Choosing your major can be hard, especially when you have a variety of interests spanning a wide range of subjects. Honors sophomore Gabe Reitzes has learned this first-hand.
Since arriving at Oregon State two years ago, Gabe has been an English and an environmental sciences major, and he has considered many others. He has settled on a major in digital communication arts with two minors, political science and writing, and he wants to let new Oregon State students know that it’s okay to not know what you want to do right off the bat.
“There’s nothing wrong with trying stuff out,” Gabe says. “It’s good to allow yourself to be interested in different things.”
Exploring majors isn’t necessarily easy, however. “It’s challenging in a different way because it forces you to chart your own path,” says Gabe.
So what tips does Gabe have for explorers?
His first suggestion is to talk to people and find out how they landed on their passion. “I asked all my friends why they were in the major they were in,” he says, as well as “upperclassmen, my professors and my parents.” Understanding what inspires people about their major and what motivated them to choose it can help you both learn about different subjects and clarify your own values.
Talking through your thoughts with others also helps. Gabe spoke with his Honors College advisor many times as he tried to decipher how he felt about potential majors. “It helped to bounce ideas off of someone who understands the school system but doesn’t necessarily have one department they favor,” he says.
His next tip is to participate in extracurricular activities. “It allows you to find out what you like and what you don’t like,” he says. Gabe is a volunteer at the Orange Media Network, holds a job as a videographer for the Honors College and has participated in an OSU Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts internship, working in a lab studying intertidal ecology.
If all of this seems daunting, taking advantage of Honors College colloquia is also a great way to explore different subjects.
“Fall term, I took a colloquium called Adaptation to the Stage, which got me really excited about writing,” Gabe says. “That got me thinking more about English and writing in general, which shaped what classes I would take later. Now I’m a writing minor.”
Gabe’s last tip is to not be afraid to change your major. Even if you wind up in a major that you discover is not for you in the slightest, you can still learn from the experience. “You can learn a lot about yourself,” he says, “what interests you, but also how you function.”
Not only that, Gabe says, but trying out courses in a variety of fields allows you to see the world through different lenses and meet a diverse group of interesting people.
“Different tactics work for different people, whether it’s deep thinking, needing to experience things, lots of research or listening to your gut,” says Gabe. “For me, it was lots of writing, pros and cons lists and late night phone calls with my mom.”
Finding a major can be a very difficult process, especially if your interests are many and branching. But the most important point Gabe wants to get across to new students is that there’s no fixed timeline; nothing is set in stone.
“Nobody has one interest and only one interest. It’s okay to be exploring.”
After the switch to remote learning in spring term 2020, we reached back out to Gabe to see how things are going. He has stayed in Corvallis and is living with his four roommates.
Like many students, Gabe has had a fair bit of trouble adjusting to remote learning. Going from a structured learning environment to a more unstructured method of classes has been a challenge, one he is trying to overcome.
“Adjusting to classes has been very challenging for me because I tend to get a lot out of participating in class and asking questions,” he says. “That being said, being forced to work on my weaknesses will ultimately be a good thing to come out of quarantine.”
To help himself cope with the difficulties of this uncertain time, Gabe has been spending his free time cooking, cleaning and exercising.