My transition: I’m leaving Singapore

Hi guys, it has been more than a week since I first came to Sydney now.

Below are some entries written…dating as early back to Jan when I was still struggling with poly, to July…when I was making sense of a lot of decisions I have made. Hope that some of my thought processes that are penned down can bring you through how I made my decision, and worked towards my goal. I tried to be as truthful as possible, even if it means showing my vulnerabilities. Enjoy xx

21 July, Friday

I don’t even know where to begin. My mind, is racing with thoughts jumbled up all over the place as early as July. Going overseas to study is huge transition in my life, entering university is a rite of passage, not to mention living in a foreign country and starting from scratch again.

I never meant it to be an official announcement, but here goes: I’ll be leaving Singapore for further studies in Sydney. 


I guess it this came as sudden for many of my friends, including close ones, because I didn’t want to mention it until it’s confirmed. Studying overseas has been a dream of mine since secondary school but I guess it was a dream i didn’t dare to voice out. It was a very far fetched dream for me at that point, and even till I graduated from poly—maybe part of me felt that I didn’t deserve such an opportunity. And I didn’t think things would fall through. Telling people seemed more real, and I didn’t want to make the dream real for fear of disappointment.

Thank God, my friends are very understanding and no one really blamed me for not telling them earlier!! Super thankful because they’re always so supportive, telling me to Skype them and even offered to send me off. I was apologising to Charis, who was in the UK when I told her, that I didn’t inform earlier because my offer & scholarship came so damn last minute hahahha. Things weren’t really confirmed until this month (July), and my VISA is still being processed at the time where I told my friends. Without a valid VISA, I couldn’t book my flight. I checked student accommodations and they were all fully booked so I couldn’t settle my accommodation too. Even if I fly over, I have no place to stay. EVERYTHING was taken care of so last minute.


I didn’t even tell Celia, my best friend until mid-July. Held off something like that for so long because both of us were busy at the time my offer got confirmed—and I insisted meeting her face to face: how could I tell her something important like this via text? When I told her she said, “I knew already. I had such a strong sixth sense,” HAHAHHA, she’s no doubt my soul sister that grew up 19 years with me.

Well it’s hard, but I do try to tell people face to face—at least my close friends and loved ones. Those that had to find out through social media or other means, I’m truly sorry about it. At that point in time, I was quite confused about studying overseas and I don’t really want to share much about it. I couldn’t even sort out my own thoughts and be sure, let alone be prepared to answer the questions that would come along after I break the news.

I have a few friends in Australia but they’re all studying in different cities, except for Tricia, my church friend, who’s studying in Sydney. As I pondered about this, it hit me hard that I would not know anyone around me if I were to first arrive in Sydney—no one except Tricia hahhah. I would be a foreign person in a foreign city, with foreign currency, I know absolutely nobody – not even an acquaintance, and nobody knows me. I wouldn’t say the thought of it scares me— I’m feeling more excited, anticipated about my new phase of life but it is still an overwhelming thought.


What made you decide to go for it?

Simple Answer: I got an ASEAN scholarship and it’ll be pretty wasted to give up on an opportunity like that.

Detailed Answer:  I truly wanted to gain more exposure to other cultures and also experience the student life in another city other than Singapore. I felt that the change of environment would value add to my education, because I know I’ll definitely be more motivated studying in a different environment. I also hope it’ll train me to become more independent and also develop my character holistically, preparing me for the workforce in the long run. I know this sounds very “politically correct” answer but I am a person that really loves challenges and not knowing what’s in store for me. Sure, I can be unpleasantly surprised, and I am scared, but I am more scared of a mundane life.

I chose Australia, more specifically Sydney because it’s near and also of it’s minor time difference la hor. Nothing to worry about except that it’ll make me feel better when I’m homesick! HAHA


24th Jan 2017

It’s 10.28am, and I only have half an hour to churn this out before class starts at 11am.

Today was the day. Today was the day I was going to meet miss Evelyn, my counsellor who is going to advice and help me make decisions about my future and hopefully prop me on the right path, and get deeper insights, help me realise myself and most of all, be honest with myself. I was anxious before meeting her. Is she going to be nice? Turns out she’s a very knowledgable and no-nonsense, caring counsellor. She’s firm, but very nice and really have my best interest at heart. I picked her out from the list of counsellors on the website. I had reservations about telling her everything at first and I strictly pondered on what to tell her and what to keep to myself. However, I came to the conclusion that if I don’t tell her everything, I am not being honest and she cannot help me accurately.

