Asking for a Friend: Help! Can I balance dating and the DSE?

  • This week we discuss how to see someone when you're busy and stressed, as well as dealing with parental expectations
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and 'Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help 
Amalissa Hall |

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What can you do when you fancy someone, but don't have the time to spend with them?

Hi Friend,

I’m in Form Five and I’m busy with the DSE. Even though I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress from schoolwork and feeling the pressure from high expectations set by my teachers, I’ve managed to find time to fancy someone.

I don’t know if I should express my feelings to this person though, because I don’t know if I have the time, or the money even, to date them. I can’t commit, but I also can’t keep these feelings to myself. What should I do?

Busy in Love

Help! I'm freaking out about my maths exam!

Hi Busy,

Prioritising the DSE is very responsible of you, and if you know you don’t have the time to commit to your crush, it’s very mature of you to consider their feelings. Yes, relationships require time, but they also involve understanding and compromise based on each other’s needs. I assume your crush is also doing the DSE, so I’m sure they’re just as busy as you!

I can’t make a decision for you, but if you think you’re too busy, play it safe and wait till the summer for anything romantic; focus on forming a good friendship with this person instead. That way, you have the benefits of having a good time without added pressure if school is too much for you.

If you really can’t keep these feelings to yourself, but you want to find a middle ground, you could express your feelings to them but be honest about your priorities. In the event that you do start something with this person, know that you can find ways to spend time together that are beneficial for your studies. You can study together and keep each other accountable for assignments, tests and reaching academic goals.

Regarding your concerns about money, if you’re in a relationship with someone that cares about you as much as you do about them, money won’t matter to them. There are plenty of free things you can do in Hong Kong, save for the cost of transport.

Explore a new area you’ve never been to before, go to a beach since they’re open again, make some food at home and have a picnic somewhere. Money can determine where you go, but it cannot determine the quality of the time you spend together.

I hope this helps you decide what to do.

Friend of a Friend

What should I do if I'm stressed about the future?

Hi Friend,

My father has only been a passing presence in my life, because he works away from home. We’ve managed perfectly fine without him.

Now, though, he is at home more because of Covid. And he is insisting that I do an engineering degree first. He believes that engineering will guarantee me a job. I think it’s a waste of time.

I love the arts, I’m good at painting, graphics and music, and I want to be a film or show director.

I’ve done all my studies at school without complaining. Even when he refused to allow me to take art subjects, I borrowed my friends’ notes and paid for my own extra lessons
when I could.

I thought once I got to university, this would stop. But as I start looking at universities, he is always threatening me, saying that I must do engineering or else. I did okay at science and maths and could get in to university to do engineering.

But now he is refusing to pay my tuition and is threatening to kick me out of our home if I don’t go the engineering route.

My mum, who is normally a very independent and outspoken woman, says nothing when he starts nagging me about my future, and worse, sometimes she sides with him.

I feel he’s gone too far. He hasn’t been too interested in my schoolwork like my mother has been all these years.

I’m not sure what to do next.


My mum and I disagree about how I dress, what should I do?

Hi Artineer,

I’m sorry that you are having this dilemma. It can be really difficult deciding your future at this point in time, especially if you have an opposing opinion about what you should do, but remember that education is always possible at any age so don’t think this is your only opportunity to pursue a degree.

Ultimately your dad does have a say in your education, despite not being previously involved, because he is paying for it. However, threatening to kick you out if you don’t follow through is extreme, and as a family, you need to find a way to communicate your needs with each other and find a solution. Speak to your mum about this first if you think she would be more understanding, and she may be able to explain your dad’s perspective to you, too.

Your dad is pushing engineering because he believes it can guarantee you financial security, and he doesn’t understand how an arts degree will do the same. If you are seriously considering this path, you need to assure your dad by showing him a concrete plan that will explain how this degree will lead you to a particular career.

When he sees that you are committed to pursuing this with a clear direction, he may be more willing to understand your point of view. Also, you need to demonstrate to your dad how much work you’ve put into this – show him the classes you’ve taken and the work you’ve been able to produce as a result of those extracurriculars and how it will benefit you in the future.

Would it be possible to find a compromise and do a dual degree in arts and engineering? Or could you focus on a more technical aspect of the arts that would give you skills in a higher-paying field? I think it would be worth pursuing other options if you need to rely on your dad’s funding – arts is something you can always pursue alongside another degree, and if anything, people often end up doing something completely different from their university degree.

Finally, if you cannot convince your dad otherwise and you cannot compromise, there are scholarships and student loans you can look into that would support your passion. This will be a more challenging route, but if you are seeking independence, speak to your school counsellors about how you could apply for funding.

Best of luck, Friend of a Friend

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to [email protected] with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous! 

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