By Katrin Friesen
How did I end up majoring in public relations and geology with a specialization in nonprofit communication management? Well, it took a while, just as it takes a while for me to say it.
When I came to The University of Alabama, I was an undecided, or “exploratory,” student. I had chosen to attend UA because of its multiple, strong degree programs, since I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my college career.
During my first semester, I took classes I was interested in that would fulfill my gen-ed requirements: MC 101 Intro to Mass Communication because I love to write, HD 101 Lifespan Human Development to explore humanities and GEO 101 The Dynamic Earth because I had been told it was an easy science. I truly enjoyed all of these courses equally, as they each were a part of my personality, but the geology one I didn’t realize until much later.
Going home for Thanksgiving break, I was prepared to tell my parents I was going to major in human environmental sciences. It offered careers in places I had always pictured myself in, like schools, volunteer sites, etc. But something odd happened during that break that completely changed my direction: I received an email from my geology professor. She told me I had the best grades in her class and encouraged me to consider a career in geological sciences. I immediately disregarded the email until my parents told me it would not hurt to have a chat with her to explore my options.
So, before winter break, I sat down with my professor and, after an hour-and-a-half-long conversation, she had become my academic adviser. She opened my eyes to a whole new realm of possibilities I did not know existed. I never saw myself getting a science-y degree for many reasons, but geology was a science I understood, and it was fascinating to me. Excited for my road ahead, I officially declared a geology major with a minor in public relations. I knew it would mean a lot of work, but I was prepared and had the support behind me.
I was doing just alright my sophomore year — taking a lot of classes I never dreamed I would be doing on a collegiate level — but by the spring semester, I was missing writing and having conversations about what was happening in the world. With more self-reflection, I determined I was forcing something that was not there. While I am interested in geology and can understand scientific articles about it, I could not, and did not want to, conduct the science behind it. Discouraged, I felt like I was a freshman again, with no major and no idea what to do with my life.
After talking to my other adviser from the College of Communication and Information Sciences, I was able to change my PR minor to a major and also complete a less rigorous major in geology. Feeling more confident than ever, I thrived in my junior year. I was back to enjoying every one of my classes and started getting involved on campus. One organization, University of Alabama Dance Marathon (UADM), was something that touched near to my heart. UADM raises money throughout the school year for Children’s of Alabama. Doing this work for such a great cause led me to reflect on where I started at UA and how I originally wanted to do humanitarian work. So, I added a nonprofit communication management specialization to my title.
Now here I am, a senior. A senior who changed her course of study four times in the span of four years. A senior who is on track to graduate in the spring of 2021. A senior who still (sometimes) feels undecided.
I think everyone stresses about what they are going to do in their lives. For many, that time is when they first get to college. For me, it is ongoing. But that is the beautiful thing about education and the current professional world. You can always go back to school and continue your education, and you are likely not going to keep the same job for your entire life. Right now, I look forward to finding a career in the environmental industry, where I can do PR work for a nonprofit.
I never expected that three completely unrelated classes I took my very first semester in college would mold into a degree that I cannot wait to finish and a career I cannot wait to start. Be kind and patient to yourself throughout college. Listen to yourself and those around you, because you only get these four quick years to set yourself up for a lifetime of success and happiness.
Most importantly, remember: It is okay to be undecided.
Katrin (Kat) Friesen is a senior C&IS student from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a remote intern for Epilepsy Foundation Alabama, serves as director of BAMAthon for UADM, is the secretary for UA’s chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and is UA PRSSA’s VP of diversity and inclusion. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.