Seeing family over reading week can be awkward. Photo: Stephanie Fink/Flickr
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reading week sounds like a nice concept. A week to forget about classes, vegetate in your room without the pangs of anxiety caused by the staggering weight of academia, and watch hours on hours of Netflix. An essay due the day you get back? Whatever, you got a whole week.

But for a lot of students, reading week means time spent back at home with your parents — parents who now consider you an “adult.” Our parents and extended family are a different kind of test.

To help you out this reading week, keep this cheat sheet handy to help you answer some of the most awkward questions that will be asked by the extended family. 

“How are your grades? Education isn’t cheap!”

You might actually be a good student with nothing to fear but even if you answer “100 per cent across the board,” you are unlikely to win this argument since the follow-up question is always “How could you have done even better on that assignment?” or “what about bonus marks?” and so forth. Parents don’t seem to understand that you barely have enough time to finish the projects you’re assigned — anything extra is out of the question.

Sadly, there’s no good way out of this question. If you have good grades just stress that point. If you don’t, just say you’re doing as well as everyone else.

“Are you dating anyone? You’d think you’d be able to find someone by now!”

We’ve all heard this one. If you did start seeing someone in university there are still some awkward questions that will pop up (“what’s Tinder?). Either way, a good response is to say that you’ve been way too busy with your studies and leave it that. If you’re seeing someone and it does get serious, just prepare your response for winter break. 

This answer is also good if you want to hide from your family that you’re a sad lonely soul who has no luck whatsoever in the dating field.

“What do you want to do with this degree?”

Yes, you have given a lot of thought to your future career. “Will my career disappear due to automatization?” you ponder. “What will come first, my promotion or a cataclysmic climate event?” “Should I expect the Third World War in 10 years or 20?”

Since your future career is probably not even a concept yet, nor is even guaranteed in this climate, the perfect answer to this question is that you are looking into a few things but keeping your options open. If that’s not enough, living in Ottawa gives you the perfect cop-out. Just mumble “government” and move on. 

“Are you eating well? You look thin.”

Students have a reputation for strapped for cash, so a regular meal might consist of a bowl of noodles (if you haven’t tried dollar store ramen, you’re missing out). This one is best ignored, particularly if you don’t want to deal with the painful truth.

“How’s your money situation? OSAP getting you by?”

Anyone that asks you this question knows the answer already and is probably only going about this to pursue a sadistic sense of glee. “Oh yes,” you might say, “I am on top of my rent payments, I have no problems affording food, and I can even pay for my textbooks.” In this situation, lying to your extended family is the best option. Only tell the truth to your parents if they love you and have disposable income. 

“How Are You Doing?”

This is a trick question. No one asks how you are doing, only what you’re doing.

“How are you enjoying your courses?”

Though there is probably a lengthy answer, we suggest an answer that better hides your existential conflict. Something like, “Yes,” should suffice. 

Oh, and if your classes are so bad you’re thinking of switching programs, don’t tell your parents until after you’ve made the switch. 

“Are you making time for any extracurriculars? You have to make connections!”

If the never-ending supply of course work could subside just for one day, then maybe you could find the time to join a club. Extracurriculars are great — but family members fail to understand the constant time pressure of university. 

When pressed for an answer, there is nothing wrong with coming up with a small fib, just to make it sound like you are putting the millisecond of free time you have in a week to good use. If they press for any further information, you can even play up the importance of your role within the imagined organization. They’ll never know. 

“Have you heard about [insert recent political event here]?”

Do not engage. I repeat, do not engage.

“Have you considered becoming a lifeless robot devoid of human characteristics and no longer experiencing enjoyment?”

Affirmative. Studentbot is now proficient at many tasks. Studentbot is efficiently programmed to deal with the University of Ottawa administration without frustration and is also capable of processing the workloads of multiple courses simultaneously. The tear duct function has been discontinued. Happiness is null.