Msome people know by the age of ten what they want to do with their lives. After that, they organize their lives. You choose or keep the school subjects that can be of advantage later in your studies and career; they work towards the NC needed for admission to medical or psychology courses; even her hobbies somehow fit the rest. I’m still a little jealous of that. The classic red thread does not exist for many. Even when I was 18, I didn’t know where to go. After high school I was so undecided that I had to get out first. Following the Lisas and Lenas to Australia seemed too extreme, but six months as an au pair in England also sounded good. That has to be enough to find yourself.
Back in Frankfurt, the serious side of life awaited: one placement test followed the next. Ultimately, the choice fell on law. After about eight weeks it was clear: this is not for me. But the step to abort was difficult. Admitting that you made the wrong choice and are stuck again is no small thing. What was going on? What will the family say? At that age you think you have to explain yourself to everyone, which doesn’t make things any easier. Fortunately, I quickly found a replacement: English Studies, otherwise simply called English Studies.
Language and literature have always been my thing. The compulsory minor became Empirical Linguistics with a focus on Japanese. Why Japanese? I still don’t know. My knowledge was limited to the vocabulary learned through anime and manga. So it is not surprising that in the following semester there was also a change of minor. It should be German studies. I barely lasted a month this time. A year later I had finally arrived with American Studies: Linguistics and cultural studies, history, sociology, literature – everything was there. After all, you shouldn’t limit yourself during your studies, but take something from everything with you in order to understand connections. But this interdisciplinarity also has a disadvantage: the path to a specific job is just as unpredicted as the timetable. You are spoiled for choice. Knowing yourself, your own strengths and weaknesses is therefore a must.
On the right way
An exchange semester at a college in New Jersey followed in 2016. It was a time that had a big impact on me. New friends, a similar yet alien culture, and a college bib that had a Starbucks in it. Even the classes were inspiring. I had never learned so much material in such a short time. The semester was shorter than in Germany, but there were deadlines almost every week. And I was keen to outperform.
That’s probably the best proof that you’re on the right track: when studying is fun and you don’t have to force yourself to do it all the time. It was okay to say no to a party once in a while. Balance is key. In November, in the middle of the semester, Trump was finally elected. At this point in time, the whole world had been watching the American election campaign in suspense and in some cases stunned for months. But I wanted to understand how such an outcome could come about, what processes took place. Back in Germany, I therefore registered for a double degree: the second major was political science. Nobody was more surprised than me. At school I had dropped out of politics in eleventh grade. From the point of view of my 16-year-old self, politics was something that didn’t affect my life anyway.
Was the confusion necessary?
Today I see it like this: detours and aborts are not a sign of failure. On the contrary: They testify to self-reflection and ambition. Not getting as far as one hopes is not the end of the world. Most of the time it’s social expectations that make you believe that life has to be linear. It’s hard not to lose yourself in self-doubt and comparisons with fellow students and friends.
I am now working on two theses and can hardly wait for the end. The days of working student jobs and poorly paid and unpaid internships are as good as over. It’s taken long enough, but I finally know what to do with myself. Stupid sayings like “Are you planning to work sometime?” or “Can you do more than just drive a taxi with it?” bounce off. I don’t know when you’re officially considered an adult. Stopping justifying yourself to others is probably a good start.
Was this confusion necessary for my personal development? Yes. I could never have studied something that doesn’t really interest me just because I might end up making good money or enjoying a good reputation. I’m happy to risk a future as a taxi driver, even if I don’t like driving. Things can always change.