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

Funny, strange Americans…

I’ve often heard people say ‘Americans are pretty weird’. I can see why now.

This is my second time coming to the US but I can hardly remember my impression of America the first time (I was eight) so pretty much everything was new and fresh for me this time round. I’ve been here for just over a week and this week has been like an acclimatisation period.

The term ‘weird’ is relative so I guess different would be more acceptable. Things are done ‘differently’ in the US. Every country is in various aspects (some more than others) different and unique in it’s own way but America- America is very unique.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) America does not use the metric system. I arrived in LA on the 19th and as we left the airport en route to down town, the driver mentioned the distance we had to travel. I didn’t realise till after that he was using miles. I still have no idea how far a mile is. Feet, inch, yard and Fahrenheit are also completely useless units to me. Pretty much everywhere else uses the standard Celsius but here, most weather forecasts are given in Fahrenheit.

2) Price labels don’t have the tax included. How are you supposed to know exactly how much you have to pay? During the first few days I kept forgetting that tax is excluded in the price and thought people were overcharging us. I know that tax is different among the States, but would it really be such a pain to display prices as exactly what you would actually be paying??

3) Tipping. This took me ages to get accustomed to. How much to tip? Who to tip? Do you wait for the receipt at your table? Also, Americans have a very trusting and blasé attitude towards credit cards. You hardly need to use pins and only after they swipe your card do you put down how much you want to tip.

4) I don’t know if it’s just me but a lot of toilet seats are unusually low. There is also a lot of water in the bowl. The flush seems way more forceful. I don’t even know how to explain this without sounding bizarre but I swear the toilets are different here.

5) There are words that mean slightly different things over here (I guess this one applies to many English speaking countries). The number of people that don’t understand what a rubbish bin is, is just shocking. No one uses a bathroom cubicle, they use a stall. A girl thought I was referring to driving when I mentioned a ‘fullstop’. I also still refuse to replace my ‘s’ with a ‘z’.

So I’m feeling a bit like a FOB right now but hopefully I’ll get adjusted soon. There is so much to see and do and I can’t believe tomorrow is our last night in New York and also my last night of ‘vacation’ before I’m off to college. Being an international student will be an entirely new experience for me. I’m sure that as an international student I will come across many more unusual things that Americans do. 😛

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.

Creativity for the soul

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As I was cutting out my photographs and choosing which sticker font to use while being surrounded by patterned paper, glue and bits and bobs of craft I felt perfectly content and calm. I know what you’re thinking; ‘This girl is out of control.’ Okay, so it may not sound like a pumping time but I can honestly say this creative therapeutic pastime is my ideal Sunday evening.

 

In the past two weeks, I’ve been doing quite a bit of scrapbooking. Scrapbooking is one of those hobbies I claim to love, but rarely have I actually scrapbooked. I went through an intense but short lived phase of scrapbooking and card making mania a couple of years back but have long lost touch with my inner ‘DIY’ self. I am a sentimental person bordering on being maudlin at times who dwells in nostalgia too much for my own good. What better way to channel this aspect of myself than in scrapbooking?

 

Photographs and photography are thoroughly precious and fascinating for me. My first project was getting those world challenge photographs printed (two years late!!). When I was looking through the printed photos I catched details I had never noticed before. I was living vicariously through these photographs of a much treasured and amazing trip in South East Asia.

 

Now, some people may think it’s completely pointless to scrapbook. You may be right. Yes, this scrapbook is probably not going to be seen by many and nor will I get any tangible return from it. Creating art for the fun of it seems to be less popular today. But what makes it so satisfying is that I am doing this solely for personal value.

 

Through the process of scrapbooking, I learned how invaluable creativity is. Sometimes in our lives, with the pressure and stress from school and work, taking the time out to do something purely for ourselves can be so liberating. Something creative. Something that gets the art juices flowing. Some form of self-expression. 

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My recent embarrassing moments

“Dear God, please keep awkward situations at a minimum today…” –This should be my daily prayer.

 

Up till now, I have had so many small embarrassing and awkward moments that they all mash together to create one gargantuan embarrassing moment that is my 18 years of life.

My recent employment means I have several embarrassing work stories to add to the mix thanks to my clumsy and awkward self.

I have no idea how I ended up working at a café for my first proper job. Personally I feel that compared to many student jobs, one at a Café leaves much room for messing up.

I am still learning the art of taking orders at the till. If you have never worked behind the till at a café you may not understand how overwhelming the many little keys on the till for each order may seem at first (or so I hope every person starting out on this job feels this way initially and its not just my incompetency at memorising which button is for what).  

One particular embarrassment at the till happened when I was taking the very long order of a lady with her son and her parents. By the end of her order I was feeling flustered from making her wait several times while I scoured the till for the right key. I remembered last minute while processing the transaction to give her a table marker. As I reached across to grab the number, I knocked two of them off the counter and of which one fell onto the head of the little boy. All I could say was sorry. I AM SO SO SO SORRY. I wanted to bury myself in the deep hole of humiliation I had dug for myself. It’s no secret injuring a customer is probably not encouraged on your first day of work. Or ever.

Another embarrassing moment was when I was delivering two drinks to a table. In my defence I did not take the orders and was simply asked to deliver them to the table. I placed the juice down and said ‘orange juice’ and followed suit with the coffee to which I said ‘Latte’. Turned out, they were actually one pineapple juice and one flat white…. You can probably imagine the shame I felt. 

Hopefully the next time I write a post, I still have this job….

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