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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.

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

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

d now group

My group of 7th grade girls, co-hosts, and co-leader at #FreedomWeekend2014.

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.

blizzards at dq

On Saturday night, our co-hosts took us out for Blizzards at Dairy Queen.

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.

oyster po boy

First ever oyster po-boy at Wade’s Place for Sunday lunch.

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.