My flatmate and I had gathered in our kitchen on a rainy Saturday morning with our warm cups of tea in our hands. The kitchen was cold and even kind of dirty, but we felt the need to sit down and have a really long chat. We had been living together for basically a year now and when we looked at each other after we had finally settled in our house for our last year of university, I sensed an expression of disbelief that it would be our last. So much has happened, yet we have the rest of our lives ahead of us. We felt like we were in those sentimental movies where two old characters reflect on the longevity of their lives and experience, only we felt that about our roller coaster of a university journey.
I think we rarely truly take a moment to sit down and reflect on our university experience. But also how university has changed us. Maybe some people do not feel the need to do that, but being a very sentimental person l myself, I could not help but think what his little campus and 3-year experience done for me and my journey of self-discovery. Beyond the stress, workload, or adversities that university throws at us, we rarely truly realise and pinpoint the moments that university has truly tested our perseverance. After reflecting and journaling these moments of progress, I realised how much university has truly forced me to discover myself in ways I could not have imagined.
I wanted to make the idealised university experience work
Being an international student, university meant leaving the place I have lived in for years, leaving my family and friends that were like home, and going to a completely foreign place at a time where the world was kind of falling apart. I had just turned 18 with so much hope and ambition that my first year would somehow be normal at a very much worrying time. I arrived on campus and despite isolating in a hotel in the middle of the year, I somehow still enjoyed it. However, it was a state of panic because I realised that the adrenaline and confidence that fuelled my bold trip to a country I have never been in, had really begun to deteriorate. Nonetheless, I managed to make friends for the rest of the year and learn so much from these friendships. Looking back, I saw how much the younger me had desperately wanted to make the idealised ‘university experience’ work. And… it kind of did.
Over the course of second year alone, I had constantly shifted personalities. I was trying on personalties like they were outfits, seeing which one would fit me better. it is kind of shocking because I always felt I would never really change. Reflecting now, it made me realise this was a response to not only the cultural shock I was experiencing but also wanting to fit in a culture that was already very accepting. In a way, I have never really changed, my values have remained the same throughout. However, my patience and strength to remain alone in times of hardship and friendship losses have been tested. Behind closed doors, I questioned the people I surrounded myself with constantly, over and over again. I noticed the types of people I surrounded myself with and have attracted in my circle, have changed as I have done myself. It made me realise how your environment will alter itself as you do yourself.
University has allowed me to discover myself and I’ll always be grateful for it
As my flatmate and I reminisced further, we talked about how our mental health has been tested the most when we appeared the most happy and social. University has definitely taught me that you don’t know what someone truly feels but also how someone appears to be is not necessarily how they truly are. It instilled in me that realisation and has made me understand why practising kindness is crucial not just in day-to-day life, but with people you go to university with.
The number one key to my self-discovery journey at university was being forced to be alone. University is naturally a social place which is paradoxical because it is also a place where you can be the most alone. Being a non-drinker who doesn’t enjoy the traditional society and university atmosphere, there were many instances where I felt particularly on my own. Not in a physically alone sense, but almost left out because I couldn’t exactly participate in activities I didn’t want to do. But it has also allowed me to grow in those times of being alone.
University naturally places you in fight or flight mode situations, where you have no choice but to deal with catastrophes on your own. Coming out of situations where I desperately needed to move houses instilled in me the independence I never thought I would actually have. The independence that you gain with difficult times, makes you emotionally interdependent as well. But gives you freedom, because guess what, no one can have a type of control over you. That’s how you know you have truly grown. You become dependent on yourself because you have experienced problems that you were able to solve on your own, no matter how difficult they were. You become stronger and it would have not been possible without the roller coaster university ride.
So now, when my flatmate and I finish our cups of tea and plan our busy days, we both leave the kitchen with a sense of satisfaction that it all turned out well in the end when we did not think it would. University had been the unexpected journey I needed to advance myself in so many ways, university had allowed me to discover myself and I’ll always be grateful for it.