One of the most pervading paradoxes might be how everybody’s different yet still the same, and it is especially evident in university even if we don’t realize it right away. In order to paint this picture, I sat down with my roommate who grew up in Comox, BC, and compared his West Coast life to my upbringing in Singapore.
Connor Smith is a fourth year Political Science major at UVic currently working on a documentary film called Road to Employment, which will host a small promotional tour next year. He came from a public high school set in a rural area and considers History his favourite high school subject, particularly because of his teacher. And although he didn’t pursue History, he does owe a degree of motivation to his high school History teacher, who markedly prepared him for university education, with a sense of humour.
In Singapore I attended convent schools for ten years and a co-ed Junior College (JC) for two. Like Connor, there were teachers that had a profound effect on me, which led to the decision to double major in Biology and English at UVic (and write on the side). JC education is somewhat designed to prepare students for university. For example, we had General Paper classes, which could be described as the application of English (the first language of Singapore) in argumentative essays about current affairs.
Academics aside, Connor proceeded to tell me about his family trips, saying “as far as I can remember back, camping with my parents was always the best in Tofino.” I’ve been to Tofino twice now since my first arrival on Vancouver Island and must concur that (if you luck out on good weather like Connor’s family did) Tofino is pretty paradisal, especially if you catch some bioluminescence glitter the midnight sand.
The school-organized camping trips back home were not quite as picturesque. However, despite the stalagmitic bats in a million year old cave, the leech-infested mud treks, the eerie hostels, the two-minute showers, and the hundreds of mosquito bites, they were spectacular fun. And as a plus, they taught us many leadership skills and forced us to reflect on what we had learned.
Connor and I both celebrate Christmas and gorge on chocolate eggs on Easter Day, but while he has Thanksgiving dinners, I have Chinese New Year meals. These two events come with different traditions but they bring the family together and give us a means to express our respect for each other. (Furthermore, they’re both wonderful excuses for eating a ton of food and dodging accusations of gluttony.)
He had Mr. Bean and rickrolling, I had Beanie Babies and guppy-fishing. He played guitar; I danced. He misses his car; I miss my Barbie Polaroid camera. Growing up in BC was laidback; growing up in Singapore was somewhat pressurized. But Connor brought up an important point: “Even being in university I grew up so I feel like life sort of began after high school.”
While I didn’t draw a comparison from opposite ends of the spectrum, Connor and I pose as examples for how it doesn’t matter where you grew up. I reckon most seasoned university students would agree with Connor that life began after entering college. If you’re coming from a different continent, it’s even more apparent. I definitely complain about schoolwork and whatnot but I know that when I plunge myself into the real world, I will owe a great deal of who I became and where I am to the university that pushed me to get there.