The challenges of choosing the right course when you study abroad

Motivation can be so frequent yet fleeting. One day you are excited about video games; the next, science or literature. With all of these options, it can sometimes be easy to get confused about what you like and what you really like – enough to study it for years to come.

What worked for me was shortlisting the things I particularly liked and spending enough time with them to understand why I liked them. After doing that, I was able to start narrowing down my areas of study.

Let’s take video games for example. Many of us like them, but why do you like them? Maybe you really enjoy tinkering with the game, making mods or revamping the way they play. Then you might consider studying coding. Do you enjoy their interactive storytelling nature and wish you could make your own? You may be thinking about studying narrative design or writing.

It’s all about spending time with them and thinking about why they make you tick. Look at the source of your motivation and you have an exciting, viable study option!

Given the depressing state of our pandemic-ridden world today, I can understand that some of you may find motivation hard to find. And rightly so, because self-care should be a priority right now. Taking the time to make your choice will not ruin your career nor exclude you from your preferred course.

How to deal with external pressure

Remember when I talked about how my family “persuaded” me to get a bachelor’s degree of their choice? Honestly, with good intentions or not, this kind of pressure, the demand to “make your family proud” put a huge burden on me as I took that exciting and frightening step into college life.

From what I’ve observed, it’s a depressingly high number of Asian and South Asian parents who have or will do this to their children. The “guilt” of disappointing our families is something we all grew up with, and something that has negatively impacted our ability to make the right decision for ourselves.

I was once a naive young high school student who was unsure of what I wanted to do, and had no idea how to make my voice heard in choosing my own future. All of this has derailed me from what I’ve wanted to do for several years.

University hopefuls today are under the same pressure, even though they are much more certain than I am about what their hearts want. Although I’ve used the term “external pressure,” in my case it came from well-meaning parents who were just overprotective.

Talk to your parents

What I did too late, and what you absolutely must do right away, is to overcome your reluctance to talk to your parents and let them go for a friendly but frank discussion.

When the option arose to finally give up the career my parents had chosen for me, I grabbed it for life. With that self-conviction, I was able to articulate my thought process in a way that wasn’t rude, but still firm.

What you can do is schedule your meeting. Take a moment to write down the reasons why you want to pursue a particular degree rather than medical or engineering. The latter may be the bastions of secure, rewarding careers in the eyes of many parents, but it should be your choice.

You may also find that writing reinforces your beliefs – in my experience, parents respond to that kind of strength as a sign of maturity. After all, they want the best for you at the end of the day.

By showing how strongly you believe in your choice and how happy it will make you, you will get them out of their bubble. However, do not ignore their feelings and opinions – it will not achieve anything.

Instead, listen to their point of view, address their concerns, and emphasize how your seemingly risky choice is actually a completely viable college and career option. After all, you are the one who has access to digital media, which, if you think about it, were not even born in their day!

This may be an unpopular opinion, but if your family’s resistance to your choice runs deeper than you expected, I suggest you stand your ground. After all, you can live with the consequences of their choice for the rest of your life – do you really want no agency in a decision of that magnitude?

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