This year, I’m in the first year of my new Bachelor, because after 3 years of studying Political Sciences in one of the most reputed schools of France, I decided to start over to study something that I really like, somewhere else. I know many people out there are also frustrated in their studies but don’t dare to quit and do what they like. I hope this story can help some of them take the best decision of their life 🙂
- I always had a perfect life-plan
When I was in high school (damn, that already feels so far), I remember all the drama around “choosing your orientation”. I remember our teachers putting pressure on us, our parents putting pressure on us, and even ourselves putting pressure on each other.
Personally, I had never really felt affected by all this drama. When I was like 9 years old, my big brother got a Nintendo DS game for Christmas called Pheonix Wright. It basically puts you in the role of a lawyer that has to defend an accused murderer, and gather pieces of evidence, lead cross-examination during the trial, etc. I literally fell in love with this game and decided that I was meant to be a penal lawyer.
I kept this idea in mind for almost 10 years. When I arrived in high school, that’s still what I wanted to do. Of course, I had made some more research and had redefined the idea a bit, but essentially I wanted to work in the legal domain and be close to police investigations.
- School pressure started to get to me and to instil some doubt into me
Long story short, my teachers started to do the typical brain-washing speech about the “Grandes Ecoles” (great schools = category of universities with extremely low admission rate and a great logo on your CV at the end of the curriculum).
This idea of being special, of doing something special hit me. I mean, who doesn’t wanna be special? I knew my parents would be so proud, and after all, if such school is so famous, I’ll probably get a good job in the end, right? I could always do a law master afterwards to become a lawyer.
After lots of doubts and hesitations, I decided to register for the selection exam, work hard, and take it. I’ll spare you the suspense, I made it to the bottom of the waiting list (which is not bad at all but usually insufficient to be admitted). After some episodes of tears and drama, I finally accepted it, signed up for the law degree I had always had in mind and started to get excited about it.
- I studied at Sciences Po, one of the most famous schools in my country!
What I did not expect was to receive a phone call, at the end of summer, a couple of days before school starts, from Sciences Po to casually tell me that I had been admitted. I literally collapsed on the floor of my living room, my face full of tears of joy. But still, I had a little voice in my head that told “Don’t confirm right away. Think about it. To be a lawyer, is this political school really better than law school?”
I asked a few hours to think, and eventually called back to confirm. I might have always hated politics, but if most of the French presidents had gone through this school, it had to be great, right?
- …Was it the right choice?
During my first year, I was obviously very proud of my new university but thought the classes were WAY more boring than I expected. People… Well, I could write a book about the people of this school. There are basically two types: half of the students don’t even know why they’re there. They have no idea what they wanna do with their life and only ended up there because they had great grades and wanted to display the diploma on their resumé. The other half was ambitious, strongly politically involved and knew exactly what they were doing there.
Obviously, I couldn’t relate to any of that, and I started to wonder “What am I doing here?”
But I hung on. I was not getting very good grades, but who did? I passed all of my exams, without going to the re-exam.
- The turning-point: my exchange year
The second year was a year abroad, with the Erasmus program for my side. I wanted some change, some fresh air. I wanted to experience a real winter, tons of snow and I wanted to see the Northern Lights.
I have lived in Umeå, Sweden for 9 months. I had very few classes, not a lot of work, but the courses I had got to choose were really interesting – much more than the courses I had to follow at my home university. This year gave me a lot of time to think, about many things. I got to try things that I had never tried before – going on a road trip with 4 people I had never met, bike to a lake at 3am because the Aurora forecast had suddenly got exciting, camp in 3m of snow layer -, meet so many people that I couldn’t even keep up with the names, get inspired by so many stories.
Do you start to see where this is all going?
I questioned everything. I had known for years that a lawyer doesn’t investigate. So why sticking to this idea? Because of glory. A lawyer is respected, it takes a lot of study years, there’s a lot of competition, the selection process is harsh and the salary high. But where had my passion gone?
I had been so focused on sticking to my plan and having a perfect plan of my life prepared that I forgot to take into account how I had evolved. I realised I was passionate about communication. I felt so lost, I felt like I had missed out on myself for years.
Meanwhile, I also met my boyfriend, who is from Spain. We moved in together a little less than 2 months after we started dating. We were facing a huge dilemma. Had our relationship an expiration date?
The major point I forgot to mention is that the school I was enrolled at is a 5 years curriculum, out of which you get a master. But if you stop before, you don’t get a bachelor or any kind of diploma. It’s 5 years or nothing.
- We made a new life plan
We took our chance. I knew I wouldn’t get a diploma, but European law forces universities to give out ECTS credits that attest you have passed a certain amount of courses. After going back to my home university and pass my third year, I would have the equivalent of a Bachelor, right? 180 ECTS credits.
The plan was to go back to our respective home countries for one year, and then find a place where we could both study a master. We soon found out that many universities required a Bachelor degree and not only the equivalent credits, and I realised I would have to start over, from scratch. First year of studies, after 3 years of university.
- The ugly side of the story
There’s a term in France that drives everyone crazy and that is the absolute image of life failure: échec scolaire. A proper translation could be “school failure“, but it doesn’t pay tribute to the extreme connotation it has in France. It’s the shame of the family, the pity from the neighbours, the hidden secret that no one should know.
The hardest part was to tell my parents. They were so proud of me being in one of the most reputed schools in the country. When I got admitted, they told everyone. When I told them I wanted to quit, they took it as a slap in their face. Followed by another slap: the fact that I didn’t wanna study in France anymore.
It was really tough to explain that:
- No, I was not stopping school, but going for another study field
- No, I was not doing it for my boyfriend, but for myself
- No, it wasn’t an Erasmus whim
- No, I wasn’t wasting 3 years of my life since they helped me figure out who I am
- Yes, the whole thing was thoroughly thought and carefully prepared
It took a lot of work, a lot of talks, a lot of time for my parents to accept this idea and start believing in me again.
It was complicated to remove the expressions “give up”, “fail”, “drop out”, “reckless” from their mouths. Eventually, I managed.
- The happy ending
The point of this story is that I am now literally blooming. I study what I like, I am of course still bored in some classes, but at least I can see the overall picture. I know why I’m here. I am unconditionally happy with this decision, it opened my eyes on my life opportunities, on my potential, on who I wanted to be.
So please, if you ever feel like you’re not going the right path, if you feel like your heart is taking another direction than your brain, take some time and consider your options. There are always options. Yes, I had to make some compromises, break some hearts and I fed tons of rumours… But it was so worth it!
Take the time to ask your self the right questions:
- What are you studying now?
- Do you like it? What do you like/dislike about it?
- When you have no obligations, what do you enjoy doing?
- Is it possible to make a living out of it? How?
- How do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years?
- What matters the most to you? Have a lot of free time? Earning a lot of money? Being your own boss?
- What sounds exciting?
Don’t think about what people will say, how your family will take it. Don’t get me wrong, your family advice is priceless and if they are willing to give it to you, take it! But if you feel they’re too hurt to help you, the best way to help them in return is to make a solid plan and show them how happy it makes you.
Listen to yourself, and trust yourself. Those questions are absolutely primordial.
Feel free to share your experience with me! I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a lot of ups and downs on my way to adulthood. Let me know in the comments!
Cover photo: ©Rafael – pexels.com