In September i wrote a post on my exchange program, basically questioning the purpose of taking another semester off and wandering in a new place. Now, in the end of December, almost 3 weeks after the program finished, i can finally come up with a conclusion: the same old conclusion, ” I wasn’t looking for something, yet i found so many things.” Cliche, but it is what it is.
Going on exchange, travelling abroad and alone, doing new things, and meeting new people are addictive, you can never get enough of them. Once i got the taste of adventure, i kept looking for similar opportunities. My friend said that i’m an exchange bitch, another said that i simply couldn’t stay content with life at home. Whatever. So for 2 years i had been looking for chances of exchange programs, something that can brighten up my dull college life, something that can change my life, again. There are few programs that i initially wanted to apply but then i cancelled because of some future considerations, so i was happy when i found this exchange program in NUS. I applied, and thank god i got in.
So Singapore it is. One of my recent favorite holiday destinations. The place where i first encountered rejection (from SMU back in 2010-damn that hurt). College dorm, one of the best universities in Asia, a place where i can finally be on my own. To be honest, i wasn’t expecting many things. I mean, it was Singapore, with thousands of Indonesians, with places that weren’t really new for me, with my high school friends studying there. What could go wrong? What could get so special? Later i learned not to underestimate anything.
I met new people from all over the world. AFS all over again, as i thought. I’ve never been good with new people. I can play nice, but getting close to new people is another thing. I spent my first weeks hanging around only with few people. Life was dull. New friends were so eager to go around the city, visiting touristy places while all i wanted was to have some friends to go to random places and eat new things. Good thing that i got the chance to reconnect with friends from my high school. And as the saying goes “Bukit Duri sampai mati”, i instantly enjoyed the togetherness of old friends and old memories. Plus i was the only girl in the crowd, so i didnt have to try hard to behave or being sweet; and they took care of me. Another blessing was meeting fellow indonesians in NUS. They were (and still are) super sweet. Ive never thought that Indonesians could be that sweet. I got close to them from my second month there. It was really nice to always have people to eat breakfast with (8am, sharp!) and to get invited to birthdays, gathering, and cooking sessions. My adoration for them grew just in a short time. I found myself comfortable enough to stay up late until 4am, telling stories and problems that was happening in my life, and sharing ambitions and dreams. I also made new friends, from my RA, my floor mates, the indian twins (whom i still couldnt differentiate if there’s only one of them), my fellow TF Learn scholars, my classmates, and even the lunch lady.
Things got better eventually. I loved my life. I loved the craziness of NUS’ academic life. Hell, I loved staying up late until 2 am almost every night just because i had to finish the readings or post some weird writings for my class. I loved that NUS has a music conservatory within a walking distance. Although the conservatory constantly reminded me of the fact that i’m never gonna be good enough to play on the concert stage, i loved the place because they have a huge music library and they have concerts almost every week. I loved the fact that in spite of the crazy schedule, i still could fit in some social times with friends, swimming sessions, and concerts. Life was finally as good as it could be. I couldnt ask for more.
The only thing that was nagging me was, if i was that happy with my life in sg, did it mean that there was something wrong with life back home? why couldnt i be this content before? will i be this happy when this is all over? Well, my dear boss from AIESEC just came up with the suitable answer: dont think too much. stop worrying about the future, most of us forget to enjoy the present, and they missed a lot. so i decided to stop overthinking things, and seize the moment.
My last weeks were another highlight. I got to get closer with my fellow TF Scholars (people from my exchange program). I hadnt been close to them in the beginning, maybe because i enjoyed times with other friends too much, maybe because i didnt try enough to get close to them, maybe i was still this selfish brat who loved to do things alone instead of having to wait and consider what other people think. But after the ASEAN Learning Journey preparation (a symposium on ASEAN things), one thing hit me, damn, i missed a lot of things, these people are so much fun, i have to spend more times with them. Short story, from study sessions, daily dinner, shopping spree, late night chat and movies, to tambay, i found myself in love with those people. We shared stories, secrets, laughter, even dirty jokes. It was late, but late is much better than nothing at all. After all, the friendship wont end when the program ends. I know well that the good and right people are hard to find, so if you’re lucky enough to find them, you stick to them.
The things i did, the people i met, the insight i gained left me with a notion of endless possibilities: that i can do anything that i want; that i can be who i am, there are still people wanting to befriend me; that good friends are like soulmates, and you can meet them anywhere if you can open yourself; that i can do statistics (!); that dammit, i still can speak french; that there are places to be and to visit; that there are still new things to discover; that i am good enough for good things (Gee, thanks, Tommy Tjokro!); that it is possible for me to get a PhD; that envy wont get you anwhere unless you do something about it; that heartache will heal eventually; that forgiveness and closure arent that hard to give; and above all, life is beautiful if you choose to live on the brightside.
The journey was a total opposite of what i thought it would be. The journey was a life-changing experience. (when i thought that i couldnt get another life-changing experience after France’08-’09). It was a humbling experience. At the same time, it was a mind-opening one. But as what we believe in AFS, the real journey will start when the program ends. The friendships and love i found will restart after we say goodbye. The dreams and targets i found will start to be accomplished after i get back to reality. The values i found will start to be important when things get normal. Even the diet will start…someday (lol). As my friend, Arya, said in his blog, this is not the case where we can say that whatever happened in Cinnamon stays in Cinnamon. Whatever happened in Cinnamon, we bring it back throughout our next chapters of life.
Cinnamon College, NUS, TF LEaRN Programme, you will be missed.