Going to university so far from home can be daunting for some. After spending a year abroad, Sara-Ann Yong (Mount Holyoke ’18) shares a few reasons she wanted to further her studies in the US back when she was applying to university, and a few reasons that she sticks by her decision today.
My biggest problem after high school was not knowing how to proceed with my tertiary education. It was daunting that countries like the UK and Australia admitted students by major, and I was unsure about what I wanted to pursue. For 12 years, my academic choices were predetermined by a system and I was desperate to start shaping my own education. I was a pure science student throughout high school and A-Levels and I couldn’t appreciate the rigidity of the education I was receiving. On one hand, I wanted the opportunity to explore other fields of study, but on the other hand, I still wanted the sciences to be an option in case things didn’t work out. I didn’t want to commit to a major, end up disliking it, and be stuck with it for three or four years.
The US offered the flexibility I yearned for.
I applied to college as an ‘undecided’ major, and it was comforting to know when I got to Mount Holyoke that almost every other freshman was ‘undecided’ too. I initially planned to major in Biology, but I took one class in the field and realized it wasn’t for me (luckily I didn’t apply to the UK :p). Now one year into my undergraduate degree, I can safely say that after taking a handful of seemingly random classes that piqued my interests like psychology and scene design (thank you, distribution requirements!), I will be declaring my major in Architectural Studies when I go back to school this fall.
As a current student, my reason for applying to the US has not changed. Going to school in the US has not only given me an open-ended education and allowed me to dabble in different fields, enabling me to find my true passion; it has also opened my mind in the way I view the world.
I never expected to end up in an all-women’s college, but being a part of the Mount Holyoke community has made me a lot more passionate about women’s rights, sexual liberty, etc. – issues that I didn’t care for as much before going to the US. I’ve met some of the most wonderful and accepting people – people, who have followed me outside in the middle of the night, let me jump around like a kid because it was snowing, then called me back inside two minutes later because it was 1 a.m. and they wanted to go back to bed. Mount Holyoke is so breathtakingly beautiful that I’ve spent evenings watching the sky turn pink, purple and orange as I walk to a dining hall after acappella practice wondering how in heaven’s name I got so lucky. I’ve become obsessed with mozzarella sticks (seriously, I cannot find them in Malaysia, please let me know if you do). I’ve spent nights at UMass Amherst with the craziest bunch of people and taken the last bus home, swearing that I would never drink again. I’ve also spent nights in the studio and stayed there till seven in the morning working on my final project, Elmer’s glue and paint covering my hands, and it didn’t matter much that I hadn’t slept in two days or that I had a class in two hours because I was finally doing something I enjoy.
I chose the US because I wanted to learn, really learn – not just to memorize and regurgitate facts to obtain a good grade. I can say that in the past year, I’ve achieved that.
Thinking of studying in the U.S., but don’t know how to get there? USAPPS is a workshop by Malaysians, for Malaysian dreamers who want to apply to U.S. universities. Students, parents and teachers are all welcome. Come meet Malaysian current students and alumni from U.S. universities. Register here – http://www.usapps.org/the-2015-workshops/