I also told Evelyn about me wanting to link what I’m doing with meaning. I want to design with meaning, to have my creations impact the world positively and to feel that I’m contributing something out there. It’s the least I can do. I want to design for a meaning that makes an impact. I’m in the midst of figuring out to do this, and the best way to do this which also at the same time draws me income because I cannot afford to broke and barely surviving while helping others.

Evelyn told me that its very nice to hear such a dream. “Don’t give up on that dream, it’s very noble,” she said. It’s really wonderful to hear an encouragement like this, albeit a small one. “However,” she continued, “you might not expect to do it right away. When starting out you cannot choose clients, you cannot choose the brands you work with. Maybe you can give yourself 2-3 years, build a name for yourself, and that’s when you can start pursuing your dream.” She was unable to give me a tangible reply (as to the means I can go about designing with meaning, maybe because she’s not in the industry) but she stated that as much as its a brilliant dream we’ve also got to be realistic. That part I truly agree.

As Evelyn sees me out, she ended the conversation with a last sentence, “Trust me, your life isn’t as bad as it seems.”

Maybe she’s right. I just need to see the big picture. I left the room thinking that even though i am very anxious, I am also very excited for what is in store and for what is to come. I rejoice in the fact that its a new phase of my life, whether it is work, school, or not.

1st July 2017

“So what, you’re going to go to college, get married, have kids and then you’ll be happy, when you’re 30?  Is that what you’re saying?  Isn’t there anything that could make you happy now?”
—Margo, Paper Towns

I have sorted my thoughts out. I am not going to work after I graduate. I don’t foresee myself being happy that way, at least, not yet.

Design is not like art. Art is self expressionism which I truly delight in, while designing is answering the clients’ needs. I can see it as part of helping the client one at a time, but I cannot see past how hiding behind a computer, designing adverts for detergents and cat and dog biscuits can help impact the world. To design something that I have absolutely no passion in is very hollow, I know most of my course mates go to work after graduation, but to go through the motion of working around the clock—from 9-5pm repeating the same routine everyday—is not how I see my life. Not now, not in future either. 


If people say I’m brave for moving overseas all alone, by myself to study, sitting in the plane alone without parents, without friends, and flying towards a country where I know no one—then my reply would always be the same. I am not fearless, I am scared, but I am more scared of living a mundane life rather than plunging into the unknown.

I refuse to compromise just for one bit because I’ve always believed and learned how to number my days, and I refuse to spend any single moment doing things I see as meaningless. I am a radical designer but as cliche as it sounds, time is a precious resource, I want to invest in it well, and refuse to take even a single day for granted. I don’t want to spend my time working towards a goal that might eventually make me happy, but the process of getting there is spent in unhappiness and meaninglessness.

For example, people working to get money. Or, working towards helping people (which is a goal that will make me happy) but as what Evelyn (the counsellor said), I need to do that one step at a time, I need to work for a few years and gain experience first before starting my own brand yada yada yada…which I see, doesn’t make sense. I want to help people and make a difference and if that’s what makes me happy, I’m going to do it now. If I want to live life like an adventure even if it means I’ll have to move to another city, in this case, Sydney, I’ll do it now. And I saved up and I really did it now.

Because what if you die in the process of pursuing your goal? If your goal is to be a millionaire by the time you reach 30, what if you died in the middle of pursuing it? Why can’t you be happy NOW?

Pursue goals, not happiness. You shouldn’t be pursuing happiness, you should already be owning it every minute of the day.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to work so goddamn hard everyday, stuck in the same boring routine, this would work out differently for everyone, of course. What matters most if make sure you’re happy. The problem isn’t the goal itself, it’s making sure you are happy pursuing it so that not one moment is wasted.

14th July 2017

The past week have been nothing but a dilemma, worry and lots of uncertainties- I doubted my abilities, I doubted if I was walking God’s plan for me, I doubted my days there and most of all I doubted my decision to go overseas.

