Studying Art vs. Studying Math

Written by Erika Yang: Erika

Everyone has a story in his or her journey of becoming an actuary.

My own story started my senior year in high school, while I was studying in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ever since I was little, I was sure that my future led somewhere in the art field. The culture in Nepal also had affected me; I grew up on a street of vibrant colors with room to grow my creativeness. I spent most of my free time drawing, painting, or imagining something for an art piece – but little did I think about taking the path of studying math one day.

At the beginning of my senior year, I started applying. All the colleges I had in mind were of course related to majoring in art.  But within me, there was a struggle with the choice I was about to make. Suddenly I was not sure about ‘studying’ art.  I remember vividly that one day, I sat down at my desk and pondered where my future was heading. After all, I will be leaving my family and the country to study abroad and it meant a lot of changes would be taking place. I was ready for a change, but was not sure if I was making the right choice in what I was going to study, which would impact the rest of my life after college.

The struggle came from my enjoyment with math. I was torn between the paths of studying art further, or continuing with math. I knew that I did not need to ‘study’ for art since the inspiration/imagination/creativity that led me to paint was already in me. On the other hand, if I did not continue to study math in college, then when? Will I ever be able to learn it as intensely as I could in college? If I chose to do math though, what can I do with a math degree? I know now that there are a lot of paths you can take with a math degree, but as a senior in high school, I thought there was only one option with math – to become a math teacher which was not something I wanted to become.

So the struggle continued…until two months before my high school graduation. At that time, I was introduced to something called ‘actuarial science’. I remember it was during one of my math classes. I remember my math teacher with excitement glowing in his face sharing his recent discovery of the actuarial profession. I remember how my math teacher specifically wrote ‘actuarial math’ in the corner of the whiteboard before resuming the class. The word somehow caught my attention and motivated me to do my own research of the field after school (which rarely happened!).

I only knew a little about actuarial science then, but somehow I was drawn with the idea of ‘dealing with risk’. First of all, I liked the fact that NO ONE in my school (including myself) knew about what actuarial science was before my math teacher. The unknown profession was simply enough to have me interested. Also, the fact that it looked challenging triggered me. You would even need to study for professional exams continuously even after college!

It may be un-appealing for some people, but for me, I loved the idea. Of course, I only had a shallow idea of what the profession really entailed. Nevertheless, I changed my major right before I graduated from high school to study actuarial science instead of art.  I must say, it was not easy to graduate college with an actuarial science degree (especially when I had to deal with the thought of quitting time to time) and it is still not so easy to go through the endless exams. However, I still appreciate my math teacher for sharing his discovery of ‘actuarial science’ with the class then. I am glad that I had the struggle in choosing my major back in high school, and made the choice to stick with it. The journey is quite different than what it could’ve been if I chose to do art in college, but I’ve been enjoying my journey so far. After all, I am here to stay.