“Oh, you’re an arts student? Can you draw?”

Yes, I am an arts student. No, I cannot draw. The only drawing classes I took are the compulsory Pendidikan Seni (Visual Arts) subjects in primary and high school. The only thing I remember from those classes is to cut a ladies finger, dip it in paint, and make random patterns on a canvas (Results may vary with choice of lady).


Most people carry the conception that an arts student has to know how to draw, especially amongst the older generation and even most of our generation. Admittedly, I used to be one of those people, which is why I – shamefully – used to shun them and think they’re not academically blessed. Who would have thought I would end up being an arts student?

But the fact of the matter is that studying arts does not necessarily mean you are learning how to draw. Arts, sometimes referred to as the humanities encompass many fields, such as linguistics, sociology, philosophy, theatre, media, and communications to name a few. You’re studying journalism? Congratulations, you are an arts student. You’re studying political science? Well, the title may say science, but it’s essentially an arts subject, so that makes you an arts student.

(Me? I found my calling in the English language, so I’m concentrating on writing.)


When you are an arts student, you hear and see many things. Discriminating looks, incredulous questions, baffling statements, and the inquiry of whether you can actually draw well. When you announce your field focus, they will then begin to think that you are just stupid. The inability to calculate a regression coefficient or dissect an innocent frog is naturally considered as stupidity – thank god I’m good enough at both that I managed to pass in SPM and make it to college, but that doesn’t mean I liked them, I despised math and science.

Here’s a true story:

When I was 16 and pressures were starting to pile on me regarding my future, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. All I know is that I’m good at English, I may be good at math and science but I hate them, and I watch too many TV shows and movies.

And then I found that you can actually study writing, so far be it from me to ignore my calling. I like how writers are able to produce books or scripts entirely fictionally, and yet be so real. I love how people can use words to weave together beautiful stories – and sometimes, not so beautiful (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?) And I learned that I am good at this too.

When I told my family about what I want to do in life, my aunt said I’m wasting my time because communications only require you talking to people; my uncle said there are better things to do; and my dad tried to beg me to take up accounting instead.

Obviously, I ignored these naysayers and went ahead to pursue a degree in arts. Oh, Nicole, you rebel you.

Everyone thinks that being an arts student means you get off easy. Well, they have yet to try writing essays on postmodern theories and media structure, Marx and Althusser, media ownership and audience appropriation. It takes creativity and critical thinking to be able to produce our own ideas and thoughts. There is no concrete answer to an arts-related question. We are constantly confronted with ethical questions and more, so much so that we begin to doubt everything about life.

Everything is a social construct. Nothing is real. Not even this blog post.


Do not be ashamed that you are an arts student. Do not be ashamed that you are pursuing something along the lines of creativity instead of practicality. Do not be ashamed at all. Because without us, no one will be creative enough to be able to come up with so many inventions and bizarre concepts.

When people ask you why you choose to take up an arts course, you tell them that they wouldn’t have all the TV shows, movies, and books that they love so much without us.

Sure, it is far from easy. As of today, I’m tearing my hairs out trying to complete four assignments, along with two extracurricular activities. If you know me and you see me after the break, I may be bald. But here’s the thing, one day in the future, you might be making a mark in the world by putting a piece of your creativity in public.

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