Category Archives: Life of an International Student
The University of Oklahoma had a game last weekend. Parking was $25. The guy gave me 1-hour free parking because I’m a “pretty Asian girl.” I’ll take it. I’m quite sure he was at least 55 years old, which made it more hilarious.
But as a result of the free parking pass, I got to eat at the Crimson and Whipped Cream bakery in Norman. The coffee was ‘meh,’ but the food was drool-worthy. I ordered the Nutella crumble. Also tried my friend’s apple crumble, and it was equally yummy.
I love cooking. If I could be anything I want, I’d be a chef. If I could be anywhere I want, I’d be in culinary school.
I tried the Hello Fresh service for the first time this week. 1 week’s service costs $59. You get 3 meals for 2 people. I bought it off Groupon for $39, and used a $10 off coupon. Total OOP was $29 for 1 week’s service/6 meal servings… which is cheaper than eating out, but more expensive than cooking my regular meal prep stuff.
What I got in my box…
So far, I’ve cooked 2 meals.
The Brussels Sprouts were the best. I’m not a big fan of them, but after tossing them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baking them in the oven, they had just the right amount of crunch and flavor. The maple-balsamic glaze was also very good. I think the thyme did the trick. Sadly, I accidentally put too much salt in the mashed squash. 😦
This meal wasn’t a favorite. The slaw had too much onions in it, and the bread had a weird taste. The chicken was alright, but I would have preferred if it had called for baking, instead of frying. Thinking about all that oil made me cringe.
This evening, I signed my first house lease… ever. Never in a million year did I ever think that I would one day sign a house lease in the US. As the house owner explained the terms of the rental contract, and I wrote out my check for the security deposit, I felt the familiar sense of panic and unsureness rising in me. This was the same panic and unsureness that I felt when I…
…arrived in the OKC airport one August evening in 2013 and wondered if the person who was supposed to meet me would be able to find me because I wasn’t wearing an OBU shirt.
…navigated opening a bank account, buying a new cellphone, paying taxes, etc. all in a different country with an unfamiliar currency.
…realized that the tuition and fees listed on the OBU website deceivingly did not include many other hidden costs and that I might possibly have to take out a student loan.
…sat in front of my financial aid adviser, and she curtly told me that there were no scholarships I could apply for even though I had a perfect GPA, and then took away a loan form I had filled out because I “wasn’t supposed to have it.”
…walked back to my dorm room after that meeting and started crying on the way.
…spent days agonizing over where I could get money while a fine was imposed, adding to the amount I couldn’t pay, because I had not paid the tuition bill in time.
…got into a mad scramble to find somewhere where I could spend the summer of my first year in the US in.
…took the public transportation in Atlanta, GA alone, and found myself at a dark, deserted train station where a mentally unstable man spoke to me as I ran up the endlessly high escalator as quickly as possible so that I could exit the station.
…took on job after job just to pay the bills, while refusing to go into student debt because I know there’s a possibility I might not be able to repay the debt since finding a job while on an international visa is a huge challenge.
…got accosted while walking on campus in the night alone because the possibility of being attacked in a foreign country is a very scary thought.
…am unhelpfully told that it’s okay if my GPA can’t get me more scholarships because in the end, the 4.0 will look good on my resume.
…become terrified at the mere thought of driving when I used to love driving so much back home.
…have to carefully plan my grocery lists and meals so that I can eat balanced meals, while also saving as much money as possible.
…went to the Southwest Airlines website and booked myself a flight ticket back to OKC from GA.
…taught myself how to pay my bills online and enroll in auto-pays.
This list only contains things I can think off my head now. But my point is this: no one told me that although leaving my teen years, becoming an adult, and doing adult things in a foreign country by myself would be a daunting and frightening experience, it has also taught me to be strong, independent, and responsible.
I’m not going to lie and say that there aren’t days when I see my roomies come back from a trip home with sack loads of groceries bought by their parents, and I don’t find myself wishing that my parents are here to buy my groceries for me. Or that I don’t wish that my mom is here when I have to pack up all my things at the end of the semester or year, and I find myself staring at my possessions, amazed I have accumulated so many things, but also wondering at the huge task of packing all of them up.
But even when these times happen, I am fully aware that people go through different stages when they leave their parents’ home. For me, it meant a complete “cut-off” without the opportunity to return on long weekends or holidays. This complete “cut-off” has been torrid at times. There are days when I want to curl under my blankets and forget about “being an adult.” Then again, there are days when I feel proud of myself for how far I have come and the progress I have made since August 2013.
