Once I thought I have some sort of identity crisis. After graduating from high school I went on an exchange to Switzerland. It was a year of ups and downs, a year of self-discovery. I’ve seen beautiful things and absorbed Western values. I thought the Western world is brighter.
As the years go by I become more mature. Close friends of my age left Malaysia one by one. I have the feeling that my life is pre-destined to be centered in the West. I study International Relations in Australia, I learn German literature, I have a European dream. However, things get trickier when I start to find the true meaning of ‘home’.
Just like the others in the 20s, I want to lead a busy and fulfilling life. I compare so much and keep on checking if I’ve done enough. But when I called my parents and told them stories about university and work, I was slightly terrified by the idea that one day I might leave them. So far away until I forget the good old days.
It is not that I’m already fully immersed in a new culture. Being quite active in the Uni I do meet awesome, lovely friends and mentors. The hidden anxieties will only emerge when you are working in a group, dealing with some financial issues, or simply, trying to do more small talks. Sometimes, I remind myself that I’m just a guest in Australia. It is my responsibility to integrate into the environment, not the other way round. I have to bear with the pressure of being an international student, since it was me who have made the decision to come. I must not complain, if I’m treated differently.
Luckily, I found new comfort zones in the German language and in my workplace- a Malaysian restaurant. My identity is redefined when I accept the fact that there is a potential in me to master German, and, when I’m feeling fulfilled while working, even though there were some friends who encouraged me to look for a higher-paid job or work in a more Australian environment. The team spirit, friendship (and even Malay speaking skill) developed through working is invaluable.
The East and West in me then merge together and shape my worldview. It is a delicate, complex process when I perceive surrounding words and images. But good and bad habits still exist, so as core personality. The journey of life in a cosmopolitan world will eventually lead us to a constant search for the answer to the question: Who am I vis-à-vis the world.
One day when I’m old and must return to the nature, I will appreciate that I found my own places everywhere.