He’s the new kid on campus- awkward, shy and scared.
He’s hiding behind his cell phone, pretending to be busy in some work.
But his cell isn’t working. The new sim card hasn’t been activated yet. He’ll have to wait for an hour before he calls back home and assures his family that he’s pretty much alive, safe and settled down in his dorm room.
He tries to strike up a few conversations with the people around him. They start and end with the usual questions. Where are you from? What’s your name? What’s your major? Numbers are saved and jet-lagged smiles are exchanged.
He’s scared inside. But he doesn’t want to show it. He doesn’t want to look like a cry baby in a crowd of jazzed adults. He wants to look and feel excited about all the crazy events, club nights and parties lined up for freshies this year.
He wants to make the most out of the opportunity. He knows it’s rare. Not everyone from his country gets a chance to fly abroad at such an early age. He doesn’t want to let his parents down. They’ve clipped their wings and attached them to his shoulders. They’ve loaned their peace for his goals. They’ve sacrificed a lot of things he’s afraid he won’t be able to thank them enough.
He makes a mental note of all the stupid mistakes he made in school. He doesn’t want to repeat them here, nor does he want to make new ones. The risks are too high. The competition is intense. He has to be the best. Nobody cares about runner-ups, anyways.
He tries his best to keep calm, but he loses it after the first Skype call with his mum. He thought he was brave enough to handle the change, but he realises that deep down, he’s still his momma’s boy who loves to cuddle up in her womb.
He’s careful about his words. Too careful, one might say. But his intentions aren’t wrong. He just doesn’t want to offend anyone. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. There are loads of new cultures and languages exploding in the same class, and he’s too inexperienced to be able to grasp them all of them in a few weeks.
He’s sweating as he fills his enrolment forms. He doesn’t want to enter the wrong unit codes or misspell his home address. He doesn’t want to get called out for being a careless kid. He doesn’t want to embarrass himself. Not yet.
A week passes by. The lectures begin. Clubs and sports houses open their doors. He tries to fit in but he holds himself back from getting too friendly with others. He hates being thought of as ‘clingy’ or weird. He does want to be in the spotlight but he doesn’t want to hear the booing over the applause.
An entire month goes by. Assignments and projects pile up. He clears up his desk and decides to reflect on how time has flown by. He accepts he has actually learnt nothing at all. He was too afraid to take on new challenges. Too afraid to join all the clubs.
He thought he wouldn’t be able to manage it. He was scared he might let his team down and make a fool out of himself in front of his seniors. He was scared, and you know what?
“That’s okay.” He says to himself. He has made a few mistakes and THAT’S OKAY.
He’ll make more of them. And he’ll learn with each passing one.
So he takes the first step, and then another, and one more, and he starts walking with a new surge of confidence that’s lighting up his heart. He falls, gets hurt, and picks himself up again. He misjudges his workload, misses his submission deadlines, screws up the group presentation, and goes blank on the day of his test.
He makes mistakes but he decides he won’t let them bring him down. He improves. He learns.
3 years pass like dust. He’s the topper of his class. He’s the student of the year. He marches on the podium and lifts his trophy with a smile. He laughs, sheds a tear and throws his cap in the air. His ego, his stubbornness and fears- they all fly away with that cap. He’s a better person now, ready to take on the real world. Ready to take risks and accept the consequences with a big fat smile.
He thanks his university for all the experiences it has given him, including the bad and nasty ones. Because that’s exactly what university, and in fact, life, is all about- Making mistakes and owning them LIKE A BOSS!
This article was contributed by Manik Rege, a student in Monash University Malaysia. If you would like to contribute content, do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, we are always open to new content!
Words by Manik Rege
Picture by Andrew Peter Lim