Zahra Samiezade-Yazd

Zahra Samiezad found a new major fit her interests.

Zahra Samiezad found a new major fit her interests.

I came into UC Davis my freshman year undeclared. I always knew I wanted to do something related to public health, but only two of the universities I applied to had public health majors. Though I was interested in UC Davis, it didn't have any undergraduate programs that I felt clearly embodied what I wanted to learn. 

I enjoyed my AP psychology class in high school, and I saw that UC Davis had a bachelor of science option for psychology. I thought that maybe I'd be able to get a blend of science and social science courses that could prepare me for a wide range of public health careers. The psychology major is impacted, though, so I started on a path to complete the necessary prerequisites, enabling me to declare during my second year. 

Along the way, I took calculus and general chemistry, just like most of my friends who were science majors. As difficult as these courses were, I am very happy that I took them. Struggling to understand these subjects and coming out of them with good grades made me feel very accomplished. 

I also discovered how much I like science. My high school emphasized the importance of science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields, but I always felt left out of that world because I didn't feel as smart as my peers. Social science was what came easily to me. 

At UC Davis, general chemistry, in particular, changed my perception of science. There were no established smart kids or not-as-smart kids like in high school - everyone had earned their spot in this university. This effectively removed the barrier I once faced with science courses. 

With great diligence, I worked to beat the class average so I could get a good grade. To my surprise, I found that the material I was learning made me think of the world differently. I finally began to understand why my father, a physicist, sees science as both a creative outlet and a philosophy of life. The best way I can describe this perspective is that when I understand something new about the natural world, I feel like I also understand something new about myself. 

At that point, I began to question my decision to major in psychology. Our society needs highly-educated scholars to advance that field, but in terms of making the most of my own undergraduate education, I worried that I would be cheating myself by taking several of the social science courses that the major required instead of more natural science courses that I would enjoy. I still appreciate social science, and it does still come quite easily to me, but it isn't my passion. 

I began to re-explore the different majors that Davis had to offer, but I was undecided as to what my next step would be. Thankfully, I had a breakthrough during the summer before my second year. One night, UC Davis tweeted out that there were some brand new majors that the university would be offering. I took a look, and one of them was called "Global Disease Biology."

I found that it aligned almost perfectly with the goals that I had for my undergraduate education. It included curriculum from multiple scientific disciplines, a required senior research component and lots of connections to public health. All of the things I struggled to find in one place finally came together, and I declared immediately. 

Now that I'm taking more difficult science classes, I realize how hard it is going to be for me to get through the rest of my years here at UC Davis. What keeps me motivated is knowing that I would rather struggle a lot for something that excites me and makes me feel self-fulfilled than something that would come easily to me but not allow me to learn what I truly want to learn. 

For anyone who is still undeclared, my advice would be to not settle for anything that doesn't feel right. Figure out what your personal standards and goals are for your undergraduate experience and go from there. There are so many majors to choose from at UC Davis, and you'll know when the right one comes along.