This would be the last time I would have stayed in Singapore for a solid summer break, I thought, as I made my way to the airport, once again. Unlike previous years, I was no longer as anxious, for the routine 20+hr flight and a few days of jet-lag seemed all too familiar. This time was significant though, as it was the beginning of many transitions.
I left, saying goodbye to my family and some new friends made through summer work, not particularly excited, nor devastated. I was perhaps more apprehensive than anything. The flights as smooth as I could have possibly make it. On my 16hr flight from HK to NY, the TV was broken, so I had to make do with sleeping in my comfortable neck pillow, or with reading a book, both gifted to me by thoughtful friends. The guy beside me and the girl in front of me had broken TVs too, and we were all compensated with $75 voucher to get duty free items from the flight, not too shabby at all.
Moving into my new apartment, however, was more difficult than I imagined. I had garnered a bad headache, the weather was way too hot, and the shuttle was so stuffy. The shuttle driver too, perhaps having had a bad day or had bad experiences with Chinese passengers, was not kind to me at all. He yelled “YOU”, and then “YES YOU”, to get me off the shuttle. I was annoyed. Of course, the least he could do was address me by my surname, which was what he did before he knew that name was attached to this Chinese girl. I was torn about giving him a tip, but did so anyway. I stepped down, to face this really run-down building in front of me, located in a very sketchy neighborhood. The interior was not much better. There were no lifts around. How was I going to carry my luggages up? Luckily, I had help from one of the girls with sharing the weight of my heavier luggage, but was too embarrassed to get her to help with my second one, so I just clenched my jaws and hauled up the seemingly long 4 flights of stairs. It wasn’t a big deal though, every year I had to do this be it moving by myself or hauling luggages.
And then I came face to face with my apartment. My room was even smaller than I imagined. The lamp didn’t work, and the mattress seemed really used and gross. The fan isn’t very strong. I can deal with this, I’m not a very picky person. By this point I was so exhausted I just laid over a sheet and fell asleep. In the next two days, I swept the floor, got anti-bacterial spray to clean my mattress, shifted the tiny drawers and purchased and set-up a small table. I also changed the lightbulb, and hung up temporary cloth drawer and unpacked. It finally felt more livable.
Today was the day of international student orientation. It felt like the speech I’ve been given way too many times. Make sure your I-20 is updated and valid, ensure you maintain valid status with full-time student workload, apply for cpt or opt for work and all that jazz. But what was different that pipped my interest was the sharing of the 5-stages of culture shock, or what they called u-curve. It was such a scientific explanation of how we will experience honeymoon period, hostile period and normal expectations when entering a new culture and how we can manage our emotions while going through the motions. Wow, I was impressed. I have learned about it before in a Business class, but I’ve never heard it being shared in an international orientation session. The other thing that stood out was:
“Third Kid Culture (TKC)” – children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.
WOW. I almost teared up. Finally, there is a term that is associated with someone like me. If I go back to my previous posts I will definitely find something that described how I felt like I couldn’t fit in because my culture was a mesh of 2, now 3 different cultures. A part of me will always be in each country, but I don’t entirely concur to the values and beliefs of any one, so I’d always be an outsider, like I’m not entitled to feel like I belong. AND THEN this girl stepped up, saying she fit this description, that she might consider NY home since she stayed here for 7 years, but she is definitely a TMD. I have found my people! None other than in this diverse place called NY. It was assuring in a sense, comforting, to know that there are other global nomads like me, that I’m not alone.
NY NY, I look forward to more adventures you bring. (In between scurrying to study hard for CPA and making the best of my NYU experience).