There are many times when we are forced to step out of our comfort zone. Because of our psychological ability to conform, we have no choice but to adapt to our new surroundings, even if it involves drastic life changes. For many students, like myself, who are entering college or university, this is the biggest sacrifice we have to make — our comfort. Personally, I had to face this challenge when I first entered UNIMAS in early September. Although it is a mere 20 minutes away from home, making friends poses the biggest challenge to me.
You’d think that being in a campus near home would ease the process of making friends, but you couldn’t be more wrong. As surprising as it sounds, the student population here comprises mainly of students from Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah and it is a rare treat to hear anyone speaking in Bahasa Sarawak, the language of the native Sarawakians. As a result, all I hear on a daily basis is Mandarin and Peninsular BM. After years of being in a national school where all we speak is English, I find Mandarin to be a barrier when it comes to conversations.
Throughout the first few weeks of being here, I found it incredibly difficult to make friends. I had friends from casual conversations, but it was a problem that I couldn’t quite understand Mandarin and no one really seemed to be comfortable with speaking in English. As time goes by, we have to learn to adapt. Nature forces us to adapt into whatever new situations we are put in, and although it is sometimes rather uncomfortable, I still have to learn.
It is now approaching the third month of my enrolment in this university, and this marks the start of the second half of my first semester. I have learned to pick up a little bit of Mandarin and in turn, my friends have picked up more English as well. There are times when I feel left out of their conversations, but I am really appreciative of the fact that they try to include me whenever possible. Initially, I wished that I could get involved with people more like me, but I realized that that isn’t always possible. I am really grateful to even have friends in the first place, especially knowing my inability to adapt to change. They never fail to provide me with a good laugh and make sure I’m safe. They are accountability partners, and most of all, they are slowly becoming my family in this university.
Different as we may be, these wonderful people have sprinkled my university life with dashes of humour and companionship, and for that, I feel very blessed. For anyone who is facing something similar, I advice you to be strong and never be afraid of change. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Be your own agent of change and never back down from a challenge. You will find that, like the pieces of a puzzle, the bigger picture will fall into place.