It has been four months since I first stepped on the soils of Madison (a more accurate depiction would be snow!). As I stop to ponder how fleeting time has been, it feels almost surreal that my first semester here is coming to an end. Studying at a good university has always been an academic goal of mine, yet it feels funny to be living out that dream. Perhaps it is the late nights and the early mornings, but the drastic weather shifts from a tropical land to a multi-seasonal territory, or the detachment from familiar grounds that has normalized what was supposed to be a dream come true.
Despite the mild nerve-wracking episodes I encountered transitioning into a new environment, engaging with unfamiliar faces, adopting a different framework of education and adjusting to this crazy weather, looking back at those first few weeks, I can only pen down that practice makes adjustments perfect. There were plenty of trials and errors of course, but eventually I came up with a few effective measures that I adopted to ease my transition and gravitate my stay.
First of all, I found socializing extremely useful in adjusting to a new environment. Whether it is to fill your spare time, or to find out things about your new home, talking to people definitely helps in developing your sense of belonging. Not only so, stepping out of your comfort zone to connect with people, as overused as the phrase is, would be a great skill that would benefit you in the future. Many of us tend to be very vocal with those we are close to, yet fear reaching out to people outside of our circles. Being in a new environment would definitely challenge that paradox as there are only a few people we are close to in a new place, if not none. Although there may be some awkward occasions, trying and failing until you get the perfect blend of ‘hey, how’s it going’s’ and ‘I know right’s’ are going to be worth your time.
Getting involved with local activities also help mitigate that social barrier. Actively participating in organizations has helped substantiate my time here. With my schedule becoming more packed, I am bound to organize my time well. Doing something outside of studying and working is also absolutely refreshing. I am excited to be part of Moda, as I have always desired a platform to write on. Coincidentally, I also have a soft spot for fashion. Being part of the magazine definitely satiates both innate passions. I am also very involved in another student organization in which I connect with people from my home. That really helped me retain my identity. It is always important to find a space in which you feel a sense of belonging. Some endeavors may not be as successful as others, but remember that every attempt is a learning experience.
Living a stone’s throw away from the gym has definitely motivated me to work out a little more than usual. I find jogging an effective way to release stress and lower anxiety levels (also a great way to burn off those calories!). After exercising, I definitely feel more refreshed and motivated to continue my work. Whether it’s jogging, Frisbee, group training or squash, moderate exercise would do more good than harm so it’s important to find one that you enjoy doing.
A mistake I made over my transition was spending a lot of time on social media. The detachment from home made going on the social media for information a form of dependence. Fortunately, I realized how much I am missing out when I choose to look down on a 6 x 3 inch virtual world instead of looking up and enjoying the world around me. Talking to people face to face has made me realize that the person you thought you knew through the Internet is almost barely a fraction of who the person really is. Being outdoors has also allowed me to connect with nature and come to absorb the beauty that lies in the state of creation.
Here in Madison is where I explore my boundaries, and I’ve realized that it takes making some mistakes to make a right choice. I feel a gradual paradoxical switch in my perspective. What used to be extremely important may not be as important. I learnt the essence of valuing people, family, friends and acquaintances over material things. You will understand that what you want may not be what you need, and it may take a while for you to realize that your life isn’t going to a bubble full of laughter and fun. Here in Madison is where I learned to open my heart to probe the dimensions of the world, to investigate the why’s beneath the what’s and to grasp the exquisite patterns of normality. I gain a broader perspective of things that there is more to life and this world than my aspirations. There are so many things beyond merely achieving our dreams. I urge you to find your balance in life and to pursue whatever your heart desires, but more than that, to pause, ponder and appreciate.
Photos by Rhonda Tan