I must admit, after paying the initial deposit and cementing my decision to attend Lehigh, I became slightly apprehensive about enrolling as a student in the College of Arts and Sciences at a university with such renowned engineering and business schools.
My uneasiness grew a little bit during the summer, and I can remember several instances when I heard myself telling parents of my friends where I’d be attending school in a few months.
“Oh, so you want to be an engineer, huh?” they’d ask me.
“Um… no… not exactly,” I’d respond, laughing it off and nervously changing the topic of conversation.
I was always a driven student in high school, and I knew that being admitted to a great academic institution like Lehigh was an achievement to be proud of — I never really worried about keeping up with my work or succeeding at a university several times larger than my high school.
I reminded myself that comfortability comes with familiarity, and that comes with time. This kept me at least partly grounded as the summer days waned and my departure for Bethlehem loomed.
But to be honest, I also spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out when I would discover what I wanted to study, even as I would be surrounded by many students who seemingly already knew what they wanted to do when they graduated.
Everyone within our community knows Lehigh is a rigorous academic institution. Our school has high expectations for students from the minute we are accepted, and we have equally high expectations of our university.
Many arrive at Lehigh with an exact plan of which courses they will take each year, which major they will choose and which internship they will land each summer to propel them to a desired job after graduation. I did not.
When I applied to college, I pretty quickly narrowed my list down to liberal arts colleges and excellent universities that I enjoyed visiting, and offered strong liberal arts majors. I set optionality as a top priority in my search for the right match for me. As a student who loves history, English and French, I knew I wanted to pursue a major that was somewhat related to those general fields, but I did not want to rush into a decision.
Upon arriving at campus, I wasn’t particularly surprised by what I found, as my first impression was that the university is neatly tailored to students with specific focuses, particularly those pursuing degrees in engineering or business. It was not that unexpected to hear common misconceptions about the College of Arts and Sciences, or the College of “Arts and Crafts,” as some students joke.
Nonetheless, I felt like I had made a great choice and that I was home in Bethlehem. My focus never wavered, and, from the start, I knew the College of Arts and Sciences was perfect for me — after all, it offered an opportunity to study new things and take very different types of courses in my first year, ranging from economics to international relations, and French to anthropology.
I knew I had prerequisites to fulfill, but I was in no rush to complete them. I needed time to find my passion.
I took my first class in journalism during my sophomore year with professor Bill White, “Writing for the Media I.” By the end of the semester, a spark had been ignited, and I sensed that I found something which I was interested in and somewhat talented in. I decided I would take another journalism course that spring to confirm that the passion I thought I felt for journalism was not limited to one course.
After another enjoyable and successful semester, and a great deal of reflection, I met the head of the department, Jack Lule, and I told him I wanted to major in journalism. He told me that he was excited to welcome me aboard, and that I was ready to begin writing for The Brown and White.
Fast forward to today, and I am halfway through my spring semester of my third year at Lehigh. I am majoring both in journalism and global studies, while minoring in French. I am an associate sports editor for The Brown and White, and have been lucky enough to write stories for print on some of my favorite sports — including Lehigh club hockey, a team I enjoyed playing for during my freshman year.
I have learned a great deal throughout my time at Lehigh. Much of my time has been spent in the classroom across three disciplines, but I’d say I’ve learned more about myself outside the classroom than I ever would have imagined.
I am grateful for the opportunity to study in the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh, and to be guided by great professors and caring advisers who have counseled me along the way. Their feedback and suggestions have helped grow a nascent interest in journalism into a bona fide passion, which I hope will evolve into a rewarding career long after I leave Bethlehem.
More than anything, though, I’ve learned that you don’t need to have a detailed road map for your college career when you arrive on the first day of freshman year. Take time to break out of your comfort zone, meet new people and experiment in classes with which you are unfamiliar.
It may end up becoming the most rewarding experience of your life. Oh, and it’s also okay to attend a great school at a great university, even if other programs get more attention from people outside of Lehigh.
So, for me, last summer, when folks would ask if I wanted to become an engineer, I would smile at them and say, “No, actually, I want to become a writer. After all, I go to Lehigh.
Kenneth Mazzaro is an associate sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]