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  • Writer's pictureTan Armado

Why I Made the Switch: From Economics to CNM

Hello friends! From the title, I’m sure the overall story is quite clear cut. Currently, I’m in the third year of my undergraduate studies and coming to my fourth year now. I’ve made the bold decision to swap my majors, from Economics to Communications in Year 3 Semester 1, which was the last official semester that FASS students can do so.

University offers us a myriad of choices, be it academic or extra-circular. The structure of FASS allows us as students to explore the wide variety of majors offered. Ironically, I fit myself into a box, fixated on a singular thought, believing that my initial choice was the right one.

One year after my “life-changing” decision, I decided to reflect upon the entire experience, look back at the journey and also provide advice to those that may potentially be in the same boat as myself!

**Short Disclaimer: By no means am I attempting to heavily promote or devalue any majors or modules shared in this article! I might lowkey be spilling some tea about certain nuances within the departments but do note that the thoughts and opinions shared are largely based on my own personal lived experiences! 😊

In the Beginning

Picture this, you’re someone in the Arts Stream in Junior College, and the choice of university courses is rather limited (well at least in my perspective back then). You could either opt for Business, Law or lean towards taking up Humanities and Social Sciences.

I was good in Economics and Mathematics back when I was in Junior College. Looking back, I would attribute this being the main and only reason why I initially decided on Economics as a major. I believed that taking Economics as a major would be perfect given how my friends, seniors and teachers told me it would be a combination of the two subjects. I did take Geography as well but as much as I loved the subject, I felt that I had satisfied my curiosity for the subject matter.

So there I went opting for Economics as my major, every single declaration exercise for the first 2 years of my undergraduate life. At the start, the content was relatively accessible given how the introduction modules (EC1101E) and level-2000 modules were built upon content previously taught in JC. Unfortunately, over time I found myself struggling.

The existence of the bell curve was not entirely healthy and impeded learning (this applies to all modules in general, but it felt especially apparent). Economics modules were heavily reliant on examinations as the bulk of the assessments. On average, mid-term and final examinations weighed in at 30 to 35% and 40 to 45% accordingly. There was a mid-term examination where the median mark was 29/30, which goes to show how competitive the course is. Even praying to the almighty bell curve god did me no favours.

From a young age, we’ve been heavily inculcated and engineered almost to strive for academic excellence. Coupled with consistent competition, the rat race really wore me out. I found myself solely focused on the grades, falling into almost a fixed mindset, blaming myself and not analysing the areas where I went wrong. I struggled to understand the concepts being taught because they felt too theoretical, lacked any real-life examples, and voided relatability and accessibility.

The Covid-19 pandemic did a huge toll on my motivation as well. Lectures were uploaded rather than conducted in-real time and having to study at home blurred the lines between work and rest. The lack of motivation and resulting lack of discipline to keep up with my studies caused me to spiral down even further.

Second Thoughts and Chances

The turning point was when I noticed a pattern in my grades at the end of Year 2. I realised that sadly no matter how hard I tried to internalise, digest and practice, I kept getting sub-par grades. Comparatively, I was doing far better in my CNM modules and thoroughly enjoyed what I was learning.

The content and topics in the modules that I took were largely accessible and relatable. In NM2303: Fake News, Sift Fact from Fiction, we learnt how to navigate and equip ourselves with the necessary skills to evaluate the reliability of media information. This was highly relevant seeing as how we are constantly exposed to different forms of media content online and fake news has been largely pervasive in recent years.

In NM2220: Introduction to Media Writing, I learnt about actual media writing skills, ranging from lifestyle article writing to public communications that we put into practice through the various assessments. The module enabled me to practice other skills such as interviewing, story pitching, ideation, and content production.

In other modules that focused largely on communication theory and cultural studies, I felt that it was interesting to listen to the thoughts and opinions shared by others with regard to different issues plaguing society. This allowed me to see the value of learning from others. Diversity in interaction exposes us to different paradigms of thoughts from classmates’ sharing, and thinking was no longer fixated on simply numbers and constraints within a mathematical equation.

