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Becoming An Adult in a Foreign Country

table rock state park becoming an adult

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.

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A Year in Review: 2014

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.

easter weekend 2014

On Easter weekend, my friends and I went on a camping trip I think my two favorite parts were the tan I got and my role as the camp cook. Being the 5th wheel was also very interesting… and might have put me off the idea of dating for awhile.

erina and leena spring affair

One of the hardest parts of this year was saying goodbye to Erina and Leena. We were inseparable as a group, and not having them with me for the 1st semester of my Sophomore Year was tough. We loved to play pranks on each other, do random things, and generally, find something fun to do even when the going gets tough. After they left, I learned that true friends stick together no matter the distance.

sarah black friday

I have the best roomie I could ever ask for. This is our 2nd year rooming together, and we already have living arrangements planned for our 3rd year. We’ve never fought or disagreed over anything, we tease each other mercilessly at times, have our inside jokes that no one else understands, etc. Hanging out with Sarah is always a fun time, and this picture will show you how we think we are so funny sometimes.

baking

This year, cooking and baking became my go-to relaxation times. I found out how invaluable Pinterest is, and how I can mess up on a dish and there’s still always going to be someone who would think it’s delicious. I learned how to cook dinner for more than a dozen people, and how to prep and cook meals even when on a busy school schedule. I’ve always said that if I could have any job in the world, it would be a wedding planning job, but I think a chef comes in close second now.

on the farm

A year ago, if you had told me that I’d be spending winter break on a goat farm, traveling 32 hours on Greyhound, scooping out goat poop from the feeders with my bare hands, clomping around in a t-shirt, shorts, and rain boots in winter, etc., I would have probably laughed at you. But here I am. And I know that living on a farm for a month will give this city girl a different experience and perspective about life.

Baked Tuna Pasta Casserole

baked tuna pasta

As a college student, I’ve learned to appreciate bargain meals that are easy to make. My friend, Sarah Blankenship, made this dish for me once, and I wanted to try making it myself since it’s a simple, but tasty dish. I made some modifications to the recipe she gave me. I thought I’d share my modified recipe here, along with the price of the ingredients.

baked tuna pasta casserole

Servings: 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Total cost: $2.34

Ingredients

1 cup pasta: $0.20
1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom/chicken: $0.34
1/2 cup milk: $0.16
1 can tuna: $0.78
1/2 can corn: $0.34
1/2 tablespoon flour: $0.01
Dash of cayenne pepper: $0.02
Shredded mozzarella cheese topping: $0.50

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Boil pasta in a medium sauce pan.

3. While pasta is boiling, combine the condensed cream of soup, milk, tuna, and corn in a casserole dish.

4. Add flour to the mixture to thicken it.

5. Add boiled pasta into the dish.

6. Add dash of cayenne pepper into the dish. This is optional. I added more just because I like spicier food.

7. Mix everything together.

8. Top casserole dish with shredded mozzarella cheese.

9. Bake casserole dish in the oven for 35 minutes.

And… you’re done! Easy, right? There’s plenty of meat and veggies, and some carbs. Although the servings is listed as two, it depends on your meal portions. I tend to eat smaller portions, and this dish is pretty filling. For me, one such casserole can last 3-4 meals.

If you decide to make this dish, let me know how it went! 🙂

Contentment and Gratitude

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.

stubblefield chapel arch and raley chapel steeple

Of course, I wouldn’t be Evangeline if I didn’t have random thoughts flitting through my mind. Thoughts like… “I wonder how many brides have walked under this arch. Wow, Raley Chapel’s steeple has very bright white lighting.”

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 [1]

So the next few pictures is about me being grateful. And the next few days will be about me being contented.

me and sarah, my roomie

I’m grateful for my roommate. Before coming to college, I was worried about who my roommate was going to be. I prayed for a good roommate whom I could possibly become good friends with. Sarah was my roommate Freshman Year, and we’re roommates again in Sophomore Year. Sometimes, I think it’s crazy how we’re both so alike yet different at the same time. I am blessed.

me and erina

I’m grateful for Erina, who is not only my little Japanese friend (sorry Erina, I couldn’t help it), but also my best friend. I met her before international orientation even started last year, and we’ve been friends ever seen. She’s the sweetest and kindest person I know, and her passion to tell others about Christ encourages me greatly. I am blessed.

me and leena

I’m grateful for my other close friend, Leena. I’m encouraged by how she keeps me in prayer even when I don’t ask for it, and how she intuitively notices when something is wrong without me saying a word. Her unwavering faith in God always amazes me. I am blessed.

