August 5, 2015

Taking the Freshman Risk

As a rising junior, I still look back on my academic experience at Lafayette and find that one of the best decisions I made was with my freshman year schedule. In my final year of high school, I became very passionate about politics and was absolutely certain I was going to be a Government and Law major. There was nothing stopping me from going straight through with that degree, writing an Honor’s Thesis, and heading to law school after I got my Bachelor’s.

Danielle Ward holds a "Forward" sign from the Obama 2012 presidential campaign

Little ol’ high school me, at a 2012 rally for Obama and so certain I was to become a Gov/Law major

I planned out my schedule with my adviser. Obviously, I picked a First-Year Seminar, and then since I was also interested in literature and chemistry, I picked a literary history course and the intro to Chemistry class. Finally, I was dead set on taking Political Theory, where I would read the great political scholars and take my first shot at thinking like the future lawyer I was.

That’s where my adviser stopped me. I had told her I was a bit nervous about transitioning to college, and she said that through her experience with the Gov/Law department that Intro to International Politics would be a better class to take. I reluctantly agreed; at that point, I had very little interest in anything international.

That changed once I stepped into Kirby Hall of Civil Rights and started the course. My professor was upbeat, hilarious, and dynamic, and wanted us to learn as much as we possibly could by discussing current events as well as the topics from our book. I was enraptured by the class, and even though I ended up dealing with a concussion for the majority of my first semester, I was constantly in office hours asking questions so I could understand everything that was going on and to learn as much about the world as possible.

An exterior photo of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights

Kirby Hall of Civil Rights will always be one of my favorite buildings at Lafayette, regardless of major

Taking International Politics was the first step in me questioning if I should change my major and even my entire life path. Over the rest of freshman year, I signed up for more classes that would be relevant to both tracks, including the Political Theory course I had been looking forward to before I started at Lafayette.

Yet, every time I sat in one of my Government and Law courses, I wondered if my time would be better used studying everything on an international level. Through the courses I took that second semester and being introduced to the concept of social justice, I solidified in myself that there was no better path for me than to major in International Affairs.

It may sound nerdy, but every day I wake up and am grateful I get to study something I love so much. International Affairs, especially anything related to human rights, truly sets my heart on fire. My sophomore year, I really dove into the major, and learned so much about the world through the classes I have taken and the experiences that this major has given me.

Going into junior year, I now have the opportunity to truly hone those skills and study abroad this spring. One small decision I made my freshman year has changed the course of my entire life; I am now deciding between a Master’s program, teaching English abroad, or joining the Peace Corps after graduation. And with this major and the skills I have gained through it, I can potentially do all of those things.

I’m far from the only person who has had this experience, so if I have any advice to incoming freshmen, it’s that sometimes a small change in what you’re expecting can change your whole life, so embrace that opportunity.

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