Additionally, after much soul-searching, it occurred to me that media has been playing an integral part in my life. From a young age, I always played around with sound editing through Audacity and video editing using Microsoft Movie Maker or iMovie, planning and executing class videos for graduation ceremonies or end-of-year celebrations in secondary school. This deep-rooted interest combined with the appeal of learning actual practical skills from my CNM modules spurred me further to reconsider my options.

As such, I took that leap of faith and told myself that this is a second chance, I could not afford to mess it up. Over the course of my first semester as a Communications major, I found myself having greater motivation when approaching my studies and thoroughly enjoying the content of the modules I took.

Funnily enough, when I swapped majors, one of my fellow Economics friends actually made a comment saying, “Yeah, I never saw you as an Econs major, I think CNM suits you much better” (Lowkey getting thrown shade by my friend right here, but I could see where he was coming from).

I’m unsure about my major choice, what should I do?

If you’re someone wondering if you should take a leap of faith or circle back to a similar situation to mine, here are 3 advice I hope would enlighten and enable you guys to gain some clarity and certainty!

a) Gear yourself towards things that you are passionate about

Naturally, if you engage with material that you are interested in, you would be more receptive to newer ideas and concepts proposed. Understanding your likes and dislikes might take some time, but that’s the great thing about university – having the opportunity to try new things!

Keep an open mind towards new experiences, academics-wise, introductory modules are a great stepping stone in exposing yourself to what a major has to offer. Try taking level-2000 modules too if you would like to get the best sensing of what the major offers! Who knows, you might be inclined to take on a minor! Minor requirements have been reduced in total – to 20 MCs which means 5 modules compared to the previous 24MCs!

Additionally, with the new implementation of the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), students do have to take an increased number of core modules. This increase does signify of how students are required to expand their horizons by exposing themselves to various academic modules. Thus, it is important that we discover the subjects we are passionate about rather than undertaking a major deemed to be "popular" or "successful".

b) Figure out what you want to achieve from your university life

A piece of advice that I tend to impart to my friends or juniors is that University life is how you want to make it. If you are the type that fully intends to get a 5.0 CAP, straight As and maintain your first-class honours, go for it!

University is the last consistent opportunity for you to actively socialise and if you want to make as many memories as possible, lean towards that thought and enjoy yourself! Plan the necessary steps and set your mind to it, when you have an end goal in mind, it eases your thought process and anxieties!

c) Do your best in enjoying the learning process and not focus on the grades

From a young age, being exposed to our local Singaporean education system has hardwired us to instinctively value grades over anything else. I would strongly urge everyone to try to deviate away from this line of thought. Do your best in actively engaging with the materials presented in class, don’t be afraid to speak out and participate! If you have any doubts, do go the extra mile to chat with your professors!

Final Thoughts

It is important to note that everyone is different in their own unique way, we all progress at different pacing and grow at different rates. If you require more time to gain clarity and realisation with regards to understanding yourself, take all the time you need!

I completely understand that it might be hard at first, especially with the presence of imposter syndrome, feeling the necessity to compare yourself to others to gain certainty about where you are standing. But once you’re able to get past that hurdle, I can assure you that you will be satisfied and happier!

Right now, I am happily doing better in Communications, thoroughly enjoying the content I am learning while making new friends along the way. Thankfully, having declared CNM as a minor previously, I did not have to over-compensate or revise my overall study plan too much. Coincidentally, FASS had also revised the requirements for the declaration of a second major (from 48MCs to 40MCs) and it just so happened that I had taken 40MCs in Economics thus far.

Next semester, I’ll be undertaking my Compulsory Internship Programme (CIP) and I am looking forward to being able to learn more from the experience! As it is currently internship seeking period, if you are interested in knowing more about our CIP and the experiences undergone by your fellow CNM friends, do check out our other articles too! Wishing everyone a great summer ahead! :)

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