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Aug 07 2017
by Sarah Shih

Choosing a Major That Isn't the One My Parents Want

By Sarah Shih - Aug 07 2017

Growing up with my parents constantly asserting the importance of studying in universities, it was no surprise to me that they wanted to be as involved as possible during my pre-application process for college. They liked to talk about what schools I would apply to, which one of them was actually my dream school and college life in general. Seeing me dedicating so much time to researching, they were with no doubt content.

But when the actual application process started and all the talks about future became real, they were baffled to learn that I had decided to apply to study psychology instead of business, which both of them had majored in themselves. To them, studying business felt like a guaranteed ticket to a future job. It is understandable — they had relatively smooth job hunts right after graduation, and so many companies require someone with knowledge of how businesses works. To them, psychology is a field that they know little about.

That was the first time any sort of disagreement happened, and I wasn't sure how to deal with it. When they asked me why, I simply said I was interested in studying it, sounding somewhat uncertain. This, of course, unsettled them even more. They started asking me what my career plan was and if I was absolutely sure this was what I wanted to study.

But the more my parents asked, the more unsure I felt. Before this, I had thought that I was doing what my parents wanted and that they would have supported me no matter what choice I made. Even though I still went through with applying for psychology, I couldn't help but feel like I needed to make compromises. Slowly I shifted my focus to looking for dual degree programs that satisfied both my parents and myself. People kept telling me to do what I truly wanted while I adamantly believed that it wasn't that easy to just go against my parents' wishes.

But this is where the problem was — my parents and I simply misunderstood each other. I believed their confusion and concern to be discouragement, while they thought my hesitance to explain my choice of major meant I hadn't thought through the decision carefully. This is what my counselor reminded me of when I went to her for advice; my parents didn't necessarily want me to do exactly as they say. What they really wanted was to hear me being certain of my choice and that they didn't need to worry about me feeling lost.

It wasn't easy for me at first sit down with them and talk — the need of approval still hadn't subsided. Still, the acceptances had arrived, and no matter how I imagined, I couldn't see myself as someone who studies business. With that in mind, the uneasiness decreased little by little.

So I started from the beginning. How working in a business-related field wasn't something I felt like doing. How after doing a research project for my English class that investigated certain aspects of psychology, I started to think it was something I would like to study. How there are countless career paths that a psychology degree can be of use, including teaching, counseling and even human resources if I truly end up combining these two fields together. Yes, some of them require further studies after an undergraduate degree and no, I'm not sure which one of them I will go into yet. But there is no doubt that I would like to find out through these four years of studies.

They were surprised, yet I could tell that some doubts they had had were lifted off their mind at the moment. For me, it was a huge relief to have said what I had been thinking out loud — there was no more second guessing, just coming to terms with the fact that what I wanted didn't have to overlap with my parents' wishes.

University is a decision that will affect more than just the next four years of my life, and it is such a big part of me that I believed it was important to have complete support from my parents. But that doesn't mean I have to do something against my own wishes just to satisfy theirs — after a few talks with them, the outcome is better than what I imagined it would be. I will be forever grateful that my counselor pushed me to be proud of my own choices, because disagreements should never be a source of discouragement — on the contrary, it should push you to stand up for yourself and tell everyone your opinion with unwavering certainty.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Sarah Shih - University of Western Ontario

Sarah is a Second Year student attending the University of Western Ontario studying Psychology and Linguistics. In her free time, she can be seen reading or writing. If she is silent during a conversation, she is most likely plotting for her next article or the next chapter in her novel.

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