When Annie Park, 20, decided to go to New York University, she thought she had her future all figured out: she’d study journalism, live in the city for the rest of her life, and work at a magazine. Now, two years into college, she’s studying an eclectic mix of Spanish, journalism and child psychology. She has no idea where she’ll end up after school and she’s more interested in becoming a pediatrician or child psychologist than a journalist. Luckily, she doesn’t graduate until May 2014 so she still has some time to decide.

 

Big move: My dad got the opportunity to work in South Korea right as I was about to go to high school. My parents were both born in South Korea and I’d always thought I was missing out on something. I grew up outside of Princeton, N.J., and I was ready for the change. It was surprisingly mutually beneficial.

High school, Korean style: I went to an international school in Korea so it wasn’t too much of a culture shock. We had fairly small class sizes – my grade only had about 75 students – so I got to know a lot of the kids really well. Each student’s family had totally different reasons for being in South Korea, which made for a really diverse atmosphere. And on top of that, I was in a foreign country so it was a great experience all-around.

Choosing a college: When it came to college decisions, I found out that the stereotype of competitive Asian parents exists for a reason. My parents weren’t too worried about whether or not I would get into an Ivy League school. Instead, they just wanted me to end up somewhere that I’d be happy and successful. Reputation wasn’t the key component to my college experience.

When it came to narrowing down my choices, I was overwhelmed by how many schools I could see myself going to. I knew I wanted to end up at an urban university and I wanted to be semi-close to home in New Jersey. I submitted ten applications in total, was pleasantly surprised, and ended up choosing N.Y.U. It all worked out pretty well.

Navigating New York City: Before I came to N.Y.U. I thought I knew the city well – I went to all of the landmarks and to all of the tourist traps – but within the first few weeks of school, I realized I had a lot to learn about city life. Day to day things like grocery shopping and hanging out with friends were so different in New York compared to life in the suburbs. Since then, I’ve gotten used to the city so I barely notice the differences. But still, the first few months at N.Y.U. were more of a culture shock than moving to South Korea!

Little deeds in the big city: I feel embarrassed admitting this but I definitely remember being really cautious of homeless people when I first got here. I think I just grew up with this mentality that you should avoid the homeless because they could be dangerous. Fortunately, my church here helped me to realize how much I could help so I ended up volunteering a lot. Besides, I feel like if I’m fortunate enough to go to N.Y.U., I can definitely spare a few hours to help some of the city’s most struggling citizens.

Picking from the course catalog: Journalism seemed like the right path for me when I enrolled. I loved to write, I really believed in the importance of the news, and my introductory classes piqued my interest. Those things are still true today but I don’t know if they’re enough to justify pursuing a career in journalism. It’s such a competitive field; it’s kind of daunting.

My Spanish major only came about as an easy double major – I had studied Spanish throughout high school and I even studied in Spain for a few weeks during my senior year.

Right now the classes I love the most are part of my child and adolescent psychology minor. I love kids so much and if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I want to work with children in some capacity when I start a career.

Changing course: I think I always wanted to become a pediatrician but never had the guts to say “I’m going to school for the next eight years, see you when I’m done!” Things only clicked when I interned at Working Mother Magazine. So many mothers today have to balance a career with childrearing and I think it’s an important thing to pay attention to in the future. As mothers’ needs change, so do the kids’ and I want to help pinpoint and address those needs, either as a pediatrician or a child psychologist.

The best part about N.Y.U.: I have so many resources and opportunities going to school in New York City. Whether it’s internships, museums, or just the people, there are just so many things at my fingertips. The real trick is having the grounding to actually pull those things towards you.

If she could do it all over: I’m happy with the path I’ve taken but I sometimes can’t help but feel like I should have taken the more streamlined approach to college. Now I’m trying to figure out if I should fit biology and chemistry classes into my schedule in case I apply to med school. I wish I could have just come into my freshman year with the knowledge I have now… but I imagine that’s what everyone wishes.

A bit of optimism: I don’t worry about whether or not I’ll be successful in life. Sure, it might take me some time to figure out what I want to do but once I figure that out, I have the drive to reach my goals. It’ll just take a little bit of time.