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Dear UTSC: I’m travelling across the world for university — here are my expectations

The thoughts of a second-year student after moving from Indonesia to Canada
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It's important to understand your own culture before learning about other cultures. CHRISTINE UND HAGEN GRAF/CC FLICKR
It's important to understand your own culture before learning about other cultures. CHRISTINE UND HAGEN GRAF/CC FLICKR

Dear UTSC,

I don’t know much about you, and you have no clue about me. So, as I finalize our meeting date, here are my hopes for my second year of university, which is the first year I’ll be spending in Canada.

I’ve only heard stories about your greenery and the deer that visit it or the aesthetically pleasing buildings that locals have missed seeing over the past year. I’ve heard that people hold multicultural festivals and club activities in your area, in buildings where movies and music videos were filmed. I saw you from the virtual backgrounds of the U of T campus staff as they spoke about your glory. From South Tangerang, Indonesia, 11 hours ahead, I can only hope you’re as good as you seem.

It’s ironic how I couldn’t understand my thoughts during a time when I had no one else to talk to but myself. It’s not that I don’t know my surroundings. I do: the humidity, the dogs barking at 7:00 am because of a passing dump truck, and my family spending evenings arguing about whose turn it is to watch the television. I’ll miss every sliver of home, as it’ll always be a place I’d come back to — a place to realize I’m loved by the people I love. 

Throughout my first year of university, I compiled expectations for my second year: that being on campus would uplift my spirits to venture out of my comfort zone, and that I would thrive creatively. My expectations may be high, but I think that’s reasonable for a kid who spent his entire first year battling exhaustion and procrastination.

When I was in high school, I was motivated. Even when a 4,000-word essay struck me, I faced it head-on and submitted it days before the deadline. I did my homework the day it was given and had the evening to myself. I’m still looking for that version of me, and I’m hoping to find him in you.  

Here’s my hypothesis, and I pray it holds: you are the missing piece in my unmotivated puzzle. People keep asking me why I’m so desperate to travel closer to you for another online semester. It’s not entirely about the time difference; it’s more about proving that I still have the drive inside me.

I get a motivation boost when I’m out of my comfort zone, and it’s nearly impossible to do that in a room where my bed is five steps away and in a country where I speak my mother tongue. I discover more about myself through my interactions with others in different settings. Being away from home will come with its challenges, I hope. I need to prove to myself that I am still the same person who’s always running the extra mile, no matter how tired I get. 

When the time comes to attend live lectures in one of your halls, I will have to adjust to not pausing the lecture to take notes. I will have to adjust to not doing every task through one device at the same time. I will have to adjust to many aspects of schooling that won’t be accessible through a few browser tabs. 

But as long as I will be in your proximity, I think I’ll be alright. I’ll finally get to join clubs without having to stay up until 1:00 am. Maybe I’llMaybe I’ll even visit the mysterious Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. There’s a lot I want to explore, especially since I heard you’ve got a lot to show. 

You’re the reason I’m leaving home for a country I’ve never laid my feet in. I hope you’re the place where I’ll grow to be a better person than I am now. A journalistic writer, an artist, or an athlete; I don’t know what you have in store for me. Still, I’ll embrace any challenge head-on, because all I want is to make any future experience as different as possible from the time I spent a year of university in my room. 

Maybe it’s not all so bad that I struggled so much last year. After all, the first item I’d like to tick off my Canadian bucket list is that I’m still motivated to learn and discover the areas outside my comfort zone. 

I’ll see you soon,

Arthur D. Hamdani