I mean, yes I’m very interested in what I’m studying, but I doubt my capability to perform up to standard.
IMG_2017-07-21 17:42:42

If I’m going for this reason then all is well. If My motivation for studying is not for a job or not to get good grades, but rather to gain knowledge and learn more about the world which is so amazing, then all is well. I’ve been trying to tell myself that.

Anyway, it’s too late to back out now hahaha. 1.5 years, I’ll treat it like im on some cultural exchange program then 😂 And just do my best and have fun! Sometimes I think we asians worry too much and lose the focus of the joy in studying!

I worry about losing out in class because I don’t have any prior knowledge of the Australian culture.
Compared to the other students who are probably locals or people who grew up there, they would be familiar with the environment in the country and the policies etc whilst I am afraid I will struggle. I haven’t even stepped foot into Sydney before and now I am studying the culture with a bunch of people that has probably lived there most of their lives. Tell me, who’s going to get the headstart? I’m going to be so blur when they talk about government schemes man.

My course has nothing to do with Viz Comm and I doubt my abilities.
I will be doing something completely different and unfamiliar from what I’ve done in my diploma. I am going to do the theory side of media and communication. Bless me, because I haven’t had exams for three years. Throughout my time in poly, my assignments has always been project based. It’s the kind of things that you’ll never know unless you study and find out yourself, which makes it super risky.

I just hope culture would tie in with design closely, because I know it does influence design in many ways. I felt gaining more knowledge on culture can help me ideate better and design things in different contexts with a relevant purpose. Florence said all majors need some form of research and writing and she thinks it’s good training. Well, that being said, it may be daunting at first but I hope I’ll get used to it.

I’m having problems with accommodation.
All 8 blocks of student accommodations are fully booked and I can only wait on the waiting list. School is starting soon (in 2 weeks) & I don’t have anywhere to live. I’m seriously worried. And without VISA, I can’t book flight. Even if I fly over, I have no place to stay.

I began to consider private accommodation. I prayed that I will get a home where I can get along with my housemates and that it’s at a convenient location. To my delight, private accommodations are far cheaper than school hostels! My requirement was very simple: I only wanted female housemates, and I need a heater. Some houses I checked didn’t have heater AT ALL and seriously I don’t know how are they going to survive in the weather.

Update: So I found a house, a little far away from school (I’ll have to take public transport) but I can settle for it because the rent is cheap and it looks cosy. Fingers crossed as I arrive! I confirmed accommodation just yesterday (21st July). In other words, I settled accommodation just a day before my flight. I think I have a knack for last minute stuff! Don’t know whether I should be happy or sad because I know God works in wonderful ways when you least expect it and I need not fret even though things aren’t working out at the very last minute.

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I have pre-flight blues.
The phrase goes, “The grass is always greener than the other side”. This phrase never felt more real to me in these few weeks. In the past, study abroad stories have always been glorified, but problems only rise up to the surface when you’re in for the long haul, not at standing the side watching your friends leave. Things like homesickness, caring for yourself, what if you get sick, what if you don’t do well and waste your parents money ONLY BEGIN TO SURFACE when you’re ABOUT to leave, NOT when you’re wishing to study abroad.

I shouldn’t be thinking like that. I am EXTREMELY lucky to have the opportunity to study overseas, especially in one so far away in a city I have not visited prior to this. On the outside, it may seem like I get a scholarships and all, going overseas to study, but would I really get good grades? Would my degree really be useful? I don’t know if I’m worrying about my major choice too excessively or what, because if i choose the wrong major i’ll waste time and money! 😦 Ahh whatever, I really shouldn’t worry too much about this, I think it’s time for me to trust God in this.

21 July 2017

As I prepare to leave, the past few days have just been packed with farewell meet ups, catch ups as well as places I want to visit for the remaining days I have in Singapore. I am going for only a few years and probably would not come back during term breaks (wanted to save on airfare) so I am beginning to get sentimental, especially when National Day is coming. Kinda sad that I won’t get to spend National Day in Singapore. I am going to bring the National Day Flag to Australia with me, a few of my friends did that and pasted the flag on their bedroom wall. Zaf is coming from NDP preview the day I will be flying off, and she said she would get me a standing flag if she could. HAHAHA. My room is going to look like a parliament office. I hope it doesn’t scare my housemates away.

