Months ago it seemed like August would never come, and college was a million years away.
Now August is here and college is TWO WEEKS away!
You’d think I’d be excited, and that I couldn’t wait to fly off to live in the middle of cornfields.
But really, what I am is truly, truly… TERRIFIED.
I was even regretting it a little, applying to a school so damn far away.
And to think, I’d been SO excited earlier!
(Maybe it’s a little like a roller-coaster ride. You know how it is: you get in line, get excited when it’s your turn to ride, and when it begins and the car starts going upwards and all is quiet except for the loud “clank-clanking” of the tracks, you start going, “Oh shit, damn scared! I regret, I regreeeeet!!” Then the car reaches the top, pauses a little, and you’re TRULY terrified, then the car rushes downwards and before you know it, the ride has ended, you’re SUPER PUMPED and you wish you could go on it again.)
I was looking through the school directory, and made a search for Malaysians on campus. Only one name turned up — mine!
Can you believe it!
I’ll be flying off to a small, cold, rural town in the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields, hours away from the nearest city, and I will be the only Malaysian there!
In other words, I’ll be giving up everything that had been so familiar, to go to a place where absolutely nothing is familiar.
It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a small Malaysian community, you know. How else am I going to practice my Manglish (of which I am super proud)? Who will understand my nasi lemak cravings, or the wonders of sentence-enders like “lah“, “meh” and “what” (as in, “I also got what!”)?
(So surprising lah, that there isn’t a single Malaysian, other than myself, on campus. I know there were Malaysians who applied last year, I know there were some who applied the year before, but nobody ended up matriculating?!)
Two nights ago, I was so damn scared at the thought of going to a place where no one knows me, NO ONE knows what being Malaysian is like, that I got out of bed at 4 a.m. and dug out the large pile of college viewbooks and prospectuses, because for a moment there I had completely forgotten (and needed reminding) why I was so damn excited at the prospect of studying in a Liberal Arts College earlier this year.
I mean, go somewhere closer to home cannot meh (like Australia, maybe, where Malaysians abound)?
Suddenly flying alone for 24 hours, and being picked up by people I don’t know in an airport halfway round the world from home sounds a lot less appealing.
And then I remembered.
It was about going to a place where the small town/ small community meant everyone knew almost everyone else.
It was about going to a campus so far from the city and its distractions that at night you can actually see the stars in the Iowa sky.
(When my brother was studying in Hawaii, he said he’d walk down to the beach with his friends and they’d star-gaze. It seems so much nicer to have that, than to walk out of campus grounds and see a Starbucks chain on your left, and a McDonald’s on your right.)
Most of all, it was about (for the first time in my life!) being able to attend school where learning is valued for it’s own sake, where it’s about “mind-enriching” and NOT “job-training”, where people actually tell you not to worry so much about your major and to take as many classes that interest you as possible.
Of course, I’m still terrified.
But for the first time in my life, I get to learn what I like, I get to take classes in “impractical” subjects like philosophy and anthropology and religious studies, and not what (kiasu Malaysian) adults think is practical and useful for finding a job that pays more than I actually need.
I’m still terrified, still wishing I could have Malaysians there with me, still hoping I could fly home as frequently as my parents’ budget allows me to, but…
maybe it won’t be so bad after all.
Two weeks! *cringes*