I do not study sciences, Medicine, or maths. My Arts degree is not one of the acceptable ‘job-ready’ subjects such as Economics, Management, Languages, or even International Relations. Instead, I am happily enrolled in a joint degree featuring the ever employable Philosophy and Modern History. No, this decision was not an after-thought; surprisingly I selected such courses even though I cannot boast ridiculously high employment rates straight after graduation.
Why such an introduction? As my time at St. Andrews progresses it seems there is a humorous yet disturbing trend emerging. A story came to my attention in which an introductory sciences lecturer joked that, “They’re teaching the Arts students something new this year; how to say ‘would you like fries with that?’” It is becoming apparent that a person is more likely to be judged by what he/she studies, rather than why a person studies it.
When first meeting someone, the typical introduction will certainly include the routine question of what each person studies. Revealing my interest in Modern History usually passes without any glances or questions, but when I expose Philosophy as the other half I come across a varying degree of responses. From some there is a cursory ‘Oh, that’s cool’, however, my personal favourite is “And what are you going to do with that?”
As someone who chooses to study what I am passionate about, and not what will necessarily grant me an ‘insta-job’, I have begun to give up on defending my choice upon drive and merit. In my first year, I would answer with how I intend to go to law school back home when I graduate so peoples’ looks of concern would shift to that of understanding. However, now I find more enjoyment in replying with “I hope to be homeless, the outdoors suit me.” I choose this particular response as I find it a way to avert attention away from speculation as to my future prospects and to also make light of a startling trend. Yet, why is it that depending upon the course, it can be expected for a person to give justification for their choice.
Upon meeting someone, it would seem that certain subjects garner more speculation than others. If one is to respond with Psychology, Geology, or Sustainable Development, there may not be much speculation as to what that person wishes to do with their future. However, if studying Film, Classics, or English, one could potentially expect a barrage of inquiries as to their reasoning and what they intend to do with their life. Perhaps I take the view of a more relaxed fatalist than others, but I am not worried about my future in particular. As long as I do well enough, I will graduate with a degree from a very good university, and in two subjects I have great interest in. No degree is certain of a career immediately out of university, so none should be made to feel insecure about what they study. If a person is truly passionate about what they do with their studies or their time then statistics should pale in comparison.
Being enrolled in Arts may not ensure me the security of a job straight out of university, but I would not sacrifice what I enjoy simply for the belief that I would stand a better chance in other disciplines. Not being disposed to sciences myself, I get the perks of being able to study areas of interest to me that are suited to my learning style. Simply because one is enrolled in Arts does not make them less intelligent, or less likely to gain employment after university. Performance, passion, and ambition are qualities far more likely to determine one’s future than the heading on their diploma. Undergraduate degrees are not the end-all of who a person is and what their future may hold; I say this as the sister of a Fine Arts graduate who intends to enrol in Medical school in the following academic year. The future cannot be measured or speculated, so until then, I will choose the perks of studying what I am passionate about. As I said to the boy at the union who asked me if I was interested in a job after graduation, “I’m thinking about it.” And, if, in fact, my future does not pan out in a classically “successful” way, I’ll be sure to work on saying “would you like fries with that?”