So I'm finally out of Cambridge for the year, and it's been an amazing past year. I really enjoyed the courses (Earth Sciences, Evolution & Behaviour, Physiology and Mathematical Biology), and living abroad for the first time on my own has been a pretty interesting experience.
I guess the first thing that really hits you when you're overseas is the language, or the accent. Back home in Singapore, when speaking to the ang mohs, or westerners/foreigners, I wouldn't speak with an accent. But after coming here, and realising that they really don't quite get what you're saying in Singaporean accent, I now have a chapalang, or mixed accent. But they seem to get me fine. I do find that accent is a bit of a barrier when it comes to speaking up or in front of a crowd though, cos I wonder if anyone understands me.
But I do tend to be a bit more vocal than most, especially when it comes to things that I really care about. And having a deep interest in stuff that most others of the same age don't quite have, also means I have to have the courage to go for events and stuff alone. It helps having done a gap year, and talking to lots of people, and I generally enjoy going for events even if on my own and chatting with random strangers, as long as everyone's a stranger as well and there aren't cliques. Which is one thing I didn't quite enjoy about college, was that people seem to be quite clique-ish and exclusive :/
But anyway, coming abroad, you really need to put yourself out of your comfort zone (if you want to get the most out of the experience), and push yourself to your limits.
I've also been continually impressed by how the lecturers all emphasise that they're not teaching just to prepare us for the exams but more for us to know how to publish proper scientific data and papers etc. It's just a refreshing change from always studying just for exams, as though exams were the end goal in itself, and not just a means.
But it also depends on what college you're in, perhaps. What they say about all colleges being same is a lie. For example, there's free laundry at Emmanuel College (Emma), free biscuits in various libraries during exam term at Trinity Hall and Emma, nice facilities that students can book in Emma, Clare College, Newnham College and Pembroke College is really environmental friendly, and Newnham and Peterhouse has nice rooms... And much more I'm sure. It's just hard to get such information out of the web, for international students who don't have the opportunity to come for open houses and visit the colleges.
It's not all been that great though, home sickness hits everyone. People think that just cos I have done quite a bit of travelling, I don't really get that homesick. But there is a difference between going somewhere on holiday and travelling and knowing you're gonna go back home soon, and living somewhere else on a daily basis and going back home being a distant future event. I find it quite interesting though, that for all that I was terrible at chinese and barely speak it at home, when homesickness hits, I play chinese songs. And generally, having Singaporean friends around who can cook Singaporean food helps (: Which I'm really grateful for. [interesting article on Thought Catalog: Why Coming Home is Hard) It also helps to have a stock of milo that lasts all through the 9 months :D
I've also realised how ill-disciplined I am, especially with regard to exercise and studies. I think the gap year made me a bit more relaxed over academics and studying, and there's also generally just been so much stuff happening that I just don't exercise/study as much as I should. You really need to get organised and stay organised, cos going overseas and living on your own, you have to cope more or less on your own. Not just for laundry and food, but also there's not really anyone who will take care of you when you're ill, or be extra nice to you just cos it's exam term. You really gotta get everything together on your own, and try not to fall sick. Which I thankfully haven't.
It's also really hard to make good friends. Perhaps it's just the structure of the academic year here in Cambridge, cos we've got 3 8-week terms and 2 5-week breaks as well as 3 months of Summer, meaning you barely spend time with people during the term. It takes extra effort to meet up with people, especially when everyone's so busy.
Overall though, I've had an amazing first year, got an exciting Summer ahead, and I'm so looking forward to going back home to Singapore!
A quick shout out to all my friends who have kindly donated to my Summer trips, be they donations to Practical Action for the Mt Kilimanjaro climb, or to my Operation Wallacea volunteering stint in South Africa (: I've managed to raise almost everything that's required for the expeditions, thanks to all your generous support, as well as support from my college and the Donald Robertson travel fund.
I've now got about close to two weeks here in Juniper Hall in Surrey, England for my Ecology field trip, followed by my Mt Kilimanjaro climb and then a two weeks safari in Tanzania with my parents (: A month in South Africa at Balule Reserve and diving at Sodwana Bay, before finally going back to home soil. And then it's back to Cambridge for my Geology field trip, and the start of second year in Cambridge!
Really looking forward to it all (:
I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at http://natureramble.wordpress.com.
UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit jocelynesze.wordpress.com if you're interested in more recent writing.