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I'm currently writing a personal statement, and since English is not my native language I sometimes have trouble with transferring my ideas onto paper in English. Here's what's currently troubling me:

I've always wanted to be a scientist. Throughout my younger years I __ ...

What I want in the blank is a word which conveys that before I chose physics, I actually went from scientific field to scientific field and read about a variety of scientific topics. Basically that I hopped from field to field before I settled for physics. What word can I use here?

  • Great question! You did a very good job of explaining what you were looking for. I hope you stick around and ask more questions! – WendiKidd Sep 16 '13 at 22:20
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None of them are a single word, but there are many ways to express this. The following is not at all a comprehensive list, but a few options you could choose from:

Throughout my younger years I vacillated between several different scientific fields before I settled on physics.

Throughout my younger years I was indecisive regarding the field I wanted to go into. I eventually chose physics.

Throughout my younger years I moved from field to field often before I ultimately decided physics was my calling.

Any of these would be acceptable, and I'm sure there are many more. I came up with a few others but they all had a slightly negative connotation (ie. "in hindsight I wish I hadn't done this"). If you're curious, I've listed them below:

Throughout my younger years my career path was a bit erratic, but I eventually decided on physics.

Throughout my younger years I was a bit mercurial when it came to what field I worked in. I eventually realized that physics was right for me.

  • Those are some great suggestions, I will most certainly use one of them! – Max T Sep 16 '13 at 22:23
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If you don't mind being a bit informal, I'd suggest bounced around:

Throughout my younger years I bounced around from specialty to specialty, but I eventually settled on physics.

The phrase can be used when describing the process of considering a range of options. Here's an excerpt from a blogger who used that phrase:

For years I bounced around from Salon to Salon, while one did great cuts it did not do color well. And another would do great color but average cuts.

  • That's a good one, and it also fits my level of vocab. I'll certainly consider it. – Max T Sep 17 '13 at 0:00
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    As a native speaker, this is exactly what I would say, if I was being honest. If I was trying to downplay the fact that I bounced around a bunch, I might instead say "I tried a lot of different things." – Andrew Sep 17 '13 at 3:40
  • @Andrew: Quite. Your second one (downplay any earlier "lack of career focus") seems to be the only one out of all the suggested answers/comments that comes close to being a sensible choice if OP actually wants the job (as opposed to wanting to bare his soul). There are probably even better ways to phrase it - surely a more broad-based background could be presented in a positive, rather than negative or neutral light! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 17 '13 at 4:13
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This is quite hard to write without the risk of a negative implication. It shouldn't be, of course; the best way to spend your youth is trying a lot of things in order to find out what you like!

Perhaps something like:

In my youth I was interested in a broad range of scientific topics before deciding to concentrate on physics.

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