Apr 29, 2014

Experiential Learning at College Dorms

I am not going to tell you that living in a college dorm teaches you to resolve conflicts with your roommate and neighbors. I am not going to say that you learn to be more independent and take care of yourself. I am not going to say that you learn to swallow bad food. You already know that.

Atleast now you do.

My suite mates and I trying to be serious. It was hard. 
What I am going to tell you is that college dorms teach you to talk no matter what you're doing. You're surrounded by people your age who you didn't know until you the age of 18. There is so much about their life that you want to know about. You want to hear all their travel stories and what they're learning in their art history class. They're all amazing people and you want to know all of them. Of course that's difficult, but you try nevertheless. So you're constantly talking-when you're brushing your teeth, taking a shower, cooking, working on your final paper, eating in the common dining hall or taking printouts in the library.

Outside the kitchen on a weekday night. A passing hello or
a philosophical discussion on Plato? 

They  teach you to ignore that facebook post about free food in the kitchen or board game night in the common lounge. There are too many things to do, including the essay due tomorrow, and you have to make choices. You're going to feel FOMO (fear of missing out) at first and think about the lost opportunities. After a while you're going to shrug and say "oh well, next time". Because there is going to be a next time. This is college, not the real world. You have four years and there are going to be many more zumba classes and movie screenings to go to.
An anonymous gift found outside my room door. Perfect
timing, I was so hungry. 

They teach you to smile at people and say a cheery hello no matter how terrible you're feeling on the inside. Although you really just want to walk past them and pretend you didn't see them, you look at them in eye, smile and wave as if your life is absolutely fine. Of course, the cheery waves and beautiful smiles you get in return often make you feel better and you forget the reason you were so upset in the first place.

They teach you to not be such a control freak about your daily schedule. So you ended up spending an hour at the water filter talking to that girl who lives down the hallway. You may not be able to hit the gym today, or maybe you'll have to compromise on your sleep tonight. But that's okay. Not knowing how you're going to end up spending your day is one of the best parts about college.

The student run cafe on a Sunday night. It's nearly impossible
to spend less than an hour here. Believe me, I've tried!

They teach you to ignore people who push you to the edge. There are going to be those who make you want to switch classes or dorm rooms. You'll probably realize that switching classes or dorm rooms is a tedious procedure and you don't want to go through it. You end up bearing with that person for a year. After a while, they stop affecting you, because you stop caring. Who knows, you might even end up being friends with them.

College dorms are so much more than shelter to sleep and store your stuff. They're experiential learning at its very best.

Apr 23, 2014

Hate turned Love

Think about your best friends. Done? Now think about what your first impression was of them.
If you are anything like me, chances are that it wasn't love at first sight. I have rarely instantly liked the person who I end up being best friends with. Infact, I initially really disliked a lot of my current best friends and may have said some not so nice things about them. Most people who I hate at first sight are the ones who I end up becoming good friends with later.
Also, people who I love at first sight are those who I eventually end up really annoyed and irritated with. I find myself trying to recall why I liked them so much in the first place. Haven't you had those moments when you look at your friend and wonder why on earth you're friends with this ridiculously unbearable person.
Until recently, I was absolutely bewildered by this weird trend all my friendships seem to take. But then I realized that I'm perfectly normal and its actually expectations at play. When I hate someone, I expect absolutely nothing from them. They can ignore me and insult me and I wouldn't care. When I love someone, I expect them to be ideal people whom I've dreamt up in my foolish head. The hated ones always turn out to have a better side to them which surprises me, and the loved ones have bad sides which shock me.
This new discovery influences much of my outlook of people and I end up being friends with those whose better side is only starting to show. I already know the ugly part of them. Now it is time to discover their beautiful side.
I guess its safe to say that I don't believe in love at first sight. It has deceived me so many times. But hate at first sight? That's a whole different story.

Apr 3, 2014

Dear Susan..

How are you? I hope Indonesia is all that you expected it to be.

In case you don’t remember me, I’m the young college student from Singapore you met in the Rainforest Bakery in Penang last month. The couch across looked cozy and you looked like a warm person. When I came up to your table, I had absolutely no intentions to steal you from your kindle. In fact, I had my own kindle in my bag. I had spent my last few days in Penang sight seeing with my friends, and I felt physically exhausted from walking around in the heat. I was not in the mood to converse, and had come to Rainforest CafĂ© looking for some quiet time, only to find opposite. And I’m so grateful for that. Talking to you that afternoon changed the course of my trip.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to hear a story too different from what I’d heard in the past few days from other travelers in the area. But when you told me such astounding stories from your work with victims of domestic violence back in Holland and your recent trip to Burma, I felt refreshed. For a few moments, I felt like I was living your life through your stories, and learning from your past.

Inspired by our conversation, I decided to spend my next three days in Penang in search of more conversation. I wandered around the streets of Georgetown’s Heritage city the next day by myself. Even though I had walked these streets before, I saw things I hadn’t noticed before, and I smiled at people more often. Sometimes I’d just wave at them, and sometimes I’d stop to talk to them. Every local and every tourist I met was very different from anyone I knew, and everyone had something new to say. As I learnt about Penang and Malaysia from the locals, I learnt about other parts of the world from other tourists in the area. I realized that although it isn’t possible for me to go every place I want to go, it is possible for me to hear from people who’ve been to these places.

So Susan, I thank you for teaching this young traveler that travelling is never really about seeing monuments and museums. Rather it’s about the people, who can take you miles away from where you are and show you so much more than your eyes can ever see.