College wasn’t easy for me, but I didn’t feel like giving up, so I didn’t

During my first three months in America, I couldn’t remember the particular time when I felt happy. Even though I met many wonderful people – my host moms who were knowledgeable and humorous and caring, my teachers who were always helpful and accustomed to praising the good work, and my few friends who always greeted me with the biggest smile – I didn’t have a strong or deep connection with particularly nobody. I didn’t have anything to stay after school for. I didn’t have anything to be joyous for.

Besides studying and binge watch The Vampire Diaries, I didn’t do much of anything else. Three months flew by in a blink of an eye, and I missed out on just about everything. Later on, I met many friends who got connected their second week of school. I met people who said yes to everything. My second and third year, I was the one who was helping, who was welcoming others into the community, because I knew how hard it was to be alone half the world away from home.

So what was the event that changed everything? What was the moment when I started staying at school more than being at home? Was it a big event, like big bang to the universe? Was it sudden?

It might have been sudden, but as I remember right now, it started with only one question, “What am I doing here?”

Was focusing on school, which wasn’t highly challenging, and enjoy the comfort of streaming on Netflix everything I would do during my years abroad? How was I going to get into a decent school if I kept those habits and such fixed mindset? Would I make a change, even just the smallest, by keeping doing what I was doing?

There was a stream of question that followed, but it all came down this one thing.

It takes only one person to rescue someone who is drowning in their own negative and even suicidal thoughts: the individual him or herself. I didn’t want to end my life, but if I kept going in that direction, I would get close. I sought help in people who were far from helpful, because I was a foolish girl not understanding my own emotions. I also experienced this numbness that lured me into thinking I was fine – not feeling particularly happy or sad or angry or disgust or the alike was completely fine. Now, I think of it as escaping what’s there, and failing to recognize what needed getting done.

Some people whispered into each other’s eyes that someone should talk to me. Some people shrugged when someone asked about me. And I understand. They can’t help if I don’t do anything. So I settled at my desk one afternoon, jotting down clubs I could participate in to get myself back out there. I stuck it on the wall in front of me, and I started contacting in-charges of those clubs. As it turned out, things won’t get better if it’s broken and refused to get fixed. As it turned out, changing one’s mind is the hardest thing on earth but the most powerful thing.

And I’m glad I went to those clubs and continue to expand my network.

Some students were active their first week in. But some are on a different timeline. Respect your timeline, and take ownership of when you want to do something different.

Published by Thi Le


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