I walk towards an empty seat in a lecture hall filled with students who were as eager and nervous as I was. I watch the professor enter the room and open his laptop, just as he must have for the past few years. Of course, he probably knows that the large room, fresh faces, and the intense atmosphere intimidate many of us. Yet he continued to introduce himself and proceeded with the day’s lesson. I pick up my pencil, marking the beginning of my journey in university. Perhaps this is how Odysseus felt when he got on his ship to go back home to Ithaca. Excited yet uncertain about what may lie in his journey ahead.
For many of us, high school probably comprised of many nights fueled by cups of coffee, stress about college applications, and constant anxiety over grades. Similarly, a university may not be so different from high school; however, a university education coincides with the metamorphosis from adolescence into young adulthood. Although I only have two months of experience with university, I am starting to understand that it is a place that offers more than just textbooks, lecture notes, and group presentations. When I walk on campus, I notice a kaleidoscope of people speaking in different languages at every corner. As a Singapore-born Korean who grew up attending American schools, the diversity of people helped me feel comfortable in my own skin. I am constantly meeting new people each week, and I feel myself defeating the monsters of insecurity. Furthermore, a university education offers so many extracurricular activities beyond classrooms that encourage our personalities to shine through. I am constantly singing and playing guitar with like-minded people, creating life-long bonds through music.
Through pushing my boundaries, I also found other Korean singers, violinists, and guitarists, like me who weren’t afraid to try something new and allow it to form a core part of their identity. I learned that I don’t have to know where I come from or where I belong. Ultimately, it’s about those people who can jam out on the saxophone and inspire me to accept myself. I learned that university is a platform for accepting myself and to be comfortable being the best person I can be.
Personally, I am still not sure if I am on the perfect path to the end of a successful university journey, but I also know that it does not mean I will have nowhere to go. Although Odysseus was not expecting a ten-year long journey back home, he eventually arrived in Ithaca. Without realizing, I find myself falling in love with politics and social sciences, despite not giving it a second thought in high school. Whether it is through perusing the news on my phone or reading about Realism or Liberalism, I follow my curiosities as they go. I am not too sure where they will take me, but I trust that it will lead me somewhere.
Soaking in the energy of university, I realize that my beliefs and intrinsic values change as my professors challenge us to think outside the box. I question everything. I question what I think I know, what I’m told to be true, and what I see. University is an interesting place where everyone is thrown into this rice bowl mixed with different ingredients from hundreds of different places and situations. I learned to speak out and stay to true to what I believe because there is no right or wrong. I am open to a world of possibilities and doors to opportunities. The person who sat next to me in a boring lecture could be the next person who changes the world. The idea that anything can happen in university inspires me to learn and thrive in such a setting.
I knew now. University is not just about sitting through lectures every day and completing assignments on time. It is about how you grow as a student, family member, peer, and a person. The beauty of being in your twenties in university lies within the people we meet, the professors we call our mentors, and the shift in beliefs throughout this journey. My journey has only just begun; however, I am excited about the next steps and obstacles that lie ahead of me. Although I may not feel completely comfortable in such a new environment, I find ways to find my way home. Just like how Odysseus eventually arrived in Ithaca, even though it took him ten years to get there.