Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Not Everything Goes According to Plan

Main content start


Like many incoming freshmen, I arrived at Stanford armed with a shower caddy, approximately 17 pillows, and a plan. I was going to major in International Relations and become a dictator. You see, I’d always liked history and languages, and International Relations seemed like a great way to combine the two—plus, you got to travel!

Oh, that wasn’t the part you were confused about?

Well, my mom and I had always said that I should probably be my own boss in life, and what better way to do that then to be the boss of everyone? In my defense, I told a college interviewer that one of my favorite books was The Dictator’s Handbook, so they knew what they were getting into beforehand. I was going to use my southern charm to take over the world.

While this seems like, and is, a questionable life goal, it did a pretty good job at concealing the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my major, or what one even could do with my major. Of course, that balloon had to burst at some point, and for me it was the summer after my sophomore year.

Through some kind of luck, I had somehow landed my dream internship: doing research—side note: this should probably say “glorified google searches” —for an IR master’s program. It was even in Italy! The people were lovely, the weather was great, and I had gelato for breakfast every day, but in the process of searching for what jobs the alums had ended up with, a teensy tiny dark cloud appeared on the horizon.

I didn’t want any of these jobs.

Well then.

In hindsight, I’m very happy that I figured this out, even if it was halfway through my time here. However, at the time, there might have been slight, totally manageable, and not-at-all worrying amounts of anxiety. Did I mention I was going abroad in the fall, so even if I did switch majors I couldn’t do so until the winter of my junior year?

Like I said, no worries at all.

But, I finished my internship, flew home, and my dad and I sat down in the family room and peered at the Stanford majors on a laptop, as well as what jobs the grads ended up with. (See! I learned my lesson!) I’d like to say there was a beacon of light from the sky directed at Communication and we heard a chorus in the background; freshman year I would have needed that kind of sign to convince me to switch majors.

There wasn’t, but there was a lot of conversation, and I switched.

And I couldn’t be happier. I love my classes, and what people end up doing with the major. Plus, I’m currently working at my actual “dream internship,” which ended up being at Stanford magazine—where the people are lovely, the weather is great, and there’s gelato half-a-mile away.

So I guess the moral of the story is to not be afraid to change your plan, even if you’ve had it since high school.

Don’t worry though, I’m still going to be a dictator.

Ariana Rollins

Class of 2018

If you have a Stanford Story you would like to share, contact