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First-Year Student Stories

Goodnight Blog: Patrick Cardona-Cosner

With enthusiasm for “passion, progress, and finding oneself,” Patrick ’26 writes about his academic experiences and personal journey at NC State.

Coming to a school like NC State was a big step for me. Transitioning from a small town in Western North Carolina to the largest college in the state contrasted these two different ways of life. It was initially overwhelming to see how many opportunities there were in subjects that interested me. There were countless clubs, resources, classes, and academic programs that I could choose from, but I had absolutely no idea where to start. As many friends told me, “It would be better to jump head-first into a decision and sort out the details later.” For many things in life, I agree with this. Plenty of good experiences have been made from spontaneous decisions to sign up for clubs or to go to events. But my career choice was the one exception to this rule. I was so fixated on finding the perfect academic program that would fit the perfect career path for me. I would go back and forth for months until I settled on my major, just to end up changing it days later. I was halted, and I did not know why. But now I understand why this decision was so important for me to get right. It was a matter of finding who I wanted to be.

Throughout my life, I’ve explored numerous career interests, from aspiring to be a NASCAR driver and paleontologist to considering biology, civil engineering, and material science. But near the end of high school, I needed to make a concrete decision. I always knew I loved biology, but I felt the pressure from my family to be successful and have a high-paying job. As many in Hispanic households can relate, the career decision should be between a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. I did not want to disappoint my family. I knew they wanted what was best for me, but I wanted to follow my passions too. After much research, I finally settled on Environmental Science. The combination of biology, earth science, sustainability, and policy felt like a perfect blend of my interests. I was so excited that I decided on a career path that I enjoyed so much. However, after coming to college, I realized there was more to the story. 

Learning about the Environmental Science program during orientation was very informative, but it brought about a new concern. The ES program at NC State has a part of the degree called a “focal area,” which allows students to customize their specific area of study in the broad subject of environmental sciences. I knew I could take this opportunity to double major, but the problem arose of what exactly I should double major in. I was so sure about Environmental Science that it was frustrating to feel like I had to start all over again. I went back and forth for the entire first semester of freshman year trying to decide which would be the best second major for me. I researched the Biological Sciences, Environmental Engineering, Biological Engineering, Sustainable Materials and Technology, and many more. I felt stuck, so I decided to approach the problem top-down and try to determine what my ultimate career goals should be. As I researched more and more careers, it felt like it brought up even more questions than answers. I kept looking, as I knew I could find a career path that felt like it was for me. I was browsing through the different minor programs while revisiting my academic plans and found biotechnology. I had heard the term before in many of my classes but I was not entirely sure what areas of study it entailed. After researching, I discovered so much more about research and engineering in agriculture, the environment, medicine, manufacturing, and more. This finally felt like it was the career for me. It was one of the best feelings I have had in my academic career to finally have found a career that clicked and felt like it was truly mine. Once I made that decision, I could determine much easier which major would prepare me for a career in that field. After all of the deliberation, I felt confident in choosing Biochemistry as my second major.

What I learned from this experience is much more valuable than just settling on a career or choosing a major. I learned why this decision meant so much to me in the first place; I wanted to choose my career and feel as though the decision was my own. I know my family was supportive in their own way, but making this decision by only consulting my personal beliefs and passions was something I subconsciously knew I had to do. For me, it was more than a career. This decision marked the beginning of making big, life-altering decisions for no one but myself. For those suffering from indecision or who feel as though they haven’t found their passion, know that you will find it in time. Your passion is uniquely yours, and nothing should get in the way of the path you dedicate yourself to.

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