Don’t worry, this isn’t just an excuse for me to write about one of my favourite movies; I actually believe the central theme of Moana should be applied to your academic choices.

I am an undergraduate university student in my last year before graduating so I have had a lot of time to think about how my academic choices will impact my career. How is this all related to Moana? Over the past week I have been having a lot of chats with my friends about their time at university, the work experiences they’ve had, and their career plans. Last week, I also watched this video about Moana (spoiler ahead). The video analyzed the dual-identities of the main characters: the self that they portray to the world and “the voice inside [that] sings a different song”.

Part of the video discussed the inhabitants of Motunui who have forgotten their true identity as voyagers and are too afraid of returning to the sea, convinced that staying on their island is the safest route even as it dies around them. It reminded me so much of friends telling me how they had chosen a major or a co-op based on what they believed would lead to a high paying or stable career and now, on the doorstep of graduation, feel stuck going down a path they do not want. You can work hard and achieve your dream job at your dream company with your dream wage, only to feel like you’re wasting your day doing something you have no interest in and then be so drained after work that you can’t even enjoy your time off.

Sometimes it seems like the Real World is all mapped out from point A to point B: go to such-and-such school because it’s ranked high, major in blah because the field is in high demand, get whatchamacallit work experience because it will get you a job in whatsits which will make you rich. But seeing friends try to follow that path and regret it, I have a new perspective on this cookie-cutter roadmap.

If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I get it. I’ve always thought that “following your dreams” was a little idealistic as well. But something I realized while listening to different people’s views on their academic journey is that if you invest time and energy into an area you don’t care about, you will only have the skills to work in a field you have no interest in. You will be stuck. On the other hand, if you focus on an area of study you are passionate about, then you will work harder on it, improve, and develop skills in that area. And if you are skilled in that area, then you will be employable in that area.

So my advice? Make realistic plans and gain essential skills to make a living, but study what you are passionate about because if you put in the work, you will have marketable skills in a career that will make you happy. You’re welcome.

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