Deciding what you want to major in can be tough. Some people go into college uncertain of what they wish to pursue. Ideally, it should be something that you’re passionate about, but as an Indian American, I’ve received a lot of friendly advice over the years as to why I should consider becoming a doctor. The Indian community puts great emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields because most Indians are really great at math and science. “Most” being the key word here, because I’m part of the exception that’s genuinely terrible at both.
Indian people tend to carry this stereotype that since we’re all so great at math and science we’re all going to become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or a business person. I, however, have always gravitated towards the arts. I used to perform in every school play. I signed up for every art extracurricular my school had to offer. I was always that one kid that would hand in twice the assigned writing.
I’ve been told that I was very adamantly against pursuing a medical degree since I was a toddler. Now I’m certain that at 4 years old, I couldn’t have possibly known that I wouldn’t have any interest in math or science because everything was fascinating back then. But I did know that, like every toddler, I was not a fan of doctors and that’s probably the only reason I had for not wanting to be one. Naturally, my parents assumed it was just a phase like all my other “life decisions” at the time, and once I got over my fear, I would probably circle back to the idea and at least consider it.
However, unlike many of my friends that chose to pursue a degree in pre-med because most of their family is in the medical field and it’s practically second nature to them, my dad is in IT and my mom has a degree in economics. Neither of them showed any particular interest in having me or my brother follow in their steps, nor did they force a particular career path onto us. Over the years I went through a multitude of possibilities: fashion designer, art curator, author and even archeology for a bit (that’s as far into science as I will get).
It’s been about four years since I decided to pursue journalism, and while I’m more than grateful that my parents and family are so supportive, it’s still hard to communicate the decision to some of the members of the Indian community. I’ve experienced one too many conversations that have gone a little like this:
[Insert generic Indian person I know]: So, you’re in your first year of college, right?
Them: Are you Pre-Med or PA?
Me: Actually, I’m studying Journalism and Political Science
Them: Oh ….
What usually ensues thereafter is some sort of awkward silence and/or an unconvincing “good for you.” Even before I was dead-set on journalism, many people would try to sway my decision hoping that by the time I enrolled in a university, I would change my mind. It’s not that they don’t have faith in me or what I wish to pursue, it’s just that India has generally had such a long history with STEM fields that many of them don’t see the value in communications its impact on society. For many parents, they would much rather see their child financially stable. This is not to say that those in communications related fields won’t make enough money, it’s just that the median salary isn’t really comparable to that of doctors or engineers.
The process has been slow, but after starting my journey this year as a journalism and political science major, I think I’ve worn some of them out and they’re finally starting to warm up to the idea. I’ve since engaged in many conversations that pertain to how involved I am with the journalism-related extracurriculars here at Hofstra, whether I’ve chosen between print or broadcast journalism, if I’m considering internships and the type of news I wish to cover in the future. In fact, many of the people that were once uncertain of the stability of journalism now look forward to seeing what the future holds for me.