I’ve been dreaming to study in the US my whole life. I was pretty resolved about going to the US for undergraduate studies. No comprises; can’t push the dream for graduate school even. It was when Maybank offered me a full scholarship to a US university of my choice that I saw my dream come true and alive. I realized I was living my dream when I read Cornell’s admission letter. The journey for this to happen certainly was not a walk in the park.
The whole time, I had no answer to the question “Why the US?” especially for an undergraduate, other than I just feel like it. Well, one year down and now I can answer this rationally. So, why the US?
1. Interesting experiences that let you grow and understand yourself. As cliched as this may sound, living in a new place of new culture and new people has helped me understand myself and encourage the learner (& adventurer) in me. Growing up in the Pearl of the Orient, never have I known that I was in love with hiking and exploring hills and falls. Here, it has become my hobby to explore nature’s wonders in upstate New York. The fact that Cornell has 3 falls and so many trails right on-campus just adds to my thrill.
My one-year in the US has helped me check off some odd listing in my non-existent bucket list. Be a roommate with a snake for 8 months? Check (Yes, pet snakes are allowed in one of Cornell’s dorms). Feed a snake dead rat? Check. Walk by a trail that’s at least 10 meters high with no railing? Check (Note: Depth scares me). Drag two luggage worth 50 kg around 42nd Street, New York City all by myself because I couldn’t find the bus stop to the airport? Check. These memories among others strengthened and made me more confident.
2. Inspiring people. So many amazing and inspiring people surround me every day. I met so many interesting people from all around the world who have influenced my perspective about the world in some ways. The thought-provoking conversations about Southeast Asia and its potentials with friends from Malaysia’s neighbors, the intro-to-American-life mini episodic conversations that lasted for the whole year with my American friends, and the socially responsible acts and brotherhood bond in my Alpha Phi Omega (APO) – Gamma Chapter fraternity are some highlights of social life in my freshman year. Witnessing the complexity in the way people think and regard the world beyond theirs exposed me to some interesting perspectives.
I initially thought I would meet interesting people only among my peers but found out soon enough that my professors will leave a lasting impact on me too. I had a government professor who had a “Caution, landmines!” sign on his office door. I had a Math professor who teared up in front of a 200-people-lecture for racial violence issues happening. I had a Computer Science professor who was friends with Edsger Dijkstra and loved poetry and would tell a beautiful poem every class. I had another Math professor who was obsessed with making surfaces (torus, Mobius, etc) using papers. Maybe it is the friendly relationship between students and professors that motivates us to excel in classes and learn beyond classroom syllabus.
3. Individuality is appreciated. The academic system is the US appreciates you as a person. Your thoughts and ideas matter. Hence, there is never a “stupid” idea or a “silly” question. In fact, you are encouraged to speak up, no matter how silly you may think you sound. There is always support to bring your ideas alive, to assist you through your learning, and to nurture your interests.
Having said these, an opportunity to study abroad, especially in the United States will change you as a person and evolve your being. An opportunity like this does not need to break your bank! Join me in USAPPS 2018 to find out how you can carve your path to study in your dream school in the U.S.