Everyone remembers the days back in primary school, being asked what you wanted to be when I grew up. If I was a betting man, I’d say you’d throw up ideas of being spies, jet fighter pilots, soldier; if you’d seen it in a film you’d probably want to be one. For me, it was becoming a doctor. From primary school right up until sixth form, I wanted to study medicine. It seemed like the done thing for someone in my position; I adored science, I was getting the grades to get in, and most importantly I loved the idea of spending my life helping people. So why am I now studying biochemistry?
I know what you’re probably thinking, and you’re right in thinking it too. Medicine is one of the most competitive courses to get on to, and I most likely didn’t get the grades. But that wasn’t the case. At the end of my A levels I had the grades to get onto any medicine course in the country. My decision to change my career came earlier than results day. In fact, it came about during the summer between year 12 and 13, when I undertook work experience at my local hospital, shadowing two different consultants across two weeks. In this short period of time I was exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly. At the end of it, after having worked with junior doctors fresh out of medical school, and consultants that had been around for decades, I had made up my mind about going into medicine.
Medicine isn’t for everyone, that’s why most of us aren’t doctors and in that fortnight I found out that medicine wasn’t for me. Not because of the pressure of having peoples lives in your hands on a daily basis, the long shifts or the politics doctors are being pulled into; I realised the real reason I wanted to go into medicine was the science. Science has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, ever since the days of weekly release Horrible Science magazine which I would read religiously at 10 years old. After my time shadowing, I decided I could pursue my love of science through a degree that wouldn’t take 7 years of my life, and go into a career where I could still help people, be it more indirectly.
Biochemistry wasn’t the immediate choice for me however. I had to go back the drawing board, having numerous meetings with my tutor and careers mentors at school. What did help me decide was focussing my sights on the subject I loved, and how I could go on to satisfy my desire to help people along the way. After a few weeks of hard thinking and research about my future, I found the perfect degree. Biochemistry ticked all the boxes; the right balance of biology, chemistry and maths, along with the opportunity to expand into any biological field available as a career. The fact that it had one of the highest student satisfaction ratings of any course on Which? University was just icing on the cake.
Now two years into my degree, am I still feeling that changing my career path was the right decision? Yes, yes and yes again. I’m loving every moment of my degree, and I’m shaping a career that I would never have given a thought to when I was in sixth form. With a placement year coming up, and the possibility of completing a masters in my fourth year, I feel that I am taking leaps and bounds into becoming the professional scientist I have dreamt of becoming since I was 10, just in a slightly different field to the one I was thinking of back then.
So what’s the moral of the story? From my experiences, changing your career path to better suit your interests, beliefs and your image of your future self is not quitting. It’s challenging yourself to become the best version of you you can be. Nothing is set in stone, not even when you’re at university. Now is the time to explore what interests you, and what doesn’t and to come out of university not just with a degree, but with an idea of what career bests suits every aspect of YOU. Because at the end of the day you only have one life, and it’s yours to live.
Samuel Horsfield, SET team member and Msci Biochemistry Undergraduate