When Sofia Salazar Brown arrived at Illinois State University from the Chicago suburbs she planned to study psychology. And then, like so many college students before her, she took a class that changed everything. For her it was geology.

She praises the Illinois State department, talks about her newfound interest in mineralogy and sedimentology, and acknowledges that calculus was harder than she thought.

The 20-year-old junior had worked retail jobs before and even had a chance to manage her own shoe store. But she wants more than that. “I don’t want to just get by and be sad all day,” she says. 

Now, she’s thinking about graduate school, maybe teaching someday. 

Either way, she says, she wants to find a stable career where her family can be comfortable. 

What does that mean?

“Making $50,000 to $70,000 in a job,” she says. “That would be comfortable for me. That would mean buying a small house or getting myself an apartment.”

The Back-To-School Road Trip
Over eight days we’re driving from Minneapolis to New Orleans, talking about college with Americans along the way. Follow us on Twitter: @opencampusmedia.