Growing up, my dad had always told me that I would be studying abroad on my own. It is the best opportunity anyone can possibly ask or hope for, and I am eternally grateful for my parents’ sacrifices. However, from that moment on, I could not help but feel intimidated by the idea of having to leave home, my family and friends.
My dad believed that there were many more things in other parts of the world to explore, learn, and experience. He never had the opportunity to study abroad when he was younger. But he was fortunate enough to have a career that has allowed him to travel the world. This, in turn, has broadened his horizons. Therefore, he formulated his decision for me to study abroad to gain social and cultural exposure, as well as develop my personal growth and skills that are essential to adulthood.
Life After Secondary School
After graduating from secondary school (high school in the U.S. context), I had no idea what I should study or what degree I should pursue. I attended several college and university exhibitions, visited academic counselors, and consulted with friends and seniors for advice in hopes to help with my path to higher education. In the end, I decided to pursue a degree in International Business due to my interest and passion for travel and to obtain the privilege to travel for work in my future career.
In order to accomplish the tall task before me, I first enrolled in a program known as the Foundation in Business Studies at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus. It was a one year program that introduced students to general business courses to help them decide on a major. I was planning to study abroad in the United Kingdom or Australia after finishing the program, but my university life took an interesting turn when my dad intercepted my decision and suggested that I should study in the United States instead. A close friend of his, who happened to be a professor at the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky, suggested studying in the States if I was going to pursue a degree in business.
Having known the courses I took in the foundation were not relevant, I quickly enrolled in a new program known as the American Degree Program to pick up courses that are transferable. After a year, it was time to decide which university I should transfer to.
Tuition fees and financial aid are my main criteria when looking for universities to apply. This is because the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and Malaysian Ringgit was one to approximately four (USD1 is equal to MYR4.08), which is pretty high even until today. The financial aid that universities could provide would substantially help with the finances my parents were supporting.
I applied to a total of three universities: the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Drake University. Both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Drake University are relatively affordable with the provision of financial aid, but the business program in the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities is reputable. In the end, I decided to further my higher education at Drake University. It is definitely more affordable than the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities but it also has a better-known reputation for its business school in the Midwest as compared to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The hardest thing for me to cope with studying abroad is homesickness. There were unbearable moments where stress and unfavorable encounters burdened my emotions. It was these times where I would usually turn to my mum for support or a shoulder to lean on, but I had to pick myself up and brace through these hardships. Consequently, I learned how to be independent on my own, which included managing my daily life and be responsible for my choices and decisions as a young teenager in a foreign country. There were things I could turn to to cope with stress but I chose other forms and outlets to handle it instead such as being active in sports and eating ice cream.
One of the most important things is making friends with people you can trust and lean on. Not only I shared joyful moments with my closest friends here at Drake, but they also provided me unconditional guidance, support, and advice when they see fit. Most of these contributed to my personal growth and development to achieve the goals I set. Even though most of us have parted ways after graduation, we still remain as close as the times we used to spend together.
Looking back at how intimidated I was about leaving home, my emotions and state of mind have definitely matured. This entire experience has been eye-opening because I am able to immerse myself in a completely different society and culture and learn from it. I consider myself adaptive to changes to my surroundings when necessary, but I stay true to my identity as a Malaysian in hopes to spread my knowledge and culture to people I cross paths with. Additionally, I established meaningful friendships and extended my professional network at Drake.
If I get to give my younger self a piece of advice about this process, I would say, “Don’t be intimidated by the uncertainties. A growing process involves learning and conquering those uncertainties, so you will be equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in life”.