What to do if you are reading Science/Engineering and you don’t like it

smiling-catI’m sure many of us out there are actually clueless as to what we have gotten ourselves into when we choose a course to study in university. Don’t worry, you are not the only one and this is absolutely logical.

We would only to some extent, find out some information about the course we are about to study from reading the various universities brochures, or at most, speak to seniors who are in the course. We certainly wouldn’t go all the way out and spend several years researching just to find out more about all the courses available, both in local and in overseas universities just to pick one that we feel is most suitable. And yes, feel, not even guaranteed that the course would be the most suitable. There is even a term for this –  satisficing, meaning a choice made which may not be the most optimal, but sufficient and satisfactory or simply put, a choice that is good enough.

Satisficing

Satisficing is an incredibly common and in fact, one of the most rational way to make decisions in our daily lives, which in this case, has inevitably result in us to realise after a few weeks of school that hey, I don’t like what I’m studying now and I really don’t want to waste my time or my youth for that matter, studying something I totally hate. When that thought struck, you would have already been stuck in university, in a course that you don’t like, and you feel like you are going nowhere.

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At that point in time, you would be presented with three options:

One, stay on and struggle, studying in-depth something you really detest, because 4 years will be over in a blink of an eye. Isn’t that what everyone meant by saying time flies?

Two, switch to a course that you are more interested in and spend the rest of your university days happy (ier).

Three, drop out of school and see where it gets you to, because who says you need a university degree to do something big? Look at Bill Gates, or a more recent example, Mark Zuckerberg.

Being ironically an adventurous yet conservative individual, guess which option did I opt for? No prizes for the correct answer, but of course I eliminated the extremes, and went for the second option, after much deliberation.

Having been through it (and survived), don’t worry, you are not alone. Let me share my story and through it, you may find some situations rather familiar, like what you are currently going through, or some feelings that you have been feeling, but afraid to make known and let them surface.

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My first 6 months as a Biological Sciences student

Having been a student in science stream all my schooling years, when I got the acceptance from NTU Biological Sciences , I was beyond ecstatic. It was just every science student’s dream come true, and needless to say, I accepted it without much hesitation. I entered NTU Biological Sciences as a very passionate teenager, with big dreams, ready to run experiments, eager to contribute to cancer research and invent cures which would put an end to mankind sufferings.

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I went to lab religiously for six months, running experiments after experiments, conducting endless researches. You would have thought that as a science student my whole schooling life, I would totally enjoy the process. However, even I surprised myself when I found that I was miserable all the while, doing these repetitive work. The whole lab environment was just not right for me, with a lot of solo work, focusing a great deal on details. I recall having to literally be extremely detailed and count the number of cells under the microscope just to cite an example.

Ask yourself, what do you not like about the course

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So here is a little suggestion from someone who has been there and done that:

Despite not liking the subject area that you are studying, suck it up and still continue to strive and do your best to obtain a decent score. Then gather information by talking to people. Yes, the power of such a direct method is often underestimated. You never know how much information you would be able to obtain simply just by talking to people with first-hand experiences, who will give you an honest account of what they encountered. I talked to my seniors in Biological Sciences to know more about life as a Biological Science student in subsequent years (years 2, 3 and 4), about the content covered, future job prospects etc. This is to further validate my choice if I ever wanted a switch. I was afraid that I may be wrong as it may be that year 1 content would cover more of the basics, hence more boring, whereas content would be more interesting and what I initially imagined it to be as I advance. However, I found out that content covered in subsequent years would be similar to what I did in my first year, more experiments after experiments, which further strengthened my desire to switch course to study Business Management.

Even when I was still in Biological Science, I already knew that I was interested to study Business Management. I could recall constantly reading business-related self-help books, and even to the extent of borrowing lecture notes from my friends in Business school to read during my free time.

Hence, I would really like to emphasis this: before making any decisions, always always, stay calm and gather as much information as possible. As cliché as it may sound, you really need evidence to support your stand, and of course in some cases (especially in my case), to convince yourself.

A seemingly insignificant part-time job actually changed my life, sort of

When I was working part time as a sales promoter promoting a certain news magazine, I found out that I really enjoyed communicating and interacting with people. I realized that I am really passionate about meeting new people everyday, and doing work that would enable me to see results instantly, a side of me even I myself am not aware of.

You can really say that a seemingly insignificant part-time job I took up during the holidays to earn some extra allowances kind of changed my life. It led me to realise an area that I never thought I would be interested in. So friends, never underestimate the part time job you are about to take up during your term break!

Overcoming obstacle after obstacle

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I spoke to my parents after gathering information, to discuss with them my decision and to seek their opinion and support. Not surprising, they strongly objected my decision as they felt that since I already made it into Biological Sciences which promises a bright future as a researcher, why not continue? I would be ensured a comfortable job given the high demand of researchers wanted. My parents even got my relatives who were high flyers to persuade me out of the idea of switching course. Besides, they felt that I definitely do not need a business degree to do business.

Needless to say, I was utterly dejected and to some extent, frustrated as more and more people tried to talk me out of switching course. What I was seeking was not advice, but some form of validation and support from my family. Without support, I continued and struggled in my second semester studying Biological Sciences with hopes that it will better but no, in fact, it got worse.

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Although everything was against my switch, deep inside, I knew it was the right choice to make and Iwould really regret it if I did not muster enough courage to make that decision. Thus, I really convinced my parents to lend me their support, then wrote in to the school to request for a switch in course. I was more confident than ever at this point, now that I am armed with sufficient information of what to expect in the future.

Life after the switch

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It was fantastic. I may sound like I am exaggerating but the feeling was truly liberating. I went all out and told myself that I would not accept anything but top-notch results. I really needed to perform well and to change what people thought of me, to prove to those who were unsupportive of my switch wrong. I really had to be the very best.

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Following my switch, I even had the opportunity to do a six-months internship overseas in India with Tata Group, which was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for me. Subsequently, I went on and worked with P&G upon graduation in the marketing department for a few years before starting up my very own company. In fact, my unique experiences during my internship in India eventually resulted in the birth of my company, Village Singapura which is all about creating fun and meaningful experiences through team building activities in Singapore , and learning about the cultures of the world.

Before you go, one more important tip that may sound odd, but it actually works

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Flip a coin, and leave it up to fate. Yes you did not hear me wrong, flip a coin to decide, but do it rationally. Let me use my personal experience to better illustrate what I mean. Let the coin decide – head means remain in my current course (Biological Sciences) which I would absolutely detest, and tail would mean that I should switch course to read Business Management like what I really wanted.

If the coin lands with heads facing up, and I hear my heart screaming out in protest and I could instantly visualize how miserable I would be in the next 3 years of study, then the answer is crystal clear – I obviously want a switch in course. So this is what I mean by decide your fate by flipping a coin, literally. Sounds like some sort of bizarre sorcery but trust me, it really works. Especially in circumstances when you really cannot decide it yourself, and would like a special something to give you a little boost of confidence and a little jolt of affirmation, or to ‘force’ that answer out of you.