How a double degree really can please everybody

Written by Asha Naznin

When I was growing up, it was difficult for me to choose a study path that wasn’t defined by my parents.

My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. And even though I didn’t want that, and didn’t become one, sometimes I still feel half regretful that I didn’t, because of their frustration. Other times, I have followed their suggestions and yet have felt regretful about that too—because of my frustration this time.

This dependency on my parents often clashed with practicality; for example, since I am really good with numbers, why should I spend my time memorising state rules and regulations like a law student does? It is difficult to make a balanced decision that pleases everybody.

Most south Asian universities offer only a single path of academic study. Either science or arts or social science or commerce. Over the last few decades the GDP of my country has changed, education rates have increased, the whole world has changed, in fact, but the minds of my south Asian relatives haven’t changed. They still think the aim of their children’s life should be to do what their parents want.

Last night when I received a frantic call from my aunt, I thought somebody in the family must have passed away.

“Listen, I have very sad news,” my aunt said.

“My daughter wants to study arts and humanities in college, but your uncle and I, we both want her to study science.”

To her, this is a tragedy.

My aunt sighed so loudly, I could feel its reverberations here in Australia.

Then I thought of my university, ANU, which offers a combined degree where you can study science and humanities together and receive a double degree.  

I explained to my aunt that it doesn’t even take longer to complete, really—usually four or five years, which is equivalent to the time spent getting a single undergraduate degree in leading public universities in south Asia.

My aunt became convinced that a combined degree option could happily merge both her and her daughter’s expectations, but yet she was still worried about the safety of her daughter being on her own in Canberra.  

“As a woman, Canberra is one of the safest places I have ever been to,” I told her.

“I have never felt threatened or intimidated because of my gender. And, if there is any risk, there is 24-hour campus security, and free security transport around the campus in the dark.”

She sighed loudly again, with yet more reverberations, but this time it was a sigh of relief.

Listening to my aunt’s enthusiasm at the prospect of her daughter coming to Australia, I realised that ANU is not just an exciting place for students, but for their parents too; a place where we can all learn to become more independent.