A Freshman Finds Joy in an Undeclared Major

A freshman finds joy in an undeclared major. UC Davis freshman Leah Kalish poses at Dolores Park.
UC Davis freshman Leah Kalish relaxes at Dolores Park in San Francisco. (Talia Herzberg)

Sometimes, an undeclared major is the way to go

Success follows joy. As part of my first-year seminar class at UC Davis, I had the opportunity to learn more about this idea at the campus event “Discovering Joy in Your Choice of Major.” The discussion on Jan. 30 included a diverse panel of faith leaders, advisors, faculty and students who talked about The Book of Joy and their own careers.

I took away that internal joy is the ultimate goal — and it does not necessarily come from external factors like wealth or awards.

The pressure to commit to a major

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This event was very timely for me as I am currently trying to decide on a major. Despite being undeclared, I do not feel completely lost on my career path. I am quite self-aware, and I recognize my strengths and passions, such as writing, political activism and education. What is difficult, however, is choosing which interests deserve my academic efforts. The outcomes of my major are unknown. Not knowing the end result of my decision makes it feel like a guessing game, and I am not a fan of uncertainty.

The pressure of deciding a future arises prominently during high school and doesn’t seem to decrease. Teenagers are expected to know their career interests to choose a college that fits their academic needs, yet many students don’t officially commit to a major until they’ve been in college for a couple of years.

Thankfully, I feel confident that my university choice is the correct path, and I eagerly await the relief of having an answer to the frequent question, “What is your major?” Although I can’t help but wonder if I will actually feel more secure in my vision of the future by picking a major. It gives more clarity to the classes I will take in upcoming quarters and my likely career path, yet there are still so many unknown opportunities that will arise and lead to different futures for myself.

The Book of Joy by The Dalai Lama, Douglas Abrams and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Are joy and happiness synonyms?

In simple terms, yes. Growing up, I had always been taught that those words held the
same meaning: a euphoric feeling of reward after achieving a desired result. Through
the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy, however, I
was able to gain a new understanding of joy.

I now know that joy is not based on external factors, but rather, unbreakable hope and constant gratitude.

The speakers at the discussion emphasized that college can be difficult with its constant distractions. But if we view these distractions as opportunities, they can enable us to thrive. The speakers also expressed that students should not feel limited by the time constraints that often go along with the typical educational timeline.

No need to worry

While my major choice is a stressor in my life, I am not overwhelmed with fear. As the panelists discussed at the event, true joy will come as long as I continue to follow my passions and where they lead me on a day-to-day basis. I carry a sense of hope within myself that my future decisions will take me on the path that is meant to be.

To my undeclared peers: It will all work out, take time with your decision, and feel proud of your thought process.

Leah Kalish is a freshman at UC Davis in the College of Letters and Sciences. She is a member of Released Contemporary Dance Company and Alpha Delta Pi, in addition to being a student fundraiser at the UC Davis Telephone Outreach Program. Visit her on LinkedIn.


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