Reflections on my first year of college

I am still in disbelief at just how crazy fast freshman yearwent by. I am back in Auckland now. I had my last final on Friday (May 15th), packed up my freshman dorm into storage boxes, zipped up my suitcase and was on my way to JFK on Saturday to fly back home.

Spring semester happened so quickly I really didn’t have time to process things before the year wrapped up. As people started leaving and goodbyes were exchanged, it hit me how much I’ll miss school. It seems like as I really began to settle down and make this place a home away from home, the school year was coming to an end. I distinctly remember not long after coming back after winter break, I was walking to class and saw several familiar faces, stopped to say hi and thought to myself, wow this place is becoming home. One, completely different from the home I have known for the majority of my life but a home nonetheless. Another time, I was sitting in the blue room (school café) with a friend and a pre-frosh comes up to us explaining that she will be attending next fall and wanted to ask current students a few questions. These experiences made me feel grateful for being on this campus and also a sense of belonging. Sure, college has come with its struggles but overall I feel very blessed to have had such an incredible experience. College was very much not what I expected in many ways and it came with its ups and downs that pushed me to go forward in this journey.newportsunset

Freshman year definitely went by way too fast and everyday seems like it was packed with classes, meetings, clubs, meeting with friends, food and studying. This whirlwind came and went and I know that the next 3 years will speed by even faster. There is no way for me to reduce the highs and lows of the past 8 months into a blogpost and even as I begin to dwell and reflect on this year, everything merges into wonderful blur. I have learned so much about myself and people but also at the same time, ironically, I am realising how little I know about myself and the world. The deeper I go into my education the more I realise how little I know. In every new problem or decision I have faced, I am forced to question myself and who I am becoming. At the end of the day, no one is going to check up on me or make me do anything. My actions are fuelled by my personal rationalising (or lack thereof). This is the time to be questioning things, to not just take things as they are, because for the first time in my life I am on my own.

Amongst all the new things that I have learned and grown in (more so outside of the class than inside), the most important are; my faith, how to care for myself, the fact that I know little about myself and what I want to do with my life and learning to be okay with this.

It feels amazing to be on summer break and back with my parents at home but there will be a few things I’m going to miss about college over the next 3.5 months. I will miss going downstairs to get Andrews pizza at midnight. I will miss my beautiful dorm with its beautiful sink (Andrews perk). I will miss being surrounded by lovely peers. I will miss the special and kind people that have come into my life. I will miss RUF on friday nights and worship at church. I will miss conversations that range from pointless and random to deeply philosophical. I will miss sharing meals with friends in dinning halls. I will miss the quaint and pretty campus. I will miss being a freshman.

Still learning,

Shirin

Almost goodbye New Zealand

Yes yes, I know. I haven’t posted on here in a month. I broke my goal I set for myself at the start of the year. In one of my earlier posts I said that after much contemplation over what I should be doing in my half gap year in 2014 I decided on two main things: 1) Get a job once I got back to New Zealand. 2) Write on my blog at least once a week. Looking back over 2014 so far, I have experienced and learned many new unexpectedly things.

My part time job at a café has been great a learning experience to say the least. In the almost five months I’ve worked there, I have learned the art of coffee making. It took a while for me to master the skill of milk texturing but I got there in the end. As I am nearing my last week at work I have finally become competent at being a barista. As my time is nearly over, I have memorised how each of the regular customers likes his or her coffee. Getting to make coffee is definitely one of my favourite parts about this job. I have also learned the art of sandwich and Panini making. This has been my first proper job and in so many ways it has been a rewarding process. It may not seem like much but through working at a café, it has equipped me with skills and common sense -that wasn’t so common…

I also became a resident writer at the Undergraduate times. This is an online news site founded, run and produced entirely by undergraduates. My commitment to this site is one of the predominant reasons for my absence on here. I have been trying to find topics to write about and then proceeding to write somewhat decent articles. There I say it- another valuable learning experience. Sometimes I think I have bit off more than I can chew by becoming a writer for The UG times but hey, what’s the harm in pushing myself outside my comfort zones right? (Excuse the cliché)

It is absolutely bewildering to think that a year ago I had started constructing my commonapp and delving into a pit of stress and worry for what would come of 2014. I had no idea where- which country- I would be attending university. I didn’t even really plan out what I wanted to be studying for the next four years. My looming future was one big fat question mark.

A year later, I am still not at university. Ah, the beauty of New Zealand running on a different academic year to the US. I never imagined that I would be attending the school of my dreams this time last year. It was a realm that I had not dared to dwell on.