No one said that “being an adult” is easy. But it’s going to happen for everyone… eventually… at some point in their lives. Mine came sooner than later. And as I sit back and feel the panic and unsureness about whether I’d made the right decision to rent a house, I realize that this is just one speed bump in my life. There has been many others before this, and there will be many others in the future. Because after all, “being an adult” means making decisions with consequences, and living and learning with those decisions.
This year was one of my most eventful years ever. Here are some of my favorite memories, pictures, things I learned, etc. Enjoy a sneak peek into my life this year, and here’s to a New Year filled with new adventures, friends, and an unforgettable journey. 🙂
Being the 3rd wheel or 5th wheel almost everyday. This happens when 2 of your best friends get boyfriends.
Learning how to say goodbye because when most of your friends are internationals, they’re most likely not going to be in college all 4 years with you.
Traveling to places I never thought I would be able to go to.
Starting and teaching an ESL class over the summer.
Working 3 on-campus jobs to pay the bills. This meant learning how to be responsible, to manage my time and finances well.
Knowing that friends I can always rely on are invaluable.
Learning how to be open-minded, to think for myself, that it’s okay if my opinions differ from others’.
Making mistakes and learning from them.
Taking the time to Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or Viber family and friends hundreds of miles away. It takes effort, but my favorite times are when I can talk to my best friends living halfway across the world.
Creating memories and living spontaneously because I don’t want to think, “What if…?”
Learning how to grade homework at a college level and finding out the key differences between students who try and those who don’t.
Sticking with a job even though I hate it because paying the bills is more important. Calling people and asking them to donate money to the University isn’t exactly a fun job, but the fun part is laughing over the bad calls after shedding a few frustrated tears, of course.
Discovering how much I love cooking and crocheting.
Finding out that hard work pays off, and no matter how much I talk about dropping out of college…especially right before Civ exams…, I’m in it for the long haul.
Getting the balance between eating healthily and working out. Both pays off, and isn’t difficult with the right motivation.
Here’s the truth – I’ve been feeling restless and antsy. I’m jaded from school and work. Most days, as I trudge back to my apartment after a long day of classes, homework, and work, I think of the “what ifs”. What if I don’t have to work to pay the bills? What if all I need to do is focus on school? What if I have my friends with me instead of hundreds of miles across the oceans? What if I’m more outgoing? What if I transfer to a cheaper college? What if…? What if…?
As always, it’s not long before my conscience starts pricking me. I hear it telling me to be grateful, to appreciate the opportunities I have. In my mind, I know I should appreciate them. There are many girls my age who would never get a chance to go to college. But my heart is reluctant to be grateful. My wanderlust tugs on my focus, and I want to leave the monotony for greener pastures.
I spent yesterday working on my American Studies paper, and today was spent working on my Western Civilization History paper. After a day of sitting in front of my laptop, poring over books, and churning out pages, I was frazzled, restless, and tired.
I took a walk. The drivers, lone biker, and people who walked past me probably thought there was a deranged person on the loose in campus. My hair was wet from the shower I had just taken, and I was clad in a hoodie and blue-spotted pajama pants. To complete my odd outfit, I was wearing blue socks with my Birkenstock-like sandals. I could have easily won the Most Unfashionable Award. In my defense though, all I wanted to do was walk. It was 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and I couldn’t be bothered to dress up.
I walked to Stubblefield Chapel, just down the road from my apartment. As I sank down on the bench just outside the gazebo, I felt even more restless. I wished I was back in a city, where everything was loud, a hive of activity, and there was always something to do. I forced myself to put aside my cellphone, felt myself relaxing, and breathed in the cool air.
I felt calm, contented, at peace, and accomplished for the first time in a long while. As I sat and observed my quiet surroundings, I realized that contentment and gratitude was something I had to be purposeful about. Unless I wanted to continue walking around feeling as if I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and constantly worrying about grades and money, I had to surrender. I must refuse to allow the cares of this world to drag me down. 10 years from now, I don’t want to look back and regret my college years.
Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 
So the next few pictures is about me being grateful. And the next few days will be about me being contented.
Ironically, after I returned to my apartment, I saw a message my uncle posted in our family WhatsApp group. It was a picture with a quote by Max Lucado that was so apt as it echoed what I’m learning now.
When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now? — Max Lucado
P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did bump into someone I know on my walk. To my embarrassment, as I was walking back, I saw a familiar figure. I was hoping he wouldn’t recognize me in the dim lighting, but unfortunately for me, he did and waved. Lesson learned – next time I take a late night walk, use sweat pants instead of pajama pants.
 English Standard Version
This weekend, I was a college leader for a D-Now at Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, Texas. This weekend was also the most awkward weekend I’ve ever had since coming to the US. Remember what I wrote in my Dear Ol’ Quirky America blog post about loud and energetic Americans? I think God decided to test my patience with them.
