Before I joined the post-bac community, I was a psychology and College of Letters double major at Wesleyan University. I always knew that I wanted to become a psychologist or a psychiatrist because I’m a dork about self-improvement and the human psyche. But as the years went by, I began to fall out of love with psychology as a discipline and to immerse myself wholeheartedly into the College of Letters. The College of Letters is an interdisciplinary major unique to Wesleyan University, dedicated to the study of European literature, history, and philosophy from the antiquity to the present. One of the milestones of this major is a comprehensive examination for juniors, during which my colleagues and I wrote two 1800-word essays per day for three consecutive days. It sounds terrible, I’ll admit. But I kid you not, it was a blast. (I submitted a day’s worth of work. See if you can’t read my passion between the lines!)
Outside of the academic rewards of this major, I fell in love with the passionate discussions and lively relationships that I enjoyed with my classmates and professors, both inside and outside of the classroom. During this time, I was having difficulty embracing the cold, impersonal aspect of psychological research. I didn’t appreciate stripping my interviewees of their beautiful, complex individuality and reducing them to single plot points on a graph tweaked for maximum linearity. After much introspection, I realized that a future in research as a PhD student was not what I truly wanted. No, I would rather brave science classes and med school if it meant that I would be able to spend my life engaging in deep conversations with my fellow human beings. I aspire to become a psychiatrist because I specifically want to have conversations about finding one’s own path towards self-discovery.
Flipping from the humanities into the hard sciences is a difficult transition to make, no doubt about that. Nothing that we study looks familiar to me, other than the occasional vague recognition of concepts learned in high school. I have noticed, however, that certain skills carry over across disciplines, suggesting the existence of some sort of link. For example, years of pouring through dense philosophical treatises makes lifting main ideas, themes, and hints out of textbooks and lab manuals quite manageable. I find that I enjoy getting into the rhythm of physics―locating missing variables, comparing equations, and arranging them to get from a to b to c really does feel like I’m solving a puzzle in a different language. It reminds me of the hours I would spend in a bookstore comparing all the different translations of a foreign work of literature before making a purchase. Thus, there are multiple methods to get to a single solution, just as there are multiple translations to get to the point of a novel. The fun part for me is choosing the path.