially I would understand the bulk information, but the application portion was where I started to struggle. This is normal for many different subjects and fields and typically I would work on my understanding, study the material, and ask any questions to clarify misconceptions. However, understanding wasn’t the problem. The content was.

I hated programming. I would spend hours on end in lab trying to get the assignment done, which I understand is normal. It takes time after all to learn something that one hasn’t had much interaction with on a formal basis. But in the end, I just didn’t like it.

Of course there were other factors to consider as well. This includes everything from the person at my group table in lecture who would only show up occasionally because he thought the class was a joke since he already knew the basics and beyond of C++ and Java (compared to me who knew the most limited amount of HTML code but no formal practice), to my lab TA who shunned me for asking her questions and told me I was so bad at programming that I should probably switch majors, to the girl I sat next to in lab who would sometimes ask me questions about what loops to use but then taking it back since “you probably wouldn’t know”, to the guest speaker in one of my EECS 101 lectures who said that money matters more than happiness through at all and that’s why we just need to push through.

At the end of the day I debated a lot of things.

First and foremost, I felt an obligation to stay since I was one of two students in the IC Journalism program. Just two. Keep in mind that there are about 28,000 students enrolled with KU. Not only that, but I am a woman of color. Therefore, I felt that I needed to continue on to “pave the way” and show that women, and especially those of color, could be accomplished individuals in a new STEM field. Next, my biggest fear was being called a quitter. I could have continued on until graduation and got a well-paying job, but I knew that I wouldn’t be happy nor did I want to spend my life doing something that I hated. So why does wanting those two simple things have to warrant the label of a quitter? Some are made for engineering, some aren’t. Some know that’s what they want to do with their life, some are unsure, and others know that it’s not for them. Some stay, despite being unhappy, and others leave to find what makes them happy.

In the back of my mind I already knew, but I consulted several different people in my life to get various perspectives and in the end I came to the same conclusion every time.

So, I submitted a change of major request to the Journalism School, declaring Strategic Communications for my minor. At the same time I had never seen so many people happy about what I did (apparently I was miserable).

Ultimately, I needed time away from the J-School to know that’s where I wanted to be. Journalism was the majority of my life for over four years and it was the only thing I knew. While it was something I loved and was confident in, I needed time to explore other options.

Besides engineering, those other options helped me identify my minor. While I was stuck between a Math and Environmental Studies minor for a while, I eventually settled on the latter. I was more passionate about it and knew that there were many interesting things that I could do with it. Eventually, that lead me to a Pre-Law track. While I’m just beginning to identify opportunities and explore various involvement options for this course, I am eagerly looking forward to the next few years of my academic life.

– GRACIELA GOMEZ

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One thought on “the MAJOR journey

  1. Madison Wallace says:

    I am glad that you talked about liking the “idea” of something rather than the career itself. I can relate to this so much cause I was on a pre-law track because I liked the idea of it rather than because I wanted to study law. I am glad that you figured out what you wanted to do before it was too late and I know that going against others’ expectations is hard. Thanks for sharing. It may encourage others to find what they ACTUALLY want to do.

    Like

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