OK, so what do you actually do then?

After studying at a University College for half a year, I am quite apprehensive about meeting new people. For starters, I am a part of the Facebook generation that would rather whatsapp then talk even if they’re sitting 50 centimeters away from each other, so my social skills aren’t that impressive anyway. And more importantly, there always comes a major challenge for me, because any conversation with a stranger inevitably comes to the point when I get asked what I study. At first, I just naively blurted out ‘Liberal Arts and Sciences’, as this is the official name of our University College faculty.  But that is never enough.

Generally, there are three types of people, perceiving this somewhat mysterious title depending on what they do themselves. The first one is interested in art and instantly picks it up, being content with their image of me being an Art History student. These are usually amiable middle-aged women, who either studied humanities themselves or love taking a break from housekeeping at Art museums.

The second group, mainly consisting of men, are avid researchers. They are absolutely convinced that I am preparing myself for a scientific career. Actually, here the awkwardness gets to a critical point. Looking at my young age and petite frame, they usually give me a patronizing look, hinting that soon enough I will end up as a housewife.  

And then there is this last type of specifically curious people, who are not satisfied with such premature judgments. With them an inescapable frown comes to my answer and their eyes glimmer with confusion. Now that I have a bit more experience with this, I have a whole arsenal of explanations prepared beforehand to avoid the awkward silence that follows their usual question: “OK, so what do you actually do then?”

Kate Sytnik is the editor-in-chief of the BUG, the student magazine of the Erasmus University College. As a fearless 18-year-old Russian, she ventured into the quest for herself and others as student of ‘Liberal Arts and Sciences’ at EUC.