Disagree to Diss Degree

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Saara Mowlana

Ah, the age old debate of my degree is harder than your degree that exists between students, faculties and courses has probably put more strain on individuals, relationships, and friendships than the actual workload. It is this incessant desire to prove that you are suffering more than your counterpart, and trying to discredit their academic complaints as invalid that causes rifts between students and can turn the best of friends into the worst of foes.

Coming from a household wherein my sister had decided to follow in the medical shoes of my father, scalpel in hand – while I decided on a more passionate path as they’d claim by doing media – I constantly have to navigate the broil of my sister invalidating my degree while always requiring my skills gained from it. So, how can you possibly contain the urge to overshadow your friend’s academic complaints with your own more trying academic demands? I’ve compiled a list for you all to heed:

  1. Remember, that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. While you may think a Humanities degree is easy peasy lemon squeezy, it has its own challenges: like the fact that each marker marks with their own subjectivity in mind and this can be stressful to even the most skilled and creative of students. And if you may think that having a more structured course, like Medicine or Law is a breeze, the amount of text to memorise, absorb and regurgitate for the courses can be just as overwhelming and stressful.
  2. Your suffering isn’t more important than your fellow student comrade’s suffering. So, it’s test week and your friend from Faculty X starts complaining about the fact that they have an essay and two tests in one week. You feel overwhelmed with the urge to burst in with: oh, well that’s nothing. You’ve got so much free time anyways, like listen to my problems bla bla bla… In these moments, Dear Reader, pause and ask yourself: why do you consider your struggles more important or necessary to be heard than those of your friend? Consider how it would make the person feel by shutting down and invalidating their feelings?
  3. You can both share the academic struggle spotlight. So your friend is complaining about their deadlines and stresses and you too want to share your own. Take a moment to sympathise with your friend’s struggles that they’ve just shared with you and share your own stresses without negating those of your friend.
  4. Them sharing with you isn’t an attack on your own stresses. Maybe you feel that your friend complaining about their deadlines and responsibilities is them subtly saying: f*** your degree, these are some real stresses right here. But, it’s not, hopefully anyway. It is not them trying to say: fight me or upstage your own stresses. It is them genuinely trying to open up about what’s been stressing them out in what they consider a safe environment and friendship – don’t tarnish that by pissing all over their vulnerable sharing.
  5. Don’t shame their degree and say they’re the exception. I’ve been in conversations with people who will claim that they think next to nothing of my degree and yet consider me great at it. It is such a backhanded compliment that oftentimes I’m not sure whether to say thank you or actually, f*** you. It ends in a confused facial expression and a thank you that ends in a vocal question mark. Either quietly dislike somebody’s degree or genuinely compliment them. Doing both vocally makes the compliment seem disingenuous, and almost like an afterthought. It feels like an, oh shit, I forgot person X in the group is studying this, lemme just save myself with a thinly veiled compliment.

I hope this list helps, as well as possibly humours, you on this journey to becoming more considerate and conscious of everyone around you and their valid struggles.

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