Potential physics dropout

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  • Thread starter Mépris
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  • #1
One of the few As I got in college was in an advanced French class I took as an elective instead of a physics one (haha), and the teacher really liked me and told me I was welcome to join in her class discussions anytime, etc. And while this took work, and I had to properly plan my essays, and spend more time immersed in the language, I didn't feel stressed out doing it. I knew I could do it.

This isn't the case with my physics classes where I always feel anxious. I know I can do it eventually, but that's not fast enough. I don't handle the pressure well. I feel bad about myself nearly all the time.

I saw that I may have the option of switching to a joint English-physics major and end up with a B.A in English while having my physics courses count for the "minor".

But I don't know what I could do career wise. Other than teaching. This background would be good for a master's in teaching (usually what most joint major grads in arts/science do in Germany), but I don't know if I would want that. I've had some experience teaching (volunteering/tutoring) before, and while I enjoyed it, I think I would need to do an actual internship at a school before I decide.

That's one option, and another is to keep slowly learning coding at my own pace (currently doing intro programming and num methods with python), and doing something with that.

I feel like I might be making a big mistake in spite of the evidence showing otherwise. For a long time, I insisted on doing physics because I felt like I'd be a loser if I didn't finish my degree in physics. It had to be physics. Or another "hard" discipline. But anyway, what other options do I have, career wise?

Another option was the same deal but with French instead, but it turns out I need more German than I currently possess to apply, while this is not the case for the English program. I'm also better at English than at French.

tl;dr - studying in Germany, don't enjoy physics anymore, can do a joint major-minor in english-physics, wondering career options are available besides teaching
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Since you live in Germany, my advice may not be relevant. Most of my experience is in the US, so take anything I say lightly.

If you really don't enjoy physics, then you have some hard choices to make. If you are close to finishing, by which I mean a semester or two, or whatever the equivalent is in your system, then you may decide to just finish it even though you don't enjoy it. There is a substantial premium from having a degree of any kind, and this payoff can make it worth the trouble.

If you have a couple of years or more, then changing course may make more sense. If you decide to do this, the question for you then becomes: what next? You mentioned teaching. If possible, you may want to look into that more deeply to see whether it is something you would enjoy. Other things you might consider are your country's foreign service, and supply chain management.

Here in the US, someone who knew two or three languages might apply to work in consulates and embassies abroad. A college friend of mine does this, and has greatly enjoyed this work. I don't know, but I suspect that Germany has similar positions at its own embassies and consulates. This work usually involves local outreach, visa processing, and the other kinds of routine work that embassies and consulates do. At least in the US, any degree at all is sufficient for the application process.

I work in manufacturing, and in today's world the suppliers we use are often in distant parts of the world. When talking with a supplier, I always prefer to talk with someone who has a technical background rather than a sales background. Since I work as an engineer, the kinds of problems I need to solve are often technical in nature, and so it helps to speak with someone who actually knows something relevant. Facility in languages is a clear benefit here. There are specific degrees in supply chain management that are the usual route to this kind of a role, but again, that is US specific. I don't know what it looks like for you.

These are the first things I thought of, primarily based on your expressed interest in languages.
  • #3
Thanks for your response.

Now it looks like this won't be possible. Bureaucracy issues. I emailed my advisor about the possibility of doing less physics and a minor in something else, and am waiting to hear back from thing.

Anyway, I just feel anxious all the time. I know I can learn the material with time, but I don't have enough of that. I don't like physics enough to stay in school longer and do half the courseload until I graduate...

The classes go really fast, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the concepts of lecture 1, but we're already 2 weeks in. And then it just keeps getting worse, and the anxiety just paralyses me.

Am I just not trying hard enough? I feel like I am. Or I have other strengths and should try something else?

Honestly, I really wish I could just finish this degree. I remember twofish-quant once saying that if you can do well in mechanics 1 and calc, you can get a B.S in physics.

I passed these courses, and generally do better at the math methods classes. Do I have hope?

Whatever confidence I have is gone. I feel like an absolute loser all the time. I don't know if I can do this.

At this point, this thread is better suited for the academic guidance section. Could a mod please move it?
  • #4
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I reread your initial post for this topic. Consider changing your major field to something language-related, and include as much computer programming and computer technology as you can find benefit from. Do you know that translators make use of computer technology? Could speech therapy be a possible career for you? Translator for technical and scientific documents?
  • #5
Science Advisor
Hey Mepris.

What is the reason you want to do the physics course?

One of the best ways to assess motivation is to understand what situations would make a person change their course of action and why that is. If you can understand what would change your course of action you understand what motivates you and if everything doesn't change it then you know that it's probably a good thing to pursue.

We can't really answer that for you (and the answer may even be something you don't want to share with us) but I think with a bit of time and reflection that could help you a lot in understanding the choices you have to make.

You can also do the same thing for alternative choices (i.e, applying the same reasoning to the new situations you find yourself in).

Just be aware that degrees translate in ways you may not realize at this point. Depending on your personality and other interests/skills you could be eligible for a myriad of different jobs. You have to be open to that possibility and realize that you are probably thinking about the typical "physicist" role which is actually a very specialized and unique role.

Think about all the kinds of roles that can utilize a technical understanding/background without needing those specialized skills and the number of jobs you will consider should increase dramatically. Instead of thinking of "physicist" think of analyst, programmer, technical sales, teacher, and many other roles.

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