I’ve got quite a bit of alone time here, a tad too much, that I’ve been kept thinking so much everyday.
I remember how I looked upon seniors with envy on every occasion I saw photos of them studying abroad- their travels, group photos of people packed in layers of warm clothing, lectures with an international audience or simply the view from their room when they wake up in the morning. I thought to myself how privileged they were to be receiving a different education, and how much I yearned to be in their position when I got older. Seeing my seniors study abroad has been one of the biggest push factors in motivating me to study harder to hopefully, obtain that opportunity as well.
People often ask what I seek for in an overseas education. I used to say that I sought for “a different learning environment”, “more personalised tutorials” from top universities, “being thrown out of my comfort zone”, or more specifically, a better learning environment because Singapore lacks the exploration for Physical Geography, which is a big pity because it leads to students under-appreciating the natural phenomena. Tossing those thoughts aside, 2 weeks in and I’m realising a lot of things about myself that I never did. What I’ve truly learnt so far barely touches on the academia, but instead the individual growth that has frankly astounded me. I wasn’t exactly born with a silver spoon, but from young I never had to worry about financial problems in my household, never had to do household chores because being the youngest kid in the family I was the least expected to perform them, and never had to worry about paying bills, fees, or any money by a stipulated deadline.
Expectedly things over here things are so different, and staying alone truly forces you to grow up quickly. To cut my spending, I’m forced to make weekly schedules to do my laundry, I’m forced to calculate exactly when I’m cooking meat/vegetables or eating bread/fruit so that my food does not go past its expiry date (and end up being wasted, my heart almost broke when I threw away my rotten apples), I’m forced to vacuum my floor, make my bed, do my laundry, wash my dishes! I’ve picked up quite a bit of that through my time in the military but over here is the true growing process- because I am now alone. I no longer have Han Juan who teaches me how to dry clothes quicker during BMT, I no longer have my book outs to toss all my dirty clothes at home to see them repackaged in my bag ready for book in. Not forgetting, to keep track on when I’m supposed to pay my bills and accommodation fees especially as financial statements become all paperless, I nearly had to incur a 25 pounds late charge just because I did not pay my residences fees in time.
Little things all make you miss home that little bit, little bit more each day. I do not need to worry about cooking dinner at home every single day (a chore of course)- because meals from the hawker centre downstairs my home are easily affordable. I never had to worry about groceries because I could easily open the refrigerator to find eggs, yogurt, fruits and everything I needed for breakfast. If I’m hungry, I could easily grab something from the snack table in my home. If I needed company I could easily grab my sister to head to JEM or Westgate to grab a cup of llao llao merely 70cents away by train. Or I could go to Clementi Mall library to borrow a book without worrying about not knowing where to go or how to approach a service staff.
At this point in time, I’m the target of many people’s envy, like how I felt about my seniors before. There are so many people in Singapore who badly want to migrate in their lifetime, and here I am with an opportunity to truly experience life in an overseas country as it is, with opportunities to return home anytime if I want to, and at the end of it all. People often express how I’m “lucky” and “rich enough” to be schooling overseas, an opportunity that many will never get in their youth. How lucky I am to be located where it is accessible to most of Europe, where I can easily take bus or rail trips out to Lyon, Nice, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels if I want to- the list is almost non-exhaustive. My Instagram feed also does well in making me look like I’m having the time of my life, travelling to my heart’s content and exposing myself to new cultures and people everyday. Waking up to see low buildings should already be a joy as it is.
Photos are obviously deceptive though, and no matter how ridiculous this may sound given that I was yearning for an overseas education before, nothing beats home. I miss seeing my friends around. I miss wearing trash to queue for llao llao, I miss all the fried finger food that my mother cooks. I even miss wearing shorts! Commanders often speak of their stories in the SAF and how they slowly find the purpose to defend this country they call home, and how proud they are to be taking it on as a career. I slowly understand why SAF tries to send young undergraduate students overseas- it throws them into a steep learning curve to truly learn, and at the same time develop a really deep appreciation for home. Why complain about the hike in public transport fares when they are still pretty affordable as a proportion of the median income- you haven’t tried one-way trips for 2.30 pounds. Why complain about 3 total train breakdowns in a month when tube stations can randomly shut down for maintenance one Sunday and everyone just walks to the next station without showing any surprise. Why complain about GST when VAT is 20% here? Why complain about speed and inefficiency endlessly when DBS takes 1 working day to process cheques, as opposed to 4 days here? Granted that there will always things or policies that we disagree with (who will ever be happy about taxes or CPF?), but you don’t truly know how much you appreciate the little things in Singapore, and how much those things that you seemingly abhor don’t matter when you’re thrown in a foreign environment with much to benchmark against.
Now’s officially the worst time to listen to the NDP 2007 soundtrack and Clementi Primary School’s 2004 theme song. I can’t wait to eat Kway Chap, drink my lotus soup, and eat my mother’s curry chicken with crazily soft potatoes already. And I’m only 2 weeks in.