The flight is going to be quite a long one, about 8 hours. I am taking scoot so I am mentally prepared to be bored as they don’t have a entertainment thingy installed to watch movies hahaha. I am well prepared too. My churchies gave me this book full of handwritten notes by the whole batch, so sweet of them! I am going to bring it with me and read it on the plane. Other than that, I already prepared a full Spotify playlist of NDP songs (on download) so I can listen on the plane hahah. Call me patriotic but it’s okay, these are songs they make us sing during primary/secondary school WITH ACTIONS so I can walk down memory lane myself!


To be honest, I don’t listen to NDP songs at all, nor appreciate them. Not that they are not nice, but I don’t feel the need to. Saw the whole street lined up with flags while walking home, they’re lined up for National Day. Seeing a flag now and seeing a flag last time felt really different. Sigh

As I was saying, the past few days has just been filled with trips to places and meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, as well as settling admin stuff like banking, accommodation and airport pickups. I went back to Xinmin, my secondary school yesterday.


Went back to xmsgz and it really feels like home. The main reason for going back there is to tell Thum that I’m going overseas for further studies. I think the worst thing about goodbyes is that you don’t know when you’ll see each other again. He was very happy for me, as usual—the same as all the other reactions I received from other people. People seldom act all teary and say stuff like they don’t want me to leave—I don’t know why, is it because they won’t miss me or because they know nothing they say at this point will make me stay?


He gave me bookmarks and gifts, to pass to his other guzheng students who’s currently in Sydney, and other parts of Australia! His students are my seniors, maybe even about 5-6 batches above me. He say he’ll contact them about the news that I’m moving over. I’m so hopeful haha. I hope I can gain one more friend in Sydney.


It has been a few years since the new performing arts centre is up in Xinmin and I’m so glad there are so many positive changes in our school. Oh I forgot to mention: I went back with Jingwen, saw Mr zhuang, Ms Kee and a few other teachers!! After that, we left the guzheng room and met up with Elissa. It was getting late so we ran to the canteen to catch my favourite science teachers—Mr Yip and Mr Lee hahaha. Mr Lee was so shocked to see me cos he said I changed a lot. Lied to Mr Yip telling him I’m going to Australia to pursue chemical science and he was SHOCKED ahahhaha. Had a really good chat with them but it’s a pity that we forgot to take any photos. Here’s a photo of Jingwen and I with Mr Zhuang!


I also had a farewell dinner organised by my church friends a few days ago in town. Went for supply and demand for dinner, then Lady M for cake afterwards. I cannot contain this- they literally treated me like a queen for the whole night. From letting me choose where to eat, what to eat….sit indoors or outdoors…take photo must sit in the middle la, hahahah. Omg that is so awkward because I never like to be in the middle of a photo. Too attention grabbing hahah.


It was a very good catch up session. Was so touched because Jasmine rushed down from work although she was very tired and Shuks came down from home even though she was studying for a presentation the next day. Our batch seldom have catch ups like this and even when we do, it’s rarely full strength so this moment is super hard to come by.


They gave me this book (I mentioned above) with all the handwritten notes inside by some of my closest friends. I don’t know how thankful and pleasantly surprised I am.

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I also met up with Liang Kuang that day— we went to Chinatown because I was craving Dim Sum. Hadn’t seen each other for quite a while. He’s just came back from a holiday to Sydney and for me, a holiday to Japan. I mentioned nothing about me leaving to him until that day and lugged along one big bag of souvenirs………….from Sydney. After I told him he clapped (see, told ya most people are just really happy for me more than sad) and also said, “omg, I took these all the way from Sydney and now you’re lugging it back.” HAHHA.

No pictures or ig stories were taken that day but it was at this Chinese HK-style teahouse. We had buffet and after that I got really sleepy (I really think it was the tea) and he offered to pay for it as a farewell meal. It’s really, my last Chinese meal in Singapore…I don’t know if Chinatown in Sydney has food streets like this but LK said it’s only one boring street. I read online that there are TEN streets and was actually looking forward to go there! We shall see…I live very far from town hall so I don’t know if I’ll have the time to go down.


