So what are you?

Now I bet you’ve spend the past four days wondering: if she’s not headed to medical school, then where is she going?

Good question. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Currently, I am stuck between the two sides of conservation: biology and environmental policy. No matter what I do, I know I want to give back positively to society, so for now I’m hoping my educational experience will somehow align with all of the stars and planets, propelling me into a career that is both viable and enjoyable. But my internal conflict is emphasized exponentially during summer program application season because I’m still not fully sold on my future.

While I would love to work in the conservation biology or environmental policy fields, I can’t help but dream about alternate, exciting and different careers. I like working with people, so why not become a genetics counselor? A National Geographic correspondent perhaps. That’s the problem: I can’t fully justify to the people reading my applications why I want to be a part of their program because I can’t imagine immersing myself in that kind of work for the rest of my life. And because of that, there’s no clear cause-and-effect rationale that I can follow to ensure my summer directly correlates to my future.

I know I am not alone in this large mess. I talk to my other friends who are Biology majors and with a few exceptions, we’re all unclear, waiting for that one experience that will set off a million light bulbs and fireworks. As a Biology major who isn’t pre-med, I personally feel that I don’t have enough of these experiences available on campus. Almost every program the Division of Biological Sciences puts on is skewed slightly in the medical direction, so I have to search harder for opportunities that resonate with my interest. Yes, UCSD does have great resources for major and career exploration at the Career Center, but until we experience it ourselves, all the advice in the world won’t be enough.

So to all of you – pre-med and not – applying for summer programs, here’s my advice. Don’t take the summer as fast-pass to the rest of your life. It’s one summer, a stepping stone, to whatever path you choose. But still, don’t take it lightly. Use the application process as an opportunity for introspection, even if that means being more confused than you were before. Why do you like biology? Why are you here at UCSD? And most importantly, how will you make this summer matter?