Schedules and programs don’t determine the worth of a degree

Whether you’re taking two courses or five, you’re doing the thing, and that’s all that’s important

It’s not the size of the course load that matters . . . Photo: /The Cord

By: Encina Roh, Peak Associate

In the words of Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being green. And it’s definitely not easy coming from a family of staunch, math-breathing engineers when you are a social sciences student. My grandma was a chemical engineer, my mom was a computer engineer, and I’m a political science major. So you might understand the frustration of trying to explain to them that, yes, my major is difficult. 

A few semesters ago when I was loudly stressing over some exam, my mom rolled her eyes and muttered, “Do you know Carol ah-yi’s son is doing nine courses for his engineering degree?”

I stared at her. That’s one question you really don’t want to direct at a student who does not remember the last time she woke up without using three alarms. But because I’m pretty collected (or more likely the fact that she would get rather terrifying if I talked back to her), I calmly replied, “You know, my classes are four hours long and Bill’s are an hour, mom.”

I also wanted to add that as a full-ride student and law school hopeful, I had to keep my GPA above 3.9. I wanted to remind her that I held a law internship and worked three other jobs. (If my own mother isn’t going to level with me about how much I’m taking on and brag about it a little, I should just do it myself.) 

However, before I could say all this, my mom asked the one question that will send a social sciences student into an unparalleled rage.

“Isn’t your degree just reading and writing?”

Well. Sure. Kind of. Except the readings total up to at least four hundred dense and esoteric pages every week and professors often expect students to exceed the 15-page essay minimum to get high marks. 

Did I mention the topic is typically something like discussing the international response to the environmental costs of transglobal mass production and outsourcing in central Asia? Or exploring the complex relationship between gentrification in Vancouver’s queer and Chinese spaces? These aren’t topics you can just sit down and write about off the top of your head.

In reality, there is no fixed formula for interpreting who has it more difficult in a given semester or in a certain major or course. The student juggling two jobs and taking three courses shouldn’t be seen as less competent than the student with no job and five courses. 

Comparing the number of courses that students take or the degree they’re working towards as a measure of their ability is honestly kind of offensive. How dare someone insinuate that some of us are less sleep-deprived and stressed? We’re all in this together, and we’re all suffering equally — just in different ways. I choose to cry over a 20-page essay and Bill chooses to endure doing math that has more letters than numbers almost every day of the week. 

So, mom, if you’re reading this please stop comparing me to future software engineers. My course load is just as undesirable to me as it is to them.