Friday, 22 May 2009

My Major, My Background

Today's discussion focuses on the relation of race and choice of university majors. This piece is merely to give Western people a better understanding of why most of us (immigrants) enroll mainly in four majors. Last year, when I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, my father wiped that smile off my face by saying "it would've made me happier to see you graduating as a doctor." See, your entire life is spent learning to be okay with such horrible comments. For us, making choices for university and moving away for the experience was not part of the package. Some of us start off pursuing the dreams of our parents and move on to follow our own, however, it's kept secret from mom and dad until graduation when they find out that the white on your robe means Faculty of Arts and not School of Management like they planned. The only benefit to studying something you loathe for four years is that if your parents can afford it, your education is paid for, also because they hate OSAP, which helps with something called future debt. And no we don't travel to Europe after. Chances are, Europe is a family trip, which you would want to avoid taking. Can I get a DRA-MA?

Please note, this article contains or may contain many stereotypes. Also note, this is based on my university observations and my parents, and the parents of my friends. Cases change with some but otherwise, it's accurate.

Engineering: This field is most definitely dominated by immigrants and international students (some may confuse them as the same breed but there are various differences). As a young child, my parents were sizing me up to become an Engineer. Of course I had zero interest in it, so the day that I switched over to a major that did not require math classes was one of the most disappointing days in their life. They didn't know universities offered a degree that had no math classes attached to it (hence why I kept a minor in Commerce).
  • Civil: White people love this because it is associated with order. Matter of fact, isn't the engineering ring, which reminds engineers of learning from past mistakes, a Western thing? Some call Civil the B.A. of Engineering because it has an architectural and artsy side to it, or its easier, depends on who you ask.
  • Electrical: Most Persians and Arabs (often confused as interchangeable but don't call them Arabs) love this one yet their countries lack it (electricity). Asians are also known to steer close to taking over the world electrical.
  • Mechanical: This one is dominated by Arabs and Brown people. Both however, do not have any cars made in any of their countries. One is where cars go to die (have you ever driven in Cairo or Beirut?) and the other has roads catering more to human and animal crossing then vehicles. There is, however, an abundance of auto mechanics in the former.
  • Software/Computer Science: More Brown people are leading towards this field thanks to the high tech industry in Bangalore, however, it's also flooded with Arabs and Asians. Most Arabs that wanted to be artists but were forced to be Engineers by their fathers lean towards Software because they feel they can create art through computer programs.
  • Chemical: Most people with extremely foreign names have started avoiding this route, because well, they would like to leave the country one day.
Sciences+Medicine: There is one fact about Science, it's dominated by Brown people. As Kumar (from Harold and Kumar) says, Brown people have a natural affinity for medicine. But according to Lisa "Bunny" Friedman's book Jewish American Princess Jokebook, doctors are also Jewish. You didn't need the book to figure that one out. Eastern Europeans also love Sciences, and they usually go into those topics with complicated names. Persians have an honourable mention here, mainly in the cosmetic department. But they have lately attempted to steer clear of anything associated with "nuclear" and "chemicals".

Lawyers: This one belongs to Caucasians. But just remember JAP Lucy (again Lisa Friedman's book):
She loved to shop with her two young sons. One day, when the trio was cleaning out a toy store, the sales clerk took a particular fancy to the little boys. "And how old are these two handsome young men?" the clerk asked Lucy. Pulling out a credit card, Lucy replied, "The doctor is five and the lawyer is three."
According to Friedman, if you're Jewish, from the day you are born, you are destined to become a Doctor or a Lawyer.

Arts/Social Sciences: Mass Communications, History, Political Science, General Arts, English, Philosophy, etc, etc
If you fall into any of these, you are probably Caucasian, a "white washed" immigrant, an immigrant with liberal parents, or an immigrant with parents who aren't liberal and are confused between raising you first, second or third world, but you get your way because you know how to argue in order to get what you want (holla at yo girl).

If you're an Arab in
Political Science or DVM, your parents are probably seeing this as a stepping stone to your Law degree. The pressure is on. Furthermore, if you are an Arab in Political Science or DVM, you already have a bad rep with your classmates, topped off with one of the most annoying opinions that you enforce on everyone (genes of dictatorship, I don't really blame you) and suffer from something that Dre calls "slacktivism". Keep your emotions at home, only the strong survive.

Philosophy: to my knowledge, no immigrant parents would ever accept their child in the major they so fondly call "deep thoughts of being unemployed." Not even as a Minor (which they find confusing and unnecessary anyway). Just sayin'.

Social Sciences: For some reason, Persian women love Social Sciences. And you'll know she's Persian when that Social Science 101 book is hanging out from her beige Fendi bag (usually at York U, located in the heart of Tehronto). French speaking Africans also enroll in Social Sciences.

Commerce: If you've ever visited any clubs in King West Village and the Entertainment district, you'll notice they are filled with people who majored in maintaining the status quo. But Commerce is like Toronto=multicultural. If you're Arab (or an Arab international student), either you're in Accounting or Finance, or you got kicked out of Engineering and were moved down to Commerce before the Uni gives you one more chance to reclaim your grades in Women's Studies or be shamed forever by being expelled and suddenly don't live in Canada anymore (an ode to my uncle). If you're White, your lifelong dream is to work on Bay Street and get all the bitches ladies. You experiement with all the fields in Commerce. If you're Brown, you're in Accounting and only in Accounting. If you're Asian, you're in Accounting or Finance, mainly driven by your love of numbers and stability (straight from an Asian's mouth). You also excel in classes like "Business Decision Models", you know the ones with the highest failure rate in the University. You also have a monopoly on most of the T.A. jobs.

School of Education: Although they might support you in this decision mainly because they think its a step forward to grandchildren, your [immigrant] parents would rather you start collecting degrees instead of putting stickers on some third graders' sheet, i.e. earn a PhD. They might also leverage your studies in education to brag to their friends and tell them you're a Professor at some university in the States, you know at those dinner parties they have when the parents get together and one up each other's kids.

Journalism: According to this handsome devil, Journalism happens to be Caucasia. Makes sense, journalists are on TV, and most people on TV (not as a news story but in movies, shows, etc) are white. And if you've ever watched foreign TV, you'll notice most of the female correspondants have lighter skin.

Ryerson: For most immigrants, this university is a nightmare. Why you ask? Well because it offers majors they never thought possible like Image and Communication Arts or Dancefor example. First off, try to explain to your parents what Communications is, then top that off with the words Image and Arts in between. Good luck! My parents thought I was in Journalism for two years because they couldn't understand the concept of "Communications".

For my parents, what they consider hobbies don't belong in universities, only the following do:
  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Medicine-Sciences
  • Commerce (preferably stick to Finance or Accounting or mash up both)
  • Anything else that contains mathematics in the curriculum.


  1. hahahahaa

    i gave up trying to explain communications to my dad a long time ago.
    now i have to find a way to explain that 'audio-engineering' is part of the arts faculty

  2. for the longest time,
    my parents were ashamed that their child was in Law School.

    for them only two of the preceding was acceptable:
    (1) Medicine
    (2) Engineering

    well done my friend, well done!
    i am showing this article to my parents.

    xo your biggest fan.

  4. omg i thought i was the only one who owned "Bunny" Friedman's book Jewish American Princess Jokebook. amazing.

    i like your blog.

  5. @biz: honestly, that was a bestseller for a reason, best book in the world!
    thanks for reading, glad you like the content!