So here I am, at the end of the journey started 4 years ago, the very first morning I wake up and realize Im no longer an undergrad. After taking the course Comparative Sociology focusing on travel, I understand that a journey doesn't start at departure, nor it stops at homecoming. Mine is the same. My desire for an education abroad flamed up during high school, and I know it doesn't end here, after I have handed in my last paper.
It’s time to do little reflection and say some concluding words. What have I accomplished? What have I gained? How have I changed? What have I learnt?
To this moment, Im glad to officially announce that Im educated. I consider myself fortunate to be able to say that. I know not everyone with a bachelor degree has that confidence despite the time and money they have spent in 4 years. I don’t mean Im well prepared for the workforce or that Im equipped with all necessary knowledge for life. I just mean to say I have come to know my place in this world, or at least to be conscious of such a place and will endeavor to define it. I can situate myself within the history of mankind, and know that Im not a random individual coming into the scene with an empty existence and will vanish some day.
The desire for knowledge has been awakened. My job is to prevent it from dying out.
One problem follows: when one feels like one knows THE truth, it’s difficult to really listen and be sympathy with people, because one doesn’t feel what they have to say is valid. Now I know why the wise and the sage go on teaching. Like the sun in Nietzsche’s view, they can’t stand the burning heat of wisdom within themselves so they have to share it. I haven’t got to that state, but I already feel difficult to listen with full empathy. Humility is not given; it must be worked on constantly. I think only the wisest can be sure that they know the best way and still humble.
To this extent, my education is successful. I finish university not with a degree but with enthusiasm to know more and learn more. Sheer pleasure in discovering is priceless. Im genuinely happy to have come this way and for the person I am now.
Second accomplishment is the empirical understanding that everything, both the best and the worst will pass sooner or later. Having experienced a culture shock that lasted more than 2 years and gone through a process of adapting myself, started with no social relationship whatsoever, ended up with a few good friends who are sad to see me go, I have seen things that I used to be most certain about smashed up and built trust and love from scratch. I have come to understand that what one has in a moment won’t necessarily last till the next. And of course, the most miserable feeling will go away eventually. Friendship fades, relationship break, family ties loosen. My world before 18 and after 18 is two complete different pictures. I don’t think I have grown stronger, but probably more mature. Maturity for me lies in the certainty that nothing lasts forever. Do I still panic in front of the unknown? I do. I don’t claim that everything will be fine in the end. I just think uncertainty is an indispensable part of life. Setting off on a journey, one doesn’t know where it leads to, but it will lead to somewhere. Only this piece of self-assurance has helped me through tears and pain when my distance-relationship shattered, hollowness when I practically had no one to turn to, exhaustion when I sat all alone in an empty apartment with furniture lying everywhere and confusion, day in and day out, when the dreamlike reality flushed itself into my mind.
No, my years in Canada aren’t about a young woman succeeds in everything she puts her hands to. I led a very ordinary life, revolving around going to class, buying grocery every 2 weeks, watching movies and youtube to entertain myself, complaining in exam time and crying once in a while for no practical reason. Especially in this small town where everyone is so laid back and casual, with the second largest elder population in Canada, it’s hard to have any extreme experience.
Other than that, what have I learnt about myself? That I can actually cook a decent meal, carry 17kg of books and grocery and walk for 3 hours, that I can enjoy research books just as much as novels? Well, I know now I love listening to stories, which doesn’t come as a surprise because I love reading. If only I could travel from village to village to document myths, oral narrative and all those stories people tell themselves about themselves.
After a while, I know four years will disperse into a chain of moments. I won’t remember any boring Monday morning like today, I’ll recall moments. After all, life consists of moments, as I imagine a way to die almost every day, I also often judge if a particular moment worth remembering on my deathbed. Like when I finished up a paper at 5 am and heard the first bird cry out and wondered if she was saying goodbye to darkness or greeting light. Like when I came back to Peterborough on a bus and saw the snow-covered field lay bare and honest, trusting and relaxed under the comforting moonlight. Or when I burst into tears in front of a group when I told them how it feels like to be home. They are all very beautiful.
I love books more, and pretty sure that no book can be too expensive, especially scholarly works, after attempting to write something myself. It’s sweats and tears, time-consuming and very mentally exhausting.
Last word, just to want to say thank you to all of you who have been with me through this time. Without your encouragement, I couldn’t have made it. Especially Gà yêu, whose love for me is always abundant, who I come to when I want a resting place. If I can have only one friend in this world, no doubt it would be you.