Me and MrNordin were reminiscing in bed the other night about our early years in the UK. Different years, of course… Him: 1980-87, Me: 1988-91. He was in London, I was in Kent.
What triggered the conversation was my eldest stepdaughter’s first-week’s experience in college (UiTM), how she’s adjusting to the new surroundings and friends. She came home last weekend, worrying about her classes, her room mates, her schedules, the long distance between her room and class, the bus rides, money ~ the list is endless. MrNordin said, she’s a worry wart.
I can understand why she’s feeling that way. Campus life is different from school life or her 1-year Matrics in Gopeng. In school, everything is provided for ~ transport to school, money, food, don’t have to worry about basuh baju or kemas rumah. All she needs to do is study. In Matrics, she slowly had to take on more responsibilities like washing her own clothes, make up her own bed, buy her own food, make her own arrangement to go for outings or come home for the holidays. But she need not take the bus to go to her class as it is still within walking distance.
Now, in UiTM, she has to wake up really early and beat the morning crowd to get a seat on the bus that will take them to their respective classes. It’s a 5 mins drive, but still far to walk. The time table is different too, a lot of waiting, she said. The friends are different. Next year, if she’s unlucky, she may have to stay off campus, meaning she has to rent a room outside. Now she worries about paying rent, electricity bill, cooking her own meal, bla, bla, bla, bla… See? Now you know why MrNordin calls her a worry wart.
I told her, in life we have to make a lot of adjustments. How well you adapt to your new surroundings will determine how resilient you are as a person. Take things a day at a time, enjoy the new experience as a university student, don’t fuss over the unknown… these are our advice to her. Hopefully she listens.
Looking back, I've gone through a lot of these in my lifetime. First, going to a boarding school far away from home when I was 12. Imagine, at that age, I was sent away to live on my own, make up my own bed, wash my own clothes, no friend, had to make new friends... I think that was more difficult than what my eldest step daughter is going through right now.
I still remember, the first few months I was there, asyik nangis je teringat my mother. Berendam airmata, kata orang. Bila bangun pagi (we had to wake up at 5 am), nampak jalanraya from my dorm with the street lights still on and cars passing by in the wee hour of the morning, I nangis. How I wish I was home at that time…. and how I missed my mother… Tuhan saja yang tahu. Sakit perut ni everytime bangun pagi sebab rasa macam sedih sangat and tak tau macamana nak get through the day without my mother. I felt so lost! Duduk je atas katil tu nangis until I managed to pull myself up and go to the toilet. Hee.. torture, I tell you.
And that time, mana ada handphone. Nak call home pun, seminggu sekali je. Itu pun kena beratur kat public phone. Now, anytime of the day boleh call parents. In less than an hour, boleh sampai rumah kalau nak balik rumah. Dulu, kena tunggu cuti penggal baru boleh balik. Itu pun kena naik train, satu hari satu malam. Horror! But after a while, bila dah dapat kawan, things got better. Tak nak balik rumah pun ada bila cuti sekolah, takut miss the friends.
After A-Levels, I went to the UK to further my studies. This one was not so bad, although it was further away from home, because I wanted to go. I wanted to see the Cathedral in Canterbury, that's why I chose Kent.
Adjusting to life in the UK was not that difficult, but it wasn't that easy either. Again, I was all alone in the batch that flew off on the same day with me, but I made friends with them. As JPA sponsored students, we were provided with good students' accommodation at the university, with ample heating and hot water all year round. Unlike my daughter's room, which is tiny and is shared with 3 other students, I was sharing a whole house with 4 other students ~ 2 British, 1 American and another M'sian girl ~ one room each. Good, eh?
Unfortunately for MrNordin, he had a tougher time adjusting because that was his first time ever being away from his family. Also, he was staying at MARA hostel and from what he told me, heating was always a problem. He was very miserable during winter because it was so cold. On top of that, he had to take the tube to class everyday. So, ".. naik bas pegi class like what Nabila is complaining about now is nothing, ok, compared to what I had to go through last time...", he said.
I guess, for Nabila, this is a new experience for her. Trading the comfort zone of her own home for something measly like her small room in UiTM maybe shocking for her, but she'll toughen up and learn to be more independent as a result. Life is not a bed of roses after all, right? I want my children to understand that in life, there are many paths that we have to cross to reach our destinations. It's not easy, but with sheer determination, one will get through it with excellent results.
Also, people are different. Not everyone live in the same big house like we do and not everyone lead the same lifestyles. Ada orang susah, ada orang senang. But never pass judgement at them just because they are different from you. Always be humble and be nice to people. If you treat them nicely, they'll treat you nicely too, and vice versa.
Lying in bed side by side with MrNordin that night, reminiscing about the past, made me realise that I have gone through quite a lot over the last 40 years of my life. And a lot of it involved making adjustments to suit the new situations. Boarding schools, universities, jobs, friends, break-ups, betrayal, married life, stepchildren, gosh... so many! Nevertheless, I think I adapted quite well to all these changes and this is confirmed by my fortune teller, who said, "..you are like a rubber band...".
Well, rubber band or not, I did it my way and I'm happy to announce that I survived it all and came out a better person. And that's what matters most...