Semester One

I’m half-way through my first year at university — but I find that hard to believe. I feel like I’ve just been through an entire year: because I’ve learnt so much — more than I’d ever in the past few years of my life.

I’d like to think it’s because of the new environment I’m in — perhaps I’m more willing to experiment and make mistakes. Or perhaps, that’s the goal of university altogether: it’s all about learning how to learn.

Either way, it’s made me grow academically, socially, and personally. And in these respects, I’d like to share the main things I’ve learned these past five-and-a-half months:

First, academically: It’s a total lie if someone says that university work is ‘easy’. Unfortunately, I believed otherwise, so I let my guard down during the first half of semester. Work and study piled up, and that led to an accumulating snowball of stress, panic and poorly done assignments.

Because of that, I did as best as I could to pull myself back together. And the curriculum became less like chores and more like topics I’d actively learn. Maths has been fun, physics is interesting, and my programming class solidified my passion for computer science.

Second, socially: I’m an introvert, so it’s a whole lot of luck that I’m included in a course that brings together such a close-knit group of amazingly brilliant people (or: now friends). However, because almost 100% of the people I meet in my classes are people I’ve never met before, learning to make new friends was a strange, out-of-the-box experience for me.

But here’s the thing: everyone else also feels the same way. So it’s normal to meet new people, and unnatural otherwise. As a bonus, people with the same interests tend to gravitate towards each other. So there’s no need for control — it’s better to let friendships just happen.

And lastly (but not the least-ly), personally: I learned that being risky brings great reward. Besides the brilliantly-taught syllabus on leadership that I’ve learned this semester, the main thing that resonated with me is the idea of venturing into the unknown.

Early this year, the students in my course were invited to a 3-day hiking trip. It was intense, because not only was the location of our hike unknown to each of us, but also the agenda. It was hard for me because I craved an agenda the whole way through, but they wouldn’t let me know.

We were just told to follow along, and be okay not knowing about what’s going to happen next. Little did I know we were to climb up steep peak-sides, and traverse through rock ridges. I’ve never done those before in my life — in fact I panicked, complained, and nearly cried because of that experience.

At the end of that 3-day trip, we were given postcards that were going to be sent to ourselves, a week after our first semester at university. Because of that hike, I was too overwhelemed and so I couldn’t think of what to write to myself for the future.

I kept it simple, and made a reference to the picture of the peak I climbed, on the front of the postcard. I wrote:

“You’ve been here. Now you make it anywhere.”

This past semester has been a rocky ridge of ups and downs, and I’m so lucky to have experienced it all — so here’s to the semesters that will follow.