Since December 2013, I have been extremely ecstatic and excited for august 2014 to arrive. Ironically, now that August is here and in less than 10 days I fly far away from this safe and warm nest, I am left uncertain and nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very much anticipating this next great adventure but in some ways I feel that I have unfinished business in Auckland. All of a sudden there are too many things I want to do in Auckland.

For the past few years I have dreamed about leaving New Zealand to waltz with the big bad world. When you are growing up it seems like so much of your life is out of your own control and everything outside of your life is there simply to tease you. At least for me that’s how it was. Its always when you are about to leave someone that you realise how important they are to you isn’t it? It’s always when you can’t have something that you start you miss it. New Zealand is truly a piece of heaven on earth and I am grateful to have a blessed upbringing on this land. At the same time, I know there is so much out there in the world to experience and discover.

So as much as this next chapter may seem daunting, deep down I know that I should buckle down and get ready for the ride.

China through my lens- Part 3: Hainan

While staying with my family in Zhuhai, we travelled to Hainan Island. This was my first time visiting Hainan and though it was fun, coming from New Zealand made the sun, blue sky and beach environment less of a novelty.

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This is what winter is like in southern China!

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Hainan AKA the Hawaii of China

 

 

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This was a show we saw on Phoenix Island. It consists of water acrobats and the performers do some pretty incredible tricks using jet boats and other water equipment! I highly recommend this spectacle.

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Apologies for the blurry and not straight photo. I think I may invest in a tripod…

 

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China through my lens- Part 1: SiChuan

Over these next few posts I will be uploading my China photos! I have so many photos to sort through but hopefully you will see some decent photography in here!

After our 11 hour flight from Auckland to Guangzhou, we headed straight for our transfer flight to ChengDu, SiChuan. Sichuan was the first leg of my 2- month China adventure.

On a foggy winter morning, I visited the BeiChuan Earthquake memorial site near Mianyang city.

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Visitors entering the memorial site.

 

We couldn’t stay in ChengDu and not visit the cultural streets. Here are photos from Jinli Ancient street. There are traditional stores and many street shops selling delicious local cuisine. The leisurely lifestyle and the strong fondness for dining of the locals are especially evident along this cultural street.

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Man doing Tai Chi…

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The ever bustling Chun Xi Road is definitely one of my favourite places in Chengdu. Chunxi is like the 5th Avenue of New York, the Wangfujing of Beijing. I miss all these lights and the hustle and bustle of the big city…

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Next stop in the Sichuan province was Zigong. ImageImageImage

These 3 photos were taken at the Lantern Lights festival. If Zigong had to be renowned for one thing it would be it’s annual lights show. Even all throughout the city lights are hung on the lampposts, trees and on the side of main streets. A drive around the city at night definitely puts you in the festive mood for CNY! Although I guess the novelty wears off for locals. 😛

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I love airports

A place of goodbyes, new beginnings or just the bridge to your next vacation. For me, I was on my way to China for 2 months. Confession: The hustle and bustle of airports gets me giddy and really brings out the 5 year old in me. Everything is interesting. Especially in big airports, where everyone seems to be headed onto divergent paths I feel a strange sense of insignificance but not in a depressing way. Just an awareness of the plethora of places and people left for me to discover and meet. I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I will make up stories about the people I spot negotiating their way through the crowds. The ones rushing to their terminal. The ones struggling to lug all their carry ons. Despite being summer in NZ, practically everyone in the airport is dressed ready for winter. Except this one lady who thought it was travel appropriate to wear a stripped black and white body con dress. Talk about comfort…

I’ve been up since 4.30 am today (pre-trip excitement) and took off for flight en route to GuangZhou airport at 10am. I must say, each international flight I go on only gets less comfortable. Sleeping for 5 hours straight on the plane used to be so easy. This time, I managed a total of one hour. ONE FREAKING HOUR.

Once at the GuangZhou airport, Dad and I were pretty clueless. The maze-like layout of the airport was clearly too much for us country Kiwis… But dad insisted that his initial confusion was due to the immense change and extension of this airport since he was last here. In his defence it has been 10 years since he was last in his mother -land. I forgot how crowded and hectic China is. Somehow I always relish in the absolute manic of this country. 

Although its only 9pm in China thats 1am NZ time. I am currently waiting for our transfer domestic flight headed to Chengdu. I miss my cheeky puppies (Eddie and Power are actually dogs but I like calling them puppies) already and its less than 24hours. My eyes are blood shot, I look subhuman, I can barely formulate coherent thoughts in my mind and a shower right now would be wonderful. It has been a long day of travel and waiting and observing and eating.. Let this 2-month venture begin!