Letters from the dorm: Study what you love

Cyril Ip

Your parents may want you to do a degree that guarantees a stable and prosperous career, but it’s better to pick subjects that you truly like

Cyril Ip |

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I’ve just had my first week back at university after a long Christmas break. I came back to begin three new sociology units, two of which I chose myself – racism and ethnicity, and sociology of crime and justice. So far, I have only had one lecture for each unit, but the content has already drawn me in.

Going to university is about specialising in a certain field, which is distinctly different from the structure of schools, where we are encouraged to broaden our knowledge – to be writers, athletes, scientists and mathematicians, all at the same time.

I enjoyed the breadth that the school structure offered, but I am having a much better time now, engaging with specialised subjects in depth.

I have written before about how important it is to study something you love.

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Many of us come from homes with traditional values regarding education, where some subjects are seen as “risky” because they do not guarantee a stable and prosperous career – at least not at the very start.

Other subjects are considered “safe” ones – law, engineering, natural sciences – because they are consistently in high demand from large firms.

Parents, especially those with less financial stability, may discourage children from pursuing a degree that they truly enjoy, simply because they are concerned about their child’s career prospects.

While I acknowledge how difficult it is for those students, I think don’t think we should be too quick to blame or criticise their parents.

The first lecture in my crime and justice unit focused on how society tends to blame the individual, while ignoring the extensive set of circumstances which caused them to act or think in a particular way.

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It is not that these parents are deliberately trying to stop their children from enjoying their studies; they are simply concerned about their future careers.

Undoubtedly, the demand and recognition of some degrees, mine included, are unjustifiably low in society. Parents are concerned about them because Hong Kong is a highly competitive city. Its economy is one of the best in the world, and people there have exceptional business skills. But I would appreciate it if more people studied social science, global politics, and other “risky” subjects as well.

If I could suggest one thing for world leaders, it would be for them to start paying more attention to the fields of knowledge that have traditionally been deemed unpopular.

The world has been focused on making money for centuries, and there have been a lot of problems arising from this narrow focus.

Maybe we need to appreciate the fact that we are more than moneymaking devices, and to start supporting the development of social sciences would be good for all of us.