Why the U.S. – Paggie Tan (New York University ’20)

Paggie Tan is a rising freshman at New York University ’20. Here, she shares why she chose to study in the United States, and how that means she has complete freedom to define her own academic route. 

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I remember the exact moment I chose to study in the U.S. over reading law in the UK: I had just turned 16, nestled on my couch, fresh off a shower with a turban wrapped around my head and had about 10 tabs open on different American universities (UCLA, NYU, Boston University etc. you get the idea). I was rambang mata; I found myself so lost in the ‘fascination’ of even being able to study in America. At an embryonic stage of decision making, I thought that the notion seemed like a far-fetched pipe dream as I live in a relatively small town and that going for it would mean that I will be the first in my entire family to head overseas to study, what more to the U.S. Choosing to do so was a very rare instance where I come from but I was determined. Now, this is not going to be a rambling of what I did in the years to come but rather an answer to a question, one that I still owe myself.

Why did I choose to pursue my tertiary education in the States and not anywhere else?

First, it is the flexibility of the curriculum that provides room for academic control – I can choose what I learn in ways I feel prepare myself for the future best. The mantra of ‘I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way’ is linear to the education system that is earnest in helping me discover what it is that I am passionate about. No longer will I be pedantically retaining facts in my brain (sometimes, not even knowing what they mean) only to routinely regurgitate them out in the examination hall. For the first time in my scholastic life, I have the power to learn instead of study.  

It is also the different opportunities that the U.S. offers, both socially and intellectually. In the U.S., pursuing an education is more than the books you read or the lectures you attend. It’s also about the things you do and the people you meet. As a two-time USAPPS participant, I have had the great pleasure of meeting a lot of people who you can tell have so many colorful experiences. Their stories have motivated me to reinstate my faith in choosing the U.S. For instance, the exciting activities that happen around Yan Jie’s campuses (Case Western Reserve University) such as a zombie-nerf-run fusion, the hands-on applications of what they have learnt in classes (Pang Fei got to inject a worm with Alzheimer’s at Oberlin!) and the places they go (Kah Yee is going to 7 different countries with Minerva. SEVEN). I have learnt how, through the stories, that these moments will change you in ways that cannot be explained and I want that for myself. I chose the U.S. because it is simply an education that cannot be taught – it has to be experienced by yourself.

It was also the honest application process. Throughout the development of my application, I was constantly questioning my identity and reflecting on all the people, places, and things that have shaped me – from choosing which teachers who will be writing my letters of recommendation to the infamous essay-editing. It provided me a tiny window to all the maturing that I will undergo in the States and I liked what I saw (though I did cry once or twice.. and by once or twice, I mean maybe a couple of hundred times). Unprecedentedly, I am more than numerical figures and a bunch of alphabets. Who I am as a person actually matters in my academics. In fact, it is a part of my academics.

Though there are probably a thousand better answers out there as to why one would choose to study in the U.S. but these are mine. I’m starting this September and of course, I am excited and anxious at the same time. Though nobody can guarantee me anything, my decision to study in the U.S. can guarantee me an enriching, eye-opening and fulfilling 4 years of my life.