Ever since I was a little girl, it has been a dream to study abroad. The allure of leaving home and studying in another country called out to me like a siren calling out to fishermen in ancient mythology. When I finished high school, I attended HELP University and did my college courses there. I envied those of my friends who left for Australia, New Zealand, America and England to pursue their studies.
During my undergraduate days, the closest I got to studying abroad was to attend Monash University, an Australian University which has a campus in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. For awhile, it seemed that Kuala Lumpur was as far away as I was going to get from my hometown of Johor Bahru…
I thoroughly enjoyed my Bachelor of Communication and International Studies at Monash. However, to me at that point in time, I didn’t feel that a career in the media industry would be fulfilling. I always knew that I wanted to work in an industry where I could be of service to others. I returned to Johor Bahru and ended up teaching at a homeschooling centre. After working there for about a year, my family asked me if I would like to pursue my Master’s degree. I eagerly said yes and applied for the Master of Occupational Therapy program at The University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest university. I chose Occupational Therapy because it was part of the heath sciences program and I could help and serve those who have disabilities or inadequacies. I chose Sydney University because it was ranked as one of the top universities in Australia alongside Monash University, and I had some family and friends residing in Sydney. I was accepted into the Masters program and off I went in to Sydney in February of 2012.
Living and studying abroad is by no means as glamorous as it seems on social media, be it Instagram or Facebook. Of course, studying in Sydney meant being able to indulge in coffee culture from time to time, going cherry picking during the summer and having freshly made decadent gelato. But doing a Master’s in Occupational Therapy meant a lot of hard work, especially juggling studies and work during my second year there where I worked in the paediatric disability care sector part time, caring for children with disabilities and bringing them out into the community. Coming from an Arts background, it took me seven weeks before I could bring myself to touch the juicy cadavers in the Anatomy laboratory and a lot of extra effort in passing the exams. Being away from home means not having food magically appear on the table nightly and clean clothes in the closet. I missed my family, friends and the local Malaysian cuisine.
Studying abroad gives you a keen appreciation for your own home country. It teaches you independence and resilience. You learn how to rely on your own abilities and be independent. You learn how to assimilate into the new culture while still holding on to your core values. Yes, the photos uploaded on Facebook and Instagram makes us look like we’re living the life over there, but that’s only one opportune shot, probably taking on a weekend when we’re not studying our butts off or working to supplement our allowance from our family back home.
Finishing my course and graduating in the allocated two years remains one of my biggest achievements to date. But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends and friends who have become like family. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Till next time!