For students, deciding on a major they are passionate about and are content with is one of their biggest priorities. But for many, getting there is the hard part.
Freshman Ashriel Loh recently made the change from majoring in the College of Engineering’s Computer Science program, ranked fifth in the nation, to Graphic Design. Her passion for art started when she was 12 years old, but decided to study Computer Science with respect to her parents’ opinion.
“I would say it was 50 percent my parents influence on picking it, and 50 percent mine,” Loh said. “My hope would’ve been to actually major in graphic design from the start. But my parents wanted me to go into something that was a little more stable and had a better job outlook.”
Her dream was always to work in the gaming industry, and that is the one thing she refused to give up. Computer science was a compromise.
“My dad’s main concern was literally me finding a job afterwards,” Loh said. “He’s been telling me, ‘You can major in whatever you want as long as you can prove to me that you can get a job after you graduate.’”
One of the first required classes for her major was CS 125 and although there were no prerequisites for it, according to Loh, there should have been.
“In the class, you start at zero percent and then they basically jump to 20 or 30 percent because they assume you can put the pieces together, but I couldn’t do that,” Loh said. “For the first two weeks you’re like, ‘Oh yeah I can totally do this.’ And then I was like, ‘Did I miss a lecture somewhere? Was there a reading I didn’t do?’ I went back to review and still didn’t understand what was going on. It was really confusing.”
This was when she realized she could no longer continue with the major and coming to grips with her decision was not easy, but necessary.
“I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do it. Mostly it was because I didn’t want to let my parents down,” Loh said. “We knew going in CS was going to be hard and I told myself no matter how hard it is, if I work hard enough, I should be able to do it. But the thing is, I was working myself to exhaustion.”
It took someone other than herself for her to realize what she didn’t want to admit.
“It got to the point where even my upperclassman tutor told me, ‘Ashriel if you don’t understand how to do this, then that’s a problem. That’s a bad sign because this is one of the easiest concepts and it’s just going to get harder from here on out,’” Loh said. “It took her telling me that to sit back and say, ‘You know, she’s probably right.’”
Admitting it to herself was one thing, but the thought of her parents’ disappointment scared her. She waited as long as she could, but then she couldn’t wait any longer.
“The very next week I FaceTimed and told them ‘I have to drop this. I can’t take one more week of this class,” Loh said. “I didn’t think they’d be angry with me, but I was scared they’d be disappointed. But they were both really supportive.”
Changing majors at any university is a process that many are not acquainted with, but lucky for Loh, she found herself working with helpful advisors at Illinois that made the process easier.
“Definitely if you’re going to switch majors, it’s a big decision and be really prepared for all the work that you’re gonna have to do,” Loh said. “But the advisors are great for that. You may have to meet with them several times just because there’s so much information that goes along with it, but they’re all eager to help you and want you to get the most out of your education in the best way you possibly can.”
Loh is hoping to become a manga artist. Manga are Japanese graphic novels, and she currently has a web comic of this style.