Living away from home for the first time

Claudia, who is currently studying at Fairfield University, writes about her initial thoughts on living out of home for the first time.

When I was to embark on this journey that entailed for me to live away from home, and on the other side of the world, I was pretty much bowled over with mixed feelings, both excitement and uncertainty to how it may unfold.

I have always wanted to start anew independently, to be out of my comfort zone and to experience where I have not chartered before.  Why the longing to do so, I can’t really put a finger in it myself. But it has always been there, and the reason why I find myself always taking that extra step when a chance comes my way…

Growing up in a colorful and cultural country before I moved to Australia has given me many depths of insights and understanding about the world. Firstly, not everything is the same. And not everyone you meet thinks the same way. Or live the same way. People teach you to be compassionate and open to different perspectives and possibilities. They teach you to be open. Or they teach you to learn to be open. My home country Malaysia has taught me many things that I have embedded in my character that I took to Australia. To learn of something that is foreign, and a life that isn’t what you normally have been accustomed to accommodating. In the years of my stay in Australia, I’ve learned that needing to stay in the bubble you create does not really help you see what more there is to see. And trust me, you will find that no mater how much you have seen, heard, or experienced, there is always more to discover.

When the traveler in me took the initiative to apply for this program to study abroad, the other side of me felt a little alarmed by the sheer boldness that overcame the second thoughts that I thought were to come. But funnily enough, I wasn’t at all hesitant about even going past my secure comfort and trying to see how I would fit in the land of America. I’ve always wanted to see what I’ve heard about from the mouths of many. Some either good, some either bad even. And sure, it’s always somehow the negatives that prevent us from even wanting to go someplace and let out experiences mould our judgments. But I’m pretty glad that I allowed myself to listen to the little voice inside, “You will never know until you try.”

And so it was right.

If I didn’t give myself the chance, I never would have known how amazing this journey that I am would be. Living away from home has taught me lessons that I strongly believe I never would if I decided to stay in my jammies and watch Youtube while eating my tub of cookies and cream ice cream while everything I’ve grown familiar with is just within an arm’s length. Living away from home taught me to learn to be on my own two feet, and to realize the completeness you feel when you realize that you are capable of doing things by yourself, and not asking your mum or dad or sister or brother or best friend just because they are there. Living away from home helped me appreciate home more and to miss more and to love more. Living independently made me appreciate the importance of a family and how easy it is to be dependable on something we take for granted everyday. Living away from home makes you want to make the most of your life every single day.

Being a ‘Junior’ student (third-year) has enabled me to live in the campus apartments. As fancy and incredibly so as it was when I first saw my residence when I arrived, I also realized that it would take me a while to build a sense of comfort and homely feel with it. Having it to be further away from my classes and to not have a car around made it a challenge. And to search in the town for cheap grocery stores (turns out they are everywhere!) and to charter new places to shop and dine in a budget also made it a challenge. However, soon enough, I found myself already settling in smoothly with my new home and my new routine. Sure, it was a little daunting at first, but the transition was made easy because of both the wonderful people around who are always willing to help and extend a hand when you need it, no questions asked, and also, of me decision to pull myself together and grow with this new independence. My family isn’t a few feet away, even if they are a call away. My friends are on the other side of the world. But, I was still able to move forward even they were and are not by my side, knowing that home is always waiting for me when I return when the time is right.

In this journey I am in, I have also realized the importance of finding your place in another land. And in this case, I have come to know that I can happily call America my second home. Where I am pursuing my studies at in Fairfield University in Connecticut, is just too beautiful of a campus that it feels like you are part of a fairytale. And having New York as your neighbor and a train ride away can’t help but bring out the adventurer and exuberant wide-eyed tourist in you. I know I was and still am. I can never find a moment when it wasn’t memorable or life changing. I’ve met the some of the nicest and friendliest people around in this country and have learned that these individuals have all come from different backgrounds and walks of life, and yet are still interested to know more about you and to learn something new from you, even if you think what you say or feel or know isn’t that important. To them, you are exciting and special. And that makes you want to appreciate yourself and where you come from more. It makes you proud to represent your roots and to inspire them to follow suit. I have made some wonderful friends here that I will definitely have a hard time leaving when I would have to, but having them in my life has made it a lot more meaningful and a treasure to keep.

Sure I have traveled before, but living away from home made me see that you can still find home away from home.