Dan: How to talk about study at home

Blogger image: DanDan is a Bachelor of Applied Media graduate with a passion for directing and story writing. He lists his two favourite things as garlic bread and gaming.

Recently I went on holidays with my family to the coast for a relaxing week away. Considering that I had avoided them successfully for the whole semester, it was about time I gave into their demands and socialised (it was okay since it was in a setting I enjoyed).

Contrary to my opening statement, I do actually enjoy spending time with my family; it’s just that I have a habit of saying things that I end up regretting when they stare at me with confused looks. For example, I usually receive the most confusion when I talk about uni and find myself using jargon that only other students or those who work in media would understand. Occasionally, the confusion is swapped out for an uninterested and bored reply of ‘oh, yeah....’ in response to my passionate discussion of film and television production or the struggles of my latest assignment.

I believe this barrier I have between my family and I is stemmed from the fact that I am the first in my immediate family to actually attend university. While my family care about me and support my studies, I often find it hard to talk to them about uni and watch what I say quite carefully.

As a guy who thrives on conversation and interaction, I find it embarrassing and frustrating to feel like I need to censor myself, especially when I’m talking about something I am greatly enthusiastic about. I’m regularly left lying on my bed at night after a catch-up session with my family, staring at the nails in the ceiling, beating myself up at how a conversation died in its tracks… that awkward moment when I tried to talk about uni, the conversation stalled, a pregnant silence followed and then, after a polite pause, someone started a new conversation.

Here’s a painful example: while on holidays, we were watching a movie I like (which, incidentally, took 45 minutes for us all to agree on). Of course I wanted to express my love for this film by explaining the editing techniques used and speculating how the crew got such an amazing shot. This transitioned into a story I told about university, and quicker than you can say ‘neutral-density filters’, my family were lost in all the university jargon. I was greeted with a resounding chorus of ‘SHUT UP, DAN!’ and they all went back to watching the film in blissful technical ignorance (I do understand that this reaction is not misplaced and is well deserved).

So the problem is this: as someone who’s passionate about their uni study and wants to share that with their family, how do I do that without making them feel confused, bored or annoyed?

I could always just try explaining the university mumbo-jumbo to them, but that risks them getting even more dazed and confused and even less interested in my stories. Too risky. I could also just try to be content and happy in the situation and keep the stories to myself, enjoying them in silence… but what’s the fun in that?

If you can relate to my struggles, here are 3 tips:

1. Try planning your stories a bit better so they don’t sound overwhelming

Instead of launching into full blown conversations that are only about your studies, try just throwing small snippets of your university life into your family’s conversations in response to a related topic. For example, I saw an opportunity to jump on board with the conversation my Mum started about the merits of Daniel Craig’s backside. Instead of taking over the conversation, I just mentioned how well the film crew had done to enhance Mr Craig’s assets with some great environmental lighting.

2. Turn all this jargon and uni-related guff into entertainment.

You might have noticed I keep referring to these conversations as stories, and there is a reason for this. It’s because these experiences should be told as stories to keep them entertaining and engaging. My Red Bull-induced all-nighters and cabin-fever-related antics in the computer labs are a constant source of mirth for other students – albeit at my expense.

3. Remember to have patience.

Don’t underestimate your family. Just because they may not have been through your university experience themselves doesn’t mean they can’t understand it if you’re willing to take the time to explain things. Your family love you and I am sure they do actually truly care about your study stories… just have patience and remember that it’s totally fine for you all to have different interests and passions. You would be confused as well if they were telling you the intricate details of their work day!

Self-censorship is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced as a first in family student, but there are others. The great news is, you're not alone in navigating these barriers throughout your study.

At USQ over 60% of students are the first in their families to study at uni*, which is why we've created specific resources to support you along the way. Check out the website for awesome blogs, videos and articles to help you succeed.

*Higher Education Information Management Systems (HEIMS) data, Department of Education and Training, 2015.


Katie: The family guide to university

Mitch: Don’t let your fear of being first hold you back

Two sides to every semester