5 Things I Learned From One Semester In University

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Unimas’ lakeside view

The feeling hasn’t kicked in yet, but my first semester in university is coming to an end. It’s unbelievable, really. This year has gone by incredibly quickly, and I cannot fathom the fact that 2014 is in just a few weeks! But all this aside, I never expected so many changes just within the first four months of being in university. That’s why I decided to compile a list of the 5 Things University Has Taught Me — for now.

1.     People Are Not What They Appear To Be

The biggest challenge I’ve had to face (and still am facing right now) is the almighty language barrier. Being raised in an English-speaking home and studying in a vernacular school for the past 20 years has deprived me of other languages, particularly Chinese. Before I entered university, I braced myself for the worst– not being able to make any friends. What came to me was a surprise; my Chinese-speaking friends are actually the ones I’m closest to right now. It is an occasional treat to meet ex-Josephians who speak in fluent English, but at the end of the day, my new friends mean a lot to me.

On another note, I also learned that not everyone who is nice to you, is nice because it is in their nature. Some people have ulterior motives, but I will not elaborate further. 😉

2.     History Isn’t Such A Bad Subject

Three months ago, I would have had a nervous breakdown if someone sat me down to watch the History channel on Astro. Now, I actually stream historical documentaries to watch, and the most shocking part of it all is that I actually enjoy watching them. This is, of course, the doings of the university– forcing me to take Social History as one of my core subjects. During the Social History midterms I nearly ran out of the exam hall, but now, I wouldn’t mind sitting at my desk, flipping through 14 weeks’ worth of Social History lecture notes to prepare for my final exams.

3.     Politics Isn’t All Bad

To all you do-gooders and smart Alecs out there, there is way more to Politics than corrupt practices and rigged elections. I’m taking Political Science as one of my core subjects this semester, and I assure you, I don’t always learn about Barisan Nasional and UMNO. Political Science is an age-old study of governance, influence and decision-making, and I truly believe that when exercised in the right way, power can be done to do a lot of good in this world.

4.     English Is Important

I am not even kidding when I say that the standard of English in my university is appalling. I am not here to degrade anyone who is not fluent in English, but I blame the education system for that. My lectures are conducted entirely in English, and I have heard time and again, people complaining about what little they can understand during the lectures. It’s no wonder the Faculty of Social Sciences has a large failure rate every semester.

It’s especially frustrating when people assume I can pull all their weight in assignments because I have a better understanding and command of the English language. That’s just plain lazy and I will not tolerate that.

5.     20 Year Olds Can Be Very Ignorant

No offense meant to anyone out there, but the questions I get about Sarawak puts me at a loss for words. “Don’t you guys have soy beans here in Sarawak?”, “You don’t have cobblers here, do you?”, and the worst of them all, “Where are you going during Chinese New Year? I heard that you guys don’t celebrate Chinese New Year and Hari Raya here, only Christmas and Gawai.”

The latter question really took me by surprise, because (1) Sarawak has ten times more interracial tolerance than any state in West Malaysia and (2) That would imply that all of the Chinese and Malays here sit at home and watch the grass grow during festive seasons.

I swear some people really, really need to be educated. Break the stereotype that says West Malaysians are ignorant. Make a change, go out and explore Sarawak. We have advanced from building our houses on trees to building our houses on the ground.

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Author: Natalie Ha

I remember being enthralled with the written word ever since my parents started reading fairytales to me at a young age. Seeing the power it has to influence behaviours and mindsets, I have learned, over the years, to translate my thoughts onto paper, in an attempt to positively disrupt the lives of others. Having my written works published in various forms of media has empowered me to weave stories that people can resonate with. I look forward to the life-long process of perfecting this craft, and hope to see my work touch the hearts of many in the future. This blog attempts to do just that - and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy penning it down.

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