How the University of Warwick has changed my life
“No, you got a B for Further Maths.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t feel the same for you anymore.”
I envisioned myself in the city and its bright lights. I saw myself taking the tube going to musicals at West End every fortnight. I envisioned myself going back home from a long day of lectures calling him, to tell him all about my life here, making this long-distance relationship work.
None of that happened.
Instead, I came to the university with my heart shattered into pieces. Not knowing anyone familiar, I was the very minute fish in the big pond. And it’s not the pond that I wanted to be in.
I found myself getting lost, not knowing where this “Sherbourne” flat is. My mom and I drove around the campus at least three times to finally notice where my flat is. I got scared of the ducks and geese around my flat. But most importantly, I kept telling myself, in any given second, how much of a failure I was. Not only am I a failure in academics, I also felt that I am not worthy of being loved.
And it wasn’t until sometime around December 2017, when my friends and I took a bus trip from Prague to Vienna, making a pit stop at a city called Brno, that we experienced an Islamophobic incident that scarred our lives forever.
All my life, I never truly had the freedom to go out as much as I wanted to growing up. When I got the scholarship to study abroad, I finally had the freedom I always dreamt of. Alas, this dream turned into a nightmare. Days and months after the incident, I keep looking back, making myself aware of any blue-eyed men who might want to hurt me. Flashbacks occured daily.
I knew I needed to sort this out. Hence, I resorted to signing up for a boxing class at the Sports Centre. It was on Monday and it became a coping mechanism for me to get through this.
It wasn’t until Easter when all my flatmates went back home, and I was too scared to travel anywhere, so much that I was alone in my flat. Being alone with your thoughts, especially when you’ve recently experienced a traumatic incident can be overwhelming. Flashbacks get heavy and there is no way you can get rid of it. I can’t tell anyone here, they cannot relate.
Then, I crumbled.
There was an explosive moment where I wanted to scream my heart out, and I was able to because I was alone, all in Sherbourne Block 5, a ghost town in Easter. That was when I knew, I needed help. Growing up in an Asian community, I was told to never open up to others. They will use my problems against me. I was told to keep my guards up. But therein lies the problem. The more you suppress, you create a monster in you. I jittered as I signed up for counselling because I knew I was at stake. “Ain, you’re risking your reputation for this.” But I didn’t have anyone. Truly. I had to do something.
Counselling did help me with a thing or two. First, it helped me realised that I am way too harsh on myself. Second, I clung on to my past so much, that I didn’t appreciate the present. I have the opportunity to make friends here, but instead I spent too much time ruminating on those whom I’ve lost.
That’s when I knew I needed to start off a clean slate. In second year, I joined the Hip Hop Dance Club and Triathlon club. I’ve been eyeing on these clubs for about a year now, but I was constrained by Malaysian Night rehearsals in first year. When I finally joined these societies, I truly found my tribe. I was able to flourish and more importantly,
I learnt what it’s like to truly take care of myself
I also attended this female development programme called Sprint. Dude, that program was definitely a life-changer as it really made me reflect on the values I want to hold in life and seek for opportunities to grow. I also learnt about the importance of empowerment. We opened up a lot to each other about our problems. At the time, I was struggling with my studies, and this beautiful girl told me, “progress, not perfection”, and that is something I held close to me till today.
In third year, I chose all the modules I’m interested in, which meant that I truly loved the things that I am studying, and because I was consistent, I was able to spend some quality time with my friends. I also interacted more with my lecturers since it’s my final year, and I finally mustered the courage to ask them questions. If not now, then when? I also attended what seemed to be the last event held by the Economics Department, when I’ve never been to one before this.
Then the pandemic happened. Even then, I encouraged online hangouts with my friends because I realised how important it is for me to interact with people. There were times when my best friend and I would be on Skype for 10 hours studying together and keeping each other accountable. I worked out with my friend virtually to keep her company as she was living by herself in Canley. Occasionally, my triathlon and dance friends would check up on each other. My dance friends would always hype me up when I post my dance videos on Instagram. They kept me going.
At the same time, I also became a vlogger for the University. I had so much fun because it was my first time vlogging on a weekly basis and I enjoyed talking to people about my life. It was a good substitute for the job I did as a Student Ambassador for Warwick Welcome Service, since we couldn’t organise Open Days anymore.
Here I am now, with an Economics Degree with a result I am genuinely proud of and with the Outstanding Student Contribution Prize awarded by the Economics Department. To be honest, I did not expect this award to be given to me, because I vlogged and written blog posts merely because I wanted to. I know how it felt like as a prospective student and seeing other people’s lives. I always get inspired to work as hard as these students when I watch their vlogs. Hence, when I am given this opportunity, I wanted to do the same.
I think for me, what made this journey fulfilling was that I carved this journey on my own. People have told me how to live my life. But that isn’t the life I wanted. I started doing things as a coping mechanism, to cure myself from the heartbreak, and slowly I did things for myself. I got the exam results based on my own merits. I poured my heart and soul into it. People have told me to cut down on my extra-curricular activities, but I refused because those are the only things that have kept me sane. They told me not to seek help, because they will use it against me. With this award, no one can say anything against me anymore.
So thank you, the University of Warwick, for this once in a lifetime opportunity. You gave me the best three years of my life.
I left Malaysia feeling like a failure and unworthy of being loved, but I came back with so much self love and am continuously working towards becoming the best version of myself.
And I couldn’t have had it any other way.