THE BRIDGE TO COLLEGE
My Growth in College
In Jakarta, I went to an international high school that implements the IB Diploma curriculum. My school was academically challenging, giving us questions and problems that were way beyond our syllabus. We had to stick closely to the textbooks and spare no effort in writing proper, lengthy essays and reports.
Life was stressful, a monotonous cycle. I woke up at 5 a.m., attended school from 7:30 until 3:30, continued with extracurricular activities until 5:30, arrived home at 7:30, then started studying at 8:30 until sometimes 2 am. And repeat.
Transitioning to college, I felt a huge difference because I could control my own schedule. At first, the breaks between classes felt odd, like I was slacking, but I could work on my assignments at times when my brain was at its best capability. As time went by, I found myself more relaxed and better able to follow my classes attentively, fully concentrating and quickly absorbing the lessons.
At Boston University, the liberal arts curriculum broadens my perspective and improves my critical thinking. I have become more creative in solving problems and, with a balance of labs and discussions, I get to understand how physics applies in real world situations and discuss deeper concepts with my professors and teaching assistants.
Although I initially filled the gaps between classes with studies, I started to use the free time to search for new study spots, meeting friends at Starbucks and spending hours talking with them about classes and food adventures. In Boston, I meet new people all the time, and I soon found that the more I interacted with others, the more I discovered new things. I now understand what it really means to accept other people and think from their points of view.
At BU, I have met so many people from different parts of the world. As international students, we confide in one another about the new experiences not found in our homelands: the different learning environment, the different curriculum, the parties, and the American culture that obsesses over individual freedoms. Compared to high school, my experience in an American university is as much thrilling as it is overwhelming.
Being out of my parents’ home also means I am out of their watch. They are not here to remind me to do things or scold me if I do something wrong. I was always in a bubble that ensured my safety. But now that I have tasted freedom, it feels emancipating.
Although it’s fun not to have a specific curfew, there are tons of challenges that come with this freedom. I must be responsible, keep to a schedule, and not procrastinate. The most difficult challenge has been to restrain myself from acting impulsively. I am finally able to attend a college party, go on a road trip, and go literally anywhere in Boston. I can walk on my own, take the bus or the subway and spend hours outside the university premises.
I had always wanted to experience this open culture and create lasting memories, but since I was not allowed to do many of the things I wanted to try, it was extremely tempting to do everything right away without thinking about the looming consequences. While the desire to bend the rules feels like fun, I came to the US to pursue my education and build my career. That will always be my priority. My parents are no longer with me, so I have taught myself to abide by the rules and stay within appropriate limits. I want to be someone who will be able to return to my country and use the knowledge I cannot gain in Indonesia to help others.
Yet a little bit of fun is healthy for me. I go to weekly movie nights, often taking a detour to stroll near the Charles River where I like to draw, read or listen to music. In America, I have freedom to choose, which has helped me become a responsible teenager who actually does not procrastinate. Still, it’s really hard to get an “A” here, and you have to be smart in choosing your classes, something I didn’t have to do much before.
Boston University has been a great change for me. I can now easily adapt to new situations.
Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com