On June 1st, I officially graduated from UBC. It was a bittersweet day for me as I celebrate the completion of my four-year education abroad with my peers, faculty members and most specially, my family. Although the walk across the stage was shorter than a minute and the rain started pouring after my ceremony, which totally ruined the mood and stopped me from meeting a lot of my friends, I am thankful that I got to cross the stage (and not fall on it) to properly end my undergraduate life.
For your entertainment purposes, my sister managed to capture an unready shot of me with the Dean when I was on stage. It looks as if we’re working on a gangsta pose, which I thought is pretty cool. After all, Sauder School of Business did teach me to be bold like a gangsta right? *plays Dre and Snoop Dogg’s The Next Episode, insert make it rain meme*
So, since the walk across the stage was less than a minute and what I received was only a piece of paper, I thought it’ll be nice for myself to actually summarize my four years of university in a blog post, so that I can remember what’s not written on my degree, and what I really learned from university. If you’re interested in my story, buckle up, because we’re taking a roller coaster ride down my memory lane! ?
Four years ago when I first came to UBC, I was excited. There was so much for me to check out as I met new friends from all around the world and explored the beautiful city that I just moved into. I came into UBC one week late due to my visa application issues and having missed all of the orientation programs, I was pretty lost in school. Academically, I did rather poorly. I wasn’t used to the education system, I felt inferior to participate in class discussions and I didn’t know that “office hours” are meant to help me. I just went with the flow and tried my best. Fortunately, I passed all of my courses and made it into second year.
Because I didn’t attend my faculty’s orientation program and most people already had their cliques when I arrived, I hung out mostly with my Malaysian friends and my dormmates. I explored. I experienced my first fall, winter and spring; tried pho and poutine; went to concerts and parties; sang and performed with UBC A Cappella and the musical crew in my residence, and I also got my first tattoo. Looking back, first year was like a honeymoon for me. It was my first time living away from home and somehow, the overall campus experience made up for the homesickness and the stress that I was facing in the classroom.
Year 2 – 3
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to secure myself a spot in residence and had to move out to live on my own in second year. I remembered crying to myself after spending an hour to cook a bowl of really basic udon noodles, realizing how dependent I had always been growing up. ? In school, I struggled with some of the general Commerce courses and started questioning about what I really wanted to do in life. It was stressful, and sadly, my negative emotions were not visible to the public but only to myself and my then boyfriend. I channelled most of my negativity towards him while on long distance, which eventually led to a mutual break up. A break up with my high school sweetheart of seven years.
On my 21st birthday, one month after my break up when I was still feeling emotionally empty, something happened. I’m still not ready to get into details, but let’s just say that something happened that night with someone that I knew but was not close to; something that would affect me mentally for the next two years and make multiple trips to UBC SASC and Counselling Services to get help; something that I chose not to talk about in social media because I didn’t want my parents who were 8000 miles away to feel worried and helpless, because I wanted to complete my studies in UBC and not being asked to go home; something that I wasn’t ashamed of, but needed time to be ready to share about it more openly, and I’m finally making my first step here today. It wasn’t an easy time for me, and if it wasn’t for my closest friends who took me in and stood by me, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
Funny thing about me is that my coping mechanism at that moment was to take in as much as I could so that I could distract myself from my problems. I got involved in multiple student clubs and bodies: President of UBC Operation Smile, Performance Director for Malaysia Singapore Night, Staff Writer for the Cavalier, AVP Marketing of the Commerce Undergraduate Society; which led me to meet lots of bright and inspiring individuals from my campus and my own faculty. My decision to specialize in Marketing for my degree, which was where my interest lies, also made it easier for me to keep up in classes. My active involvement landed me the International Student Leadership Award from Sauder School of Business at the end of third year, which meant so much more to me than anyone could have imagined.
Although my coping mechanism worked out pretty darn well for my resume, it didn’t do as well for my health. I crashed towards the end of third year, and it forced me to take a break in the summer of 2015 when most of my friends were interning in some of the top companies. I travelled across the continent to meet my best friend in New York City, and spent the rest of my summer getting into the healthy lifestyle. I started hitting the gym; I started running; I started practicing yoga; and I started blogging about health and positivity. This blog wouldn’t have transformed to what it is today if it wasn’t for my body telling me to take a break, and I’m grateful for how it turned out.
My final year in university went by in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t too hard to keep up with classes when I was studying in courses where my interest lies and when my health was in good form. I was involved in only one student service, Sauder Health and Wellness, which was so much fun to be a part of. I also helped organized a hackathon, BizHacks, which exposed me to the tech scene. I managed to get myself a part-time job doing social media marketing in a startup, Tangoo. This job gave me valuable experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten in the classroom, and it was the perfect transition into the real world before I graduated.
And that’s it, that’s my four years of university life being condensed into seven paragraphs. That’s what my degree really means to me – not really about the courses that I took or the grades that I received, but the journey that I went through to become the stronger, wiser person that I am today. UBC is a great university that has given me not only quality education, but also all of the resources that I needed to get by life, including the friends that I will be keeping in touch with for the rest of my life. For that, I’d like to thank my sponsor/scholarship granter from Malaysia, for making this tertiary education even possible in the first place. I am eternally grateful for God’s grace, for blessing me with such opportunities in life.
To those of you who are still in university or are struggling in life in general – good luck, and you can do it. I hope that by highlighting all of my achievements and problems at the same time, it shows you that it is possible to make it through. It is possible to fight through your problems or negative emotions or inner demons and still get to where you want to. This is just university life for me; although I don’t know what exactly my next steps are (yeap, the only next step that I know is that I will be spending some time with my family in Malaysia for now), I know that there are so much more life events that will happen to me as I dive deeper into the adult world, and I’m ready for the new battle. Let’s all have a little more faith in ourselves, shall we? ?