Why the US? – Chau Zi Ee (University of Wisconsin-Madison ‘19)


Not going to lie, hearing about someone studying in an overseas university like Harvard or Oxford seemed so cool. After high school, I spent my days thinking about studying outside of Malaysia. I didn’t really know why I wanted to, but I told myself I had to. And the moment I did, I was excited, but still, I didn’t know what exactly for. 

Fast-forwarding to three years since my first day on campus, I finally have time to reflect on my college journey (having fewer credits in my last semester doesn’t hurt too). All I can say is: “Wow… I am dumb”. You’d think having a perfect 4.0 in my first semester was an indicator that everything would be smooth sailing, right? 


But I’m glad it wasn’t.

Ironically, the class that I’m most proud of was the one I got a C in. Because not only did I get it up from an F, but for once I was excited for learning rather than scoring. 

And while I’m comfortable interacting with both Americans and non-Americans, the more I try to integrate into both communities, the more I realize I struggle to truly belong to both. When you try to soak up all the American culture so as to not feel alienated; but later you realize it’s at the expense of forgetting your roots. You question yourself a lot. I almost get a “reverse cultural shock” going home to Malaysia because I’ve been in the States so long. 

I have no regrets, though. Throughout my college years, I’ve learned many things. I’ve learned more about mental health, sexuality, privilege, and other stigmatized issues that are rarely discussed in Malaysia. I’ve learned to be vulnerable and also to celebrate my strengths because acknowledging merely one isn’t healthy. I’ve learned to treat my failures as something to build off from, not mourn over. Most importantly, I’ve learned to learn because I’ve realized that I don’t know a lot, and I’ll never know enough. And that’s okay. Because not knowing everything brought me to America, and I’m pretty happy about that.