Had Jalan Raya with Liu Sha Baos last week! It has become a yearly affair now isn’t it. Not full strength like last year, we’re missing Xinyi and Jengwen…but nonetheless a really good time wearing the bajus and eating great food too. Dee, Haz, Nab, thanks for opening your house to us. Y’all has been such a great and fun loving bunch of girls during poly, I know such a clique is hard to come by and I hope, with all my heart, that I can find people as amazing as you guys in University too.


Finally had a bao pose!


Yesterday, I went to town again to meet my agent Pei for the last time! She’s the best agent anyone could ask for. Moving overseas is a huge hassle, I have been dealing with the procedures and stuff since March and she have been with me EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, helping me call schools, do VISA, answering me (and my parents’) annoying questions every now and then. This went on for 5 months straight can you believe it. Not to mention I am very fickle minded, takes a long time deciding if I should defer or not and Pei has just been really patient with me, explaining to me everything I’m unsure of. And all these she did it for me FOR FREE. This agency doesn’t charge. I think she’s the only person (other than my parents) that has seen the most of my anxiety and frustration when I was applying. We encountered a lot of problems and everything was done super last minute. I wrote a card and passed her some gifts before I left, till the last meet up she’s still assuring me hahhaa. So sweet.

Then after that I had an appointment with Florence, for tea!

Florence has been completing her Masters in HK and the last time I saw her was my HK trip in September last year I think. She’s back in Singapore for a short while before returning to HK again, so I gotta catch her before I leave right? This girl has just came back from Europe and Malaysia, her abilities to plan trips like that just amazes me.

I had some time before our meeting so I decided to go to the library to charge my phone. And guess who I met when I’m there? Thalia and Tiffany! I told them I was meeting Florence and asked if they would like to join. They said okay so the four of us just met up. Then halfway through eating, we saw a figure walk past that looked like Janell. Turns out it IS her!! Unplanned meet ups are the best, what’s more it’s TOWN on a WEEKDAY, what are the odds?? Yesterday was such a good day killing many birds with one stone hahaha.

Flo: “At first I was just meeting her, then she called me and said, ‘oh, i met thalia and tiffany at the library.’ and now, here’s Janell!”

I honestly didn’t think this is possible. This is coincidence on another level. I met Florence to catch up, I really didn’t expect to meet 3 other people from our church HAHAHA.

Here’s Tiffany and I!


I talked to Alwin at church last week! He advised me about accommodation, banking and stuff like that. He’s really informative hahah. I didn’t even know that you can open an Australian bank account here so that it’s one less thing for you to do when you’re there. Oh and after talking to both him and Florence (who have lived abroad before), I realised they do pay rent even though they are on holiday on the semester breaks!! Yaknow everytime people study abroad they would take holidays and vacations to travel around different cities within the country right? During that period, I never really thought about where would they store their belongings in because…well, most people just tell you they moved out of their accommodation during that period. And maybe move somewhere else new when the semester starts. I got kind of salty when I knew that I’m expected to pay rent as long as your belongings are in the place, even if you’re not living there for 1-2 months. So heart pain!! Why does no one talk about it before?? Is it the ugly side that on one wants to talk about?

I often hear people say that their study abroad life would turn out completely different from the one they had in mind before moving—isn’t this usually the case?? So…here’s a list of my expectations and I’ll check back later to see how different it is from the reality!

#1: Sydney is busy. But it has it’s own charm. I think I will like it because I’m okay with crowded places.
#2: It will be crazy expensive and burn a hole in my pocket faster than fire.
#3: I think I will cluster together with the Asians, if I even get any chance to make friends.
#4: Aussies will call me skinny and I’ll get that more often there than in Singapore.
#5: I don’t foresee myself travelling a lot because transport is very expensive and I am very stingy.
#6: I cannot stand the cold. Probably have freezing hands 24/7.
#7: I’ll go hungry often, because I don’t know how to cook well and I think I wouldn’t easily spend $15 on a meal.
#8: I will suffer. God’s plans doesn’t mean being freed from suffering. He might definitely use it to mold me that’s for sure.
#9: I will miss people back home but people might not miss me. HAHHAHA

Bye, Singapore.
I’ll miss my city’s lively ways, warm sunny days!

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