story | Kanako Sugawara, contributing reporter
image | Yang Xuerui
For the Class of 2020, last week marked the one-month anniversary of our time here at Yale-NUS College. For many of us, it also marked our first month living away from home for the first time in our lives. As many of my peers will attest, this transformative experience has really made me think about what it means to adapt to living away from home.
Growing up with stereotypically strict Asian parents, to me, coming to Yale-NUS and living away from home meant finally being able to have the freedom I had always craved. The freedom to eat, sleep, dance, and party whenever and wherever I want—never again would I be hindered by a ridiculously early curfew or forced piano lessons.
I envisioned weekends where I could just laze about in bed without being nagged to do homework or staying up until the wee hours of the morning doing God knows what. Especially after Experience Yale-NUS Weekend, all I could envision about life in college was finally having the liberty to make my very own decisions.
The reality of living away from home and becoming independent was a lot more complicated than I ever imagined. Reality is having to learn how to say “no” to brownies at 2am because you know stuffing yourself full five times a day really isn’t going to help you avoid the dreaded freshman fifteen. It’s accidentally using softener instead of detergent for the first two weeks of orientation until someone kindly points it out to you in the laundry room. It’s realizing that your clothes don’t magically wash and fold themselves—if you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for you.
On a more serious note, it means coming down with the fever and realizing that from now on, it’s up to you and only you to take care of yourself. Yes, your suitemate will practically push you into the nurse’s office and a kind soul will leave a huge package of cough drops in the buttery, but in the end, you realize that once you’re in college, you have to nag yourself to take care of your own body.
Quynh Nguyen ’20 has experienced this firsthand. “Last week I became sick, and I had no idea what to do. For the first time, I realized just how scary it is to get sick in a foreign country—not knowing where to get diagnosed, to get prescriptions, even just to find a place to rest. At that moment, I missed my mother and father so much to the point where I had to call them immediately even though it was midnight here”.
Even for locals, adjusting to this new lifestyle has been a both a challenge and a blessing. Kate Lim ’20 talked to me about how her newfound freedom has made her realize that she doesn’t have the granted support system of her family anymore now that she is in college. She says that “I really believe that being independent in my choices and having to commit to these choices has been one of the biggest obstacles that I’ve faced here so far”.
From being able choose which extracurricular activity to join without wondering if it looks good on my resume to being able to order in McDonald’s at three in the morning, coming to Yale-NUS has given me so many opportunities to seek and think for myself. But what I’ve realized—and what a lot of my peers have realized—is that with that freedom comes so much more responsibility—sometimes more than we can handle by ourselves. Call me a sheltered kid, but I’ve realized that I hadn’t fully known the joy of being taken care of until I came here to learn how to take care of myself. In a way, coming here has made me realize that maybe, just maybe, I was extremely lucky to have the strict upbringing that I had disliked so much.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ask my parents how to book a flight home.
The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: email@example.com