The Ugly Duckling and The Swan


Once upon a time, there was a gawky 18 year old who was making her way to the world of studying at University in Australia. She was scared, shy, nervous and unsure of what the next 4 years would hold for her. Having never travelled to the country before, the idea of going to a place that was alien to her, away from her family and her secure environment terrified her. The adjustment, the idea of having to begin a new chapter of her life on her own was scary, but a challenge she accepted – a bit skeptically. But, the experiences and the lessons she learned from those 4 years away from home changed her outlook in life and her personality completely and helped her become the woman she is today and has taught her to never give up and pursue her dreams, no matter how hard the struggle and how hard the upward climb is..

I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up and found an interesting message in my inbox from the Alumni Committee of my dorm, International House, in Brisbane. The dorm, which is celebrating 50 years in 2015 is putting together a history book with interviews and such from people who lived in the dorms at different times during these 50 years. The message cited that they were looking at people who had achieved a lot with their lives after they’ve left and I was filled with a sense of joy, humility and pride that I had been asked to contribute to this important milestone.

Living at International House for 1.5 years changed my thinking, my outlook and my personality in many ways – to which I am forever thankful. From the shy, awkward and introverted teenager, I grew into a person who became friendlier and outspoken. However, it didn’t come without many hurdles and obstacles and a lot of mistakes on my part. My first semester living there was about trying to fit in, trying to identify with people who accepted you for who you were, and didn’t judge you for silly things you did. The concept of being yourself was something foreign to me and I was scared and afraid of showing my true self.

I didn’t always get it right though. Somewhere along the way, I began to follow this mantra of “anything goes” – and things spiralled out of control – I spent more time trying to fit in, trying to be more social and in the bargain I began to neglect my studies. Anything goes, right? If only! I thought that the best way to be ‘accepted’ by my peers was to drink and party 4 days a week (beer was the drink of choice) – and let my studies just take a backseat – which seemed fair at the time because it was all about being away from home, and enjoying life. The thing I didn’t do, was find a balance. I thought I could work under pressure, find a way to excel in my studies and do everything at the last moment. Oh how wrong was I? I completely stuffed up my studies and was in the danger of flunking out. There was definitely a turn around later – but it didn’t come without paying a heavy price – of having to state my case to the Dean of Studies as to why I should be allowed to continue to study at the prestigious university that held a record of producing some big achievers. Maybe it was just my luck, but I was given the chance to shine and prove myself.

I think one of the things that I really messed up on was my friendships. I didn’t realize it but I had made so many mistakes along the way and lost a lot of people’s faith and trust. It isn’t something I’m proud of, but I didn’t do it with the intention of hurting anyone. When I look back in hindsight, I was foolish, stupid and pretty much thoughtless on some level. I suppose the extent of the damage caused had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t think before doing anything. I just did it.

Looking back, I see the changes now. Over the last few years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I had done a lot of silly, foolish and impetuous things that made people shy away from me. Today, I look at the girl I was and I look at the woman I’ve become. I’ve still made plenty of mistakes, but the lessons I’ve learned from being part of International House have stayed with me and shaped my personality. Maybe I’m still learning but I know, I’ve changed – and that is truly what matters.

It is said that people deserve a second chance, and I know some of the people who have stayed away from me have done just that, and I’m glad that they’ve let my past behaviour go and accepted me for the person I am today. It’s still a growing process but everything in my life is finally taking shape and I feel like I’ve done something that gives me the confidence to say, I’ve become a much better person.




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