So You Want(ed) to Be . . . A series by Ria Patel ’25

Written by Ria Patel ’25, Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team member. The “So You Want(ed) to Be . . .” series shares the stories of scholars who’ve made bold pivots from their intended majors and career aspirations since starting college. 

After over a dozen years of formal schooling, most high school graduates arrive at college with at least some personal goals and aspirations, and a few ideas for their future. Some have a specific major in mind; for others, a career path. 

However, few of us college students will complete our four years with the same plan we had upon entering. We’ll switch majors, explore new areas of study, and pursue opportunities we hadn’t even known existed. 

As a first-year student at Carolina, I understand just how lucky I am to have so much freedom to explore. But despite having the resources and support needed to broaden our horizons, why do we so often refuse to even allow ourselves to imagine a different future? Why do we not feel comfortable enough to explore the possibilities of other careers and opportunities? And, most importantly, why do we put an exorbitant amount of pressure on ourselves to know, right here and right now, what we want to do and why we want to do it? 

Through the “So You Want(ed) to Be . . .” series, I seek out students who are actively defying the stereotype of “the perfect student”—one who enters their first year knowing exactly what they want out of life, and graduating with the exact same aspirations.

I want to tell the stories of students who weren’t afraid to switch their major or their dream (or, better yet, who were scared to, but did it anyway). I want to find the explorers and the pioneers, the indecisive and the open-hearted, and spread their stories throughout our community. 

Maybe one of these stories will resonate with you through a common interest or passion. Or, maybe you’ll see a part of yourself in these students and alumni who were nervous, scared, or not quite ready to step out on a limb. I know I have so far. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll inspire you to make that leap and pursue that opportunity. 

As I brainstormed who I should first interview for the series, Emmaus Holder ’23 immediately came to mind. I recalled a conversation I had with him when I was upset about how much physics homework I had that week. 

He followed my limitless rant with the fact that he, too, had been discouraged by physics in college. The subject he’d so loved in high school became unappealing during his first year at UNC–Chapel Hill. 

Through his experiences, he eventually landed on sociology as a major. Interested in his story, I sat down with Emmaus and asked him a few questions about his journey. 

Thanks for reading! 

About the author 

Ria Patel of Collierville, Tennessee, covers the scholar beat on the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team. 

Ria graduated in spring 2021 from St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis. While in high school, the first-year scholar founded INSPIre, an organization focused on adolescent mental health and well-being, and she conducted independent research projects at the University of Memphis, studying working memory and learning conditions. 

At Carolina, she plans to pursue a major in neuroscience with minors in business and chemistry, and continue her interest in mental health and wellness. 

Ria is also a co-founder of Griatitude Coffee co., a pop-up coffee shop with affordable specialty drinks for students in the Chapel Hill area. Griatitude, led by Ria, was also co-founded by Sarah Chocron ’25, Scholar Media Team member, and Sasha Surkin, a first-year Cato Scholar through the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. 

Other news