By: Manveetha Muddaluru
If I were to describe my university journey in five words, it would be: a series of unexpected events.
My main goal for coming to university, other than graduating with a degree, was to find my passion or purpose in life. (I know, very simple, right?) I’m not going to keep you waiting until the end of this post for you to find out whether or not I accomplished my goal. The simple answer is, I didn’t. The long answer is… it’s complicated.
If you don’t already know, I’ve switched programs many times during my undergrad (you can read all about it part one and part two of my switching programs LinkedIn posts). I started my undergrad in Life Sci and I’m now graduating from Communication Studies. Five years ago, I would have never expected I would be graduating from a program in the Humanities, especially one that I didn’t even know about. Thinking back, I’ve realized that my entire undergrad journey has been all about happenstance, i.e. the unexpected opportunities and events in life.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned from this unexpected journey is to be open-minded and flexible because life isn’t always a linear path. Although it was important for me to have goals and a plan, it was equally as important to learn how to adapt to my changing interests and circumstances by taking courses from outside of my faculty and trying out different volunteer opportunities that were out of my comfort zone. Having an open mindset allowed me to explore different fields of study and develop new skills, which are all a part of my undergrad journey even if they aren’t written on my degree.
I also realized that it’s important to take risks in order to get out of a place where you feel stuck and find something that you enjoy. I ended up switching programs a total of four times before I finally found the one that I was really interested in. This goes to show that it’s never too late to find what you’re interested in, whether that’s in university or in life in general.
To make it through this journey, I had to remain persistent and optimistic, especially while dealing with the doubt of what I could with a degree in the arts after graduation. As someone who grew up in an immigrant family that valued the “traditional” or “successful” career paths such as doctor, engineer, and lawyer which are tied to having a high social status, I had to overcome the pressures of meeting the expectations of “success” that not only I set for myself at a young age, but also the rest of my family. Convincing my parents (and sometimes myself) that a degree in the arts would be useful was not an easy process. Despite these challenges, I am truly happy to have taken this non-traditional path of exploring diverse perspectives and disciplines, which has allowed me to gain a different way of understanding the world and ability to make connections and think critically.
Having these attitudes of risk-taking, being open-minded, flexible, persistent, and optimistic has helped me find my place at McMaster, both inside and outside the classroom. To be honest, I thought that finding a program that I was interested would be the end of this journey or my quest of finding my passion or purpose. That it would be all smooth sailing from here. I’ve come to realize now that I’m faced with the dreaded question of “What’s next?” or “What are you doing with your life now?” I still don’t exactly know what my passion or purpose is. I’m still confused (maybe not as much as I was a few years ago); however, after talking to other graduating students, I’ve come to realize that this feeling is completely normal. Because just like in high school when you’re expected to choose a program or path for university and what seems like the rest of your life at the age of 17 or 18, how can you be expected to figure out what your life’s passion or purpose is at the age of 22?
My entire undergrad has been a series of trial and error, hoping in the end that it would all work out. Even though it didn’t pan out in the way that I had expected it to originally, it was full of surprises, both good and bad, and I made some great friends and memories along the way. I may not have figured out my exact passion or purpose, but I think I’m much closer to it than I was when I started university and in a way, I’m really glad that I didn’t accomplish this goal, because I have my whole life ahead of me to do so.
So, to any other graduates out there, whether the path you took to get here was the one you had planned for or it was completely unexpected, congratulations on this momentous achievement! Whatever endeavours you decide to pursue in your futures, remember, as Ken Jeong said during his Life After Mac set in January, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”
As for me, I’ll be spending the next few months volunteering, travelling, spending some quality time with family and friends, and fixing my sleep schedule, and can’t wait to experience the unexpected adventures that life has to offer.
McMaster, the last five years have been a journey that even my wildest dreams couldn’t have dreamed up. Thanks for teaching me that the unexpected is not always bad.
Manveetha Muddaluru blogged about her student experience for the Student Success Centre from 2018 to 2019.