There were 14 other OBU students with me. They were loud, they were crazy, they were super energetic. And most of them already had their cliques in the group. I spent most of the time awkwardly sitting by myself and watching them dance (think waving hands and arms wildly, jerking one’s body around, flopping on the floor, etc.). I had never felt more out of place.
Now, if you haven’t seen how Americans dance, you should. The first time I saw how people here danced, it was at homecoming dance. My Japanese friend and I were staring in disbelief. We like to have fun, and we sometimes dance crazily as well, but we definitely exhibit more self-control and don’t things too far.
After the first day, I started questioning myself more. What was I thinking when I signed up for this? Why am I here? When I heard that only a few of us was chosen out of a pool of applicants, I knew that God wanted me to be in Brownsboro over the weekend. Still, that didn’t help matters. I confess that sometimes I had to bite back the irritation that arose out of the sense of frustration and misery. All I wanted to do was leave the scene of uninhibited behavior and no self-control, and return to my comfort zone.
By Sunday morning, I was wishing I could be back in Malaysia where I actually fit or at least back at OBU with my calmer friends. Church service came around and we were singing “Your Grace Is Enough” by Chris Tomlin. As I sang the chorus, it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. I have had a bad week at one of my jobs, I was exhausted both mentally and emotionally, I missed my friends, and I had enough of crazy Americans.
The sermon was about the Good Shepherd, and why Jesus is the Good Shepherd. It was just the thing I needed to hear. It taught me that even when I’m struggling the most, I have a Good Shepherd who is also the real example of love.
This didn’t mean that things became perfect right after that. I still felt like an outsider, horribly uncomfortable and painfully awkward, right until we left. When I got back, I never felt happier to be back in OBU and Shawnee, and to be with my calm and collected American roommates (I gave Sarah an extra, big hug that probably spoke volumes of my relief to be back).
But, I left with a sense of reassurance that when I step out of my comfort zone and take the plunge, God remains MY Good Shepherd. He will never leave me nor forsake me. Stepping out of my comfort zone this weekend was definitely worth it because I got to learn this lesson. I know that I might not ever be able to adjust to the culture here, but at least I have my Good Shepherd with me, and that alone is a comfort.
I came across this article, and it made me laugh. It’s so accurate! Even though I’ve been in the US for over a year, I still think these things are odd. Here are just some of my thoughts when I was reading the blog post. Call this a peek into the mind of an international student if you will.
I find it strange when I see lawyer advertisements on the highway. What’s up with those billboards? I actually feel a little bad for those lawyers. The competition must be tougher here, and that’s probably why they have to put their faces up (complete with cheesy smiles and thumbs-ups) in blown-out billboards along the highway.
Don’t get me started with bathroom stalls. The large gaps in between the wall and door bothers me. Sometimes, the gaps are so large, I can clearly see the people standing outside the stall.
The loud and friendly people? I’ve (mostly) gotten used to it. I have to. After all, I’m living in Oklahoma. When I’m in a large group, and the Americans are being their usual self, I find the facial expressions of new international students very amusing. What I find puzzling is how these perky Americans can be so energetic even after midnight. It’s almost like they have an endless energy supply. Confession: The Asian in me finds this really irritating sometimes, but really, there’s nothing much I can do about it.
I dislike pickles. Whenever I see my friends happily munching on a pickle, I can’t help but wonder how anyone can enjoy it. I’m very adventurous when it comes to food, but I refuse to eat pickles. Really, pickles are the only food I don’t eat.
When I first came here, I was introduced to the concept of “how are you?” being used impersonally as a colloquial phrase. I’ve finally understood why all international students dislike this phrase. However, this is just something that is so ingrained in the culture here, that I can’t help but go along with it. I use it casually now, but I still cringe and feel bad about using it so meaninglessly sometimes.
Sales tax, oh how I dislike you. I still forget about it sometimes, and then I’m caught by surprise at the total cost of my Walmart bill.
Changing my meal times is something I was forced to adapt to quickly. Of course, it helped that my body’s concept of time was turned upside down because of the time difference. But, I had to get used to the idea of eating at 6pm instead of 7:30pm though.
By now you should be able to understand a little the struggle of adapting to a foreign country. All these being said, America is America, and I truly love my American friends, quirks and all. The culture is so unique and diverse in every part of the country. I definitely don’t regret coming here!
Side note: I’m sorry if this blog post offends you. I’m trying to give a perspective that is unoffensive, but yet honest at the same time. My opinions here are just my views of the general American society.