How the J school saved my life (from utter mundanity)

íHola mis amigos!

Today I want to express my appreciation for the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, West Virginia University’s center for budding journalists.

It may have saved my life.

You see, when I came to college in August 2008, I was not a writer.  I was not a reporter, and I was not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination.

I was, in fact, a chemistry  major!  Saying it now sounds ridiculous, but at 17-years-old, I thought I wanted to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon.   What was I thinking again?

After four semesters of science, math and more boring lectures and labs than anybody should ever be subjected to (IMO of course, if that’s your thing, I sincerely admire you), I knew I needed a change. After all, the path to becoming a neurosurgeon is not a quick one; I was looking at at least eight years of my life invested in becoming this highly specialized sculptor of the cerebrum.

Again, no thanks.

So what was I to do?  I wasn’t doing poorly in my classes, so it would be hard to explain to my parents and friends why I needed out.  This was my lifelong goal, and suddenly I looked to the future and didn’t like what I saw.

What I did like, however, was writing. I always have, and the fact that I never thought to explore a career perfecting the craft, in hindsight, is mind-boggling.

Even better, I am a very social person.  I love talking to people and feel comfortable chatting up a wide variety of subject matter.  You like sports? Music? Dogs? Cars? I’ll talk to you about any of it.

So here we have a 17-year-old social being with a passion for writing trapped in the bleak world of hard science.  Where do I go from here?

Looking at it this way, it’s pretty obvious–journalism!

Why I didn’t think of this sooner, as I said before, is mind-boggling.  I don’t know why I (or any of my friends/family for that matter) couldn’t see this path, but I am glad WVU was happy to accommodate my 180 degree change of plans.

Immediately, I felt better, rejuvenated.  My academic adviser was more personal (we talked about the Steelers for the first 15 minutes or so before even mentioning why I was there), my classes were more engaging, and the opportunities around me were plentifully abundant.

Which is where I want to make my point: if you’re unhappy with your current major, consider a change.  This can’t be a hasty decision obviously, and the final call is ultimately yours.  If you love writing, meeting people and being involved in your community and the people that inhabit it, journalism might be for you.

It certainly was for me, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you’ve ever changed your major, for better or for worse, I want to hear from you.  Why did you change?  What were you unhappy with in your previous major, and did the new major fix this/these problem(s)?

Leave a comment below, and I’ll be happy to chat about it!


  1. Anan said:

    Your story recalls me how I decided to study journalism in US. I went to college at 16, a quite young age, in China, and my major was sports English which sounds a little weird, but it is considered as a promising major in China. When I was 18(that’s when I can think maturely about my own stuff), I found out that my interest was journalism! It‘s always not easy to change your major in China, so I decided to continue studying what I really like after college. I should say I did quite good in my college, and the people around me all thought I should continue studying sports English and choose it as my career. But I don’t like it. It’s sometimes hard for me to get into a totally new field and live alone in a foreign environment, but like what you said J school and journalism saved my life:)

    • thecoalfist said:

      Hey Anan! That’s a pretty awesome story! Like me, you faced a tough decision and went with what you really felt you wanted to do, journalism. I’m glad you found a similar salvation in journalism and I’m glad that you found happiness through writing and reporting here in the USA! Very cool 😀

  2. That’s something that’s pretty cool about journalism – the ability to switch into the craft so easily. Plus, journalism by itself doesn’t have to be what you enjoy writing about (i.e., not all journalists write about government). You enjoy MMA, so you’re able to write about MMA, but be a journalist at the same time. There’s a need for journalism in all fields, which makes the diversity of our career path really cool.

    • thecoalfist said:

      I absolutely agree with you, Matt. My first experience with journalism was with music/arts (through the DA), but I’m increasingly involved in the MMA community with the blog and my work on Bleacher Report. That alone shows how diverse it can be (and oftentimes is) and just how many options there are within the field. Going back to my chemistry “career,” there was really only one option for me: medical school. Now, I have a myriad of options, all of which are more tantalizing to me anyway!

  3. I was in a very similar boat, but I actually had no intentions of ever going to college at all. I hadn’t even gotten as far as you did and picked any sort of major. In fact, my high school grades were abysmal, and I didn’t see any point in doing anything with my life.

    I ended up at a university mostly for lack of anything better to do, and a member of the English department saw some potential in me (a story not unlike your own). Writing won my heart, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since. And like Matt said, the diversity of the field makes it especially enticing. It can fit a variety of personality and interests.

    • thecoalfist said:

      That’s pretty awesome, Marshal. Given your penchant toward writing, I’m surprised you didn’t always see that (a career writing) as a goal for yourself!

      I’m glad the English professor saw the hidden talent and brought it out for us to enjoy! Hopefully I can share a similar success story as you’ve been able to in the years to come. 😀

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