Academic Journey Essay: Exploring Careers Through Experience

Sarah Bozsum is a senior biology major

By Sarah Bozsum
Senior, biology major

Photo: Sarah Bozsum poses in front of the newly unveiled bronze statue of Victor E. Bulldog III, retired Fresno State’s live mascot, located at the front entrance of the Resnick Student Union. Photos by Maurice O. Ndole

My childhood ambition was clear– becoming a veterinarian and soothe the suffering of all creatures. This notion persisted throughout grade school, albeit tempered by realism. I was unwavering in my career choice.

I thought I was ahead of my peers because most started discussing careers in high school. 

I was not one to waver between ideas, but I began questioning my path in my teenage years. 

My interest in veterinary medicine began to wane as I watched shows like “The Incredible Dr. Pol” and “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet” to prepare for my future career. 

Traumatizing cases in those shows was a harsh reality check.

During the summer after my junior year in high school, I joined the USDA AgDiscovery program at Fresno State. This two-week program introduced me to careers in agriculture, including veterinary medicine. 

Conversations with a veterinarian there revealed the daunting nature of veterinary school, with a wide range of specialties and immense stress. As someone with a history of mental health issues, this gave me pause.

I embarked on my college journey at Fresno City College as a biology major with dermatology in mind. By my sophomore year’s end, I felt overwhelmed by the prerequisites, acceptance rates, and tuition costs for medical school. 

Dermatology’s competitiveness and a decade more schooling didn’t appeal to me.

Transferring to Fresno State, I briefly considered wildlife biology, an interest sparked during my senior year of high school. The turbulent world events at the time rekindled my passion for conservation. 

Research revealed that many wildlife biologists also held GIS certifications. So, I integrated Fresno State’s Certificate in Geographic Information Systems into my wildlife biology studies.

Reevaluating my choices, I realized that my earlier career interests were salary-driven rather than passion. My research into conservation and sustainability showed me that life shouldn’t solely revolve around wealth. 

With wildlife biology, I was drawn more to the impact I could make than the income.

However, the limited job opportunities in wildlife biology led me to explore other paths. My previous community college offered various two-year degrees in the medical field, sparking my interest in dental hygiene. 

I had already completed most prerequisites, and the job outlook was promising. It seemed like a lower-stress backup plan, especially since a BS in Biology degree offered limited prospects.

In my junior year at Fresno State, I seized an opportunity to accelerate my studies. I enrolled in a three-week cellular biology course and discovered a high-altitude biology course that would earn me three elective credits.

This course, including a strenuous five-day hike with 40-pound backpacks, was a challenging test.

After a strenuous practice hike and weeks of rigorous training, I felt more prepared for the final practice hike. 

However, it proved equally grueling, with snow and numerous falls. It became clear that a career involving extensive fieldwork, like wildlife biology, wasn’t for me.

Despite this realization, my interest in wildlife remained, shifting toward becoming a zoologist—a profession focused more on animals than their habitat. 

My career goal is somewhat still undetermined. 

I’m working toward a BS in Biology, exploring wildlife and zoology careers, and completing prerequisites for the Dental Hygiene program at Fresno City College. Throughout my career journey, I’ve learned to ease the pressure of knowing what I want to be.

Editor’s Note: this essay is part of a life journey story assignment for Fall 2023 Biology 118W Science Communication class with Dr. Ulrike Muller.