Deciding where you want to apply for college is very different from deciding where you actually will go. It’s also very hard to decide without knowing the end or what comes next so sometimes we use our past to help us make decisions to compensate for our lack of knowledge.
Deciding to go to NYU Shanghai was an experience in itself. I was very, extremely hesitant to go to a new school and be the pioneer batch. This would be my third time being part of a pioneer batch and I felt that I would be repeating experiences. I felt it would in some ways be a regression or stagnation of my experiences of the world and not a progression on my life and a challenge on me as a person. I felt that I would be learning the same things e.g. China history (which I studied from 1949 – late 1990s), meeting the same sort of people (hyper enthused creative people) or not having the experience of meeting new people (I met a lot of people on the trip), experiencing the same culture (chinese culture), following a similar pattern of moving to a new city campus from a larger, more chill campus (e.g. Goodman campus to Z campus) and not learning new things that I could somewhere else (theatre in the western world, psychology, sports, cheerleading, music).
(Now I know) It’s ridiculous to assume college will be the same as the rest of your life. There were 3 reasons that it would be different: 1) I was moving to CHINA for 4 years, it’s different from being in an arts school in Singapore. 2) It’s COLLEGE, the lessons are gonna be much tougher and more indepth and it was pretty arrogant of me to think I learnt everything I needed from secondary school and 3) COMMUNITY, I think I needed to be reminded of the awesome people I met on the trip and the people I am gonna meet sooner or later! (Also, I just realised they were all Cs! WOW)
For others, Shanghai was a risk, an adventure. For me, I saw it as repetition. I saw New York as so out of my world of experiences. I reasoned that it would push me and mould me. I could go there with no friends and be alone all year (a scary but welcomed challenge) or I could work hard to be recognised in a crowd of 22,000 students. I wanted the harder route. To quote Elle Woods, ‘I pick the dangerous one, because I’m not afraid of a challenge.’
I don’t know how I changed my own mind.
I somehow found it in me to find peace with going to NYU Shanghai. After the whole 2 weeks of trying to find a way to go to New York and to get my family on board with the idea on top of resisting my family’s attempts, one fine Saturday I decided Shanghai. It just hit me. It hit me like a hot potato (I have no idea why I use this simile, I just made it up). In that way my perspective just changed. I declared I was going to Shanghai. I wasn’t totally at peace but somehow, throughout the day, I felt my mind and heart just calming down and slowly finding its own peace with my decision. I don’t know what made me do it.
Slowly, I began to Shanghai more positively. It’s like when you change your white balance settings from fluorescent to tungsten. It became warmer. My experience in SOTA and CWDSS were all steps to prepare me for this school. This way, I could handle whatever came my way. In some ways, I was made for this school. When I wasn’t blinded by the allure of NY, I realised a lot of things were put into place for me and all the signs were there. The increase in scholarship money, the experiences from my past, the miracle that I got on the plane to Shanghai 20 mins before departure!
This reminded me of an analogy from SUMO (Shut up and move on) by Paul McGee (one of the best man in the world coincidentally whom I had dinner with yesterday)
A beach ball.
A beach ball has many colours right? If two people look at a beach ball at opposite sides, they will both see something different. They will both see a different variety of colours but it’s the same beach ball. And that’s how life is, we all see issues differently and we all have different perspectives (some of us are just short so everyone looks fat from our point of view). Like ‘well, that’s my side of the beach ball.”
I think for me, I had to physically move the ball and see the other side. I think that’s what we have to do sometimes. We have to look at the other side of the beach ball. On one side, Shanghai equated to repetition and on the other, I was prepared and made for Shanghai. So always see the other side of the beach ball.