The Big Switch: Biophysics to English

It has been just shy of three weeks since I have felt my feet on the pavement of campus, tasted the cottage cheese in the FFC, or happily joked with my friends in the AMR 2 common room. Skype and mass-text threads have done their duty and I still feel connected to my friends, and today I find myself on a train to Connecticut reflecting on the fall semester. To those of you who keep up with my Hopkins Interactive profile page or my life, I feel that I owe an explanation: changing my major from Biophysics to English? What the heck happened?

My closest friends will tell you that Physics I for Biological Science Majors was the culprit. And they will be mostly correct. Physics was the first class I ever attended in college, and from the moment I sat down in the lecture hall and my professor started talking, I had an ominous feeling wash over me: “…what is going on?” I excelled in Biology and Chemistry in high school (and even tested out of the intro classes with my AP scores), but there was something about Physics that refused to click.

My fall 2011 class schedule

For the first midterm I decided to adopt the handy-dandy “let’s hope osmosis absorbed this information” theory, and I was rewarded with an extremely low grade. It is at that point that I began lugging around the 10-pound Physics textbook and reading it like the Bible. My friends noticed a dramatic shift whenever I had to do my Physics homework: there was the Zoe before confusion and agony, and the Zoe trying to understand anything Newton theorized.

Before your assumptions lead you down this path, I would caution you that it is not the fear of hard work which led me to consider a different major. In fact, all majors at Hopkins are demanding in their own right. I took a Philosophy class in the fall and found myself reading many pages of dense material each night and writing papers every two weeks. I also found myself more inspired to do this kind of work, and even a little gleeful when comparing Descartes to the allegory of the cave. Adults always told me that you can only find what you want to do by finding what you like to do, and I guess that journey has proven more complicated than expected.

When I decided to switch to a humanities-oriented major in November-ish, JHU_Ian posted an interesting article to my Facebook wall explaining how a very high percentage of students in top-tier universities do exactly what I am doing; that is, switch from a science major to a humanities major. At the same time, I don’t really consider it a switch anymore. I think I was always meant to pursue English, and I just got distracted and consequently knocked out some distribution credits. College is an interesting time because you finally get to see your life as YOUR life, and I have learned that a large part of what I am passionate about resides in reading and writing.

A typical day in the lab at Bayview

I have worked in a lab at Hopkins Bayview the past two summers, and one of my colleagues would always tell me the same thing: “Zoe, you’re just too bubbly for science. I see you more as a… party planner!” Though I do plan many events with my group of friends, I do not see that as my eventual career path. But, you get the gist. I have not completely checked off anything having to do with science, in fact I am perusing a Psychology double major at the moment as well. It is just that sometimes you have to learn to trust yourself, and when vectors make you want to stick your head in the toilet, maybe it is time to reconsider.

If you would like to look at the requirements for the different majors and minors at Hopkins, the link is here: . The academics blog on the Hopkins Interactive site is also very helpful in getting a feel for all of your options. Happy new year everyone!

Spring 2012 class schedule


5 thoughts on “The Big Switch: Biophysics to English

  1. Pingback: The Best of the Best | Class of 2015: Freshman Blog

  2. Hey Zoe,
    I just have to say this post really hit home for me because I have been having an almost identical experience with this AP Physics class I am taking this year, I am a senior by the way. What advice would you have for someone (me) who truly desires to be involved in the Biological Sciences field, but does not have a grasp on Physics?

    i’m SO pumped that another SAAB star is an English major with me! ahh!

  4. I think that’s why having covered grades freshman fall semester is a great thing – it really lets you to test the waters without any damage! :)