Why the US? – Veronica Ling (University of Michigan ’22)
I’ve always been lucky enough to have life (sort of) figured out since young – I had very clear intentions whenever I had to make a choice, and oftentimes I would have enough courage to do whatever I set my mind to. I knew I wanted to go to the US to pursue my studies at a very young age, perhaps my upbringing heavily influenced my decision. My brother was a US graduate, and he would always tell me about his liberating experience.
Many people categorized their experience of studying abroad as “eye-opening”, and it is indeed what they said it is to be. I went into UofM with zero expectations, maybe even a little naive. It was also an awkward time for me to enter the university (I enrolled in the Winter semester), and I spent a big chunk of the semester trying to figure out where I stood in the school. It seemed like everyone else was already way ahead of me, and I had to catch up to them before I run out of time. As time passed, I realized that I don’t need to catch up to anyone, and I was in this strange phase in life where I felt like I was merely floating around. In retrospect, I’m glad I went through that phase; I guess that’s what growing up feels like. I realized that I was one of the luckier ones – I have the resources to do whatever I wished, I had the support from a strong group of friends and a great family back home, and I’m pursuing a degree that I am truly passionate about. I was still timid before I started school here, but strangely enough, I gained courage from my first-year writing class. I found joy in writing critically about topics that I had very little knowledge of, like this paper where I compared George Orwell’s 1984 to the current social climate in Malaysia. The liberty of penning critical thoughts gave me a sense of freedom and enlightenment, all while pursuing a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. People said that it sounds like an interesting degree, and it is, but it’s also more difficult than I expected it to be. People were also concerned about my choice of degree, it’s a really niche field, they said, but it didn’t faze me.
Growing up is realizing that you have an opportunity to explore, and make the most out of it, even when it needs you to step out of your comfort zone. Growing up is also realizing that no one else’s opinion matters, and learning to be comfortable with yourself. Growing up is realizing that life gets hard sometimes, but learn to acknowledge it and power through. I guess that’s what I learned in the mere 5 months that I spent at the University of Michigan, and I can only imagine how much more I can grow in the next few years.