 

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.

[1] English Standard Version

The Boyfriend Dilemma

cooking over campfire

No “wifeherup” hashtags, please!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this particular problem a lot. It has bugged me ever since the semester started. It’s called “the guy craziness.”

Ever since coming to OBU, I’ve been shocked by how crazy and desperate girls are when it comes to the boyfriend topic. It’s no secret that there are some girls who come here to get their MRS degrees, but the desperation I see in them astounds me.

Things were so much different back home (I know I keep referring to “back home.” I can’t help it). Maybe it’s because of the particular group of friends I knew in Malaysia. Maybe it’s because of the traditional Asian view that marriage should only come after graduation and a stable job. Maybe it’s because of the Ring by Spring tradition found in Baptist universities here. Maybe it’s because of peer pressure – a girl feels the need to have a boyfriend because her friends are dating. Or maybe it’s because of the culture here.

Whatever the reasons are, I wish this wasn’t the case. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against dating or getting a boyfriend in college. I think it’s great if you have a boyfriend. I think it’s great if you don’t have one.

What I don’t like is the expectation placed on a girl by her peers. She’s expected to have a boyfriend. If she doesn’t have a boyfriend, no problem…her friends will help her find one. And by helping her, I mean listing out the names of single guys that they know and suggesting potential boyfriends. Stop it! You might have good intentions, but it only makes the girl feel worse about it.

What happened to college being a place for learning and gaining experience that will help someone find a job? When did college become a place to find a husband?

If you don’t believe me, go to Instagram. If I get a dollar for every time I see a single girl post a picture with the hashtag #wifeymaterial, I wouldn’t need the 3 jobs that I’m working now. I’ve even seen a #wifeherup hashtag. I cringe at such shameless calls for a boyfriend.

Honestly, ladies, that isn’t attractive at all. You’re not going to get a boyfriend just because you post pictures of how domestic you are. It doesn’t work that way. A guy is going to have to fall for you because of your beautiful character, and not because you posted a picture on Instagram of some fancy cuisine dish that you made.

This problem has bothered me a lot. Hence, this post. I must confess – after more than a year at OBU, I’m tired of this. I want to have a conversation that doesn’t inadvertently include the topic of how cute So-and-So is or anything related to dating and prospective boyfriends. Considering my social circumstances (more about this later…maybe), is going to be hard to find, but I can still hope, right?

Side note: In case you haven’t realized, my blog posts are going to display raw honesty. I want my blog posts to be an unfiltered lens into my world. I might be unintentionally offensive sometimes, but if you’re one of my friends in OBU, just know that nothing here is a reference to you.

Dear Ol’ Quirky America

odd things about americans

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.

I’m Back!

birthday present germany jersey

I know I suddenly disappeared from the blogosphere with no warning, and I’m sorry for that.

But life happened.

Since starting college, I am sad to say that I have barely read anything for leisure. It seems incomprehensible for this to happen. After all, how could I go from reading a novel almost everyday to not reading any novels at all?

Well, this is college life for me, I guess. After a day of reading academic textbooks, the last thing I want to do is pick up another book and read, even if that book is a novel.

A couple of weeks ago, my English professor told the class that being English majors will “ruin” how we read a text. Apparently, after finishing our major classes, we will no longer be able to read a text without analyzing every word in it. That’s a pretty scary thought.

Anyway, back to my original motive for writing this post. I am indefinitely not going to post anymore book reviews. I’ll completely understand if some of you decide to un-follow my blog after this.

However, I would encourage you to continue following Audacious Reader. I’ve decided to return to blogging. I’ll be blogging about different things…mostly the things I’ve learned or am learning as a college student.

Let’s just say that this blog will give a peek into the life of an international student in Oklahoma. I would love for you to continue reading and commenting.

Thank you for faithfully supporting Audacious Reader! I would never been able to sustain the blog for this long without y’all. 🙂