What I’ve learned. What I’m thankful for. What I’ve come to appreciate. First semester at university.

On August 26th, 2013, I started my university experience at University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, in Barbados. (Caribbean island) It was my first time living away from home independently. My last exam is in a few hours, soon I would have completed my first semester at university!  What a challenge it has been.
What was your university/ tertiary education experience like? Were there any significant differences or lesson that would help post first semester? Leave a comment below, let me know. 

What I’ve learned:

Twenty minutes is actually an hour here in Barbados

If you buy green bananas you cannot eat them the same night

When you buy green bananas, which you most certainly would, wrap them in newspapers so they get ripe faster.

Sunscreen helps

Umbrellas keep your face dry; not much else.

Verify all bus directions, even if a bus driver gives them to you

Living on campus is more convenient than living off campus.

Campus food will not taste like home food.

When you lend someone your pen you are not getting it back.

Charge you cell phone if you intend to use it.

My accent is not the typical accent of Trinidadians.

Don’t buy groceries for three weeks in advance

Don’t sit on the gallery at 1am with a Mac Book

Living a 40 minute walk from campus means that you have to make a 40 minute walk everyday, 80 minutes if you don’t get the campus shuttle back.

Not walking 40 minutes each way every day because you have moved on campus while maintaining you eating habits and not adding extra exercise leads to an inevitable weight gain.

Don’t rent an apartment based on pictures; go see it.

The fairer your skin the better you are treated and the higher the price of vendor’s goods rise.

If you like looking at sunsets then don’t take classes at that time; you’ll miss either the sunset or class

You will meet people that I would want to be near to for life; life doesn’t work that way and if it does you would not know until it’s happening.

You’ll meet friends from around the world if you speak to the exchange students.

It’s easy to just stick with your native people if you’re at a school away from home.

When mom says that she’ll call me later it’s comfort to her, not an action that’s going to come to pass.

If you break the rules you’ll get the consequences.

Remember the rules; act accordingly.

Be accountable for yourself.

Laundry doesn’t wash itself. Mentally doing it doesn’t clean it either.

Your favourite towel will get stolen if you leave your clothes in the machines unattended.

Housemates may be fun or they may not be fun.

People will remember your actions both good and bad.

Year 3 students and Intro year students have different priorities, very different priorities.

They (the guys) will know that you are a freshman.

Your party people most likely aren’t going to be there when it’s time to study.

You can be part of many different social circles at university, unlike at secondary school.

Learn to say “No!” Learn to say it in a variety of manners to apply to different situations.

Everyone has a secret, a back story, a problem; treat each other endearingly and with compassion. We’re pretty much fragile.

You will make friends so different to others that you’ve had.

What I’m thankful for:

>Snapchat 

>Supportive parents

>Second chances

>Finding a friend who is different from the others and embraces that

>Letting God enter my life

> Meeting people from many of the Caribbean islands and across the world

>Beautiful, white sand, blue water beaches

>My granny who prayed for me ceaselessly over the past four months

>The one time I got to sail

>Shady trees

>A lookout over the sea, an ideal study spot that no one uses besides me

>The University of California Study Room

> The cricket oval

>Warm weather; most of my friends are in Canada, England and Northern USA

>New music from the world across

>Campus Crusade for Christ

>Exchange Students

>Making dinner with friends

>Google Docs

>Breezy nights

>Starting to learn to surf, yet again.

>ESSO 24 hour gas station. Good for: post party pizza, study break pizza and ‘I’m having a bad night’ pizza. Also any other excuse for 3am pizza.

> A surf break down the hill from my school.

What I’ve come to appreciate:

> My truck back at home.

>Mountains

>Sitting together as a family to eat dinner.

>Friends who don’t have accent

>Friends who understand my speech  >A bedroom that I can do a cartwheel in

>Warm meals that taste good

>A bathroom for myself

>Spontaneous family sailing trips to the other islands; Grenada especially

>A sound secondary school education

>Inexpensive food, fuel, utilities, inexpensive everything!

>My wealth of knowledge of Caribbean history

>My brother

>Fruits that can be consumed on the same day they were bought

>My Bible

>Doing laundry for free

>Having a drier that dries laundry on one cycle.

>Predictable weather

Becoming

Becoming

They say we need to go to university, get a degree, get a good job, be happily married, have children, work hard at our 9-5 jobs in our medium sized cubicles, purchase the latest technology with the latest upgrades, provide these for our children as well so they won’t be ridiculed, emasculate our husbands and show them their ‘place’ all while making it to the gym in our fanciest Nike Pro shorts, perfect tan, perfect make up and Victoria’s Secret model body. Perfection they say. Success is different for everyone. The idea of success that is promoted by society is one that produces a subservient consumer society. I refuse to be a part of this. I really do.

I want to write, I want to read to children whose minds haven’t become numb and brainwashed by their parents’ ideas of success. I want to show them pictures of places wide and far. I want to expose them to other children their age who live completely different realities; not to scare them but to give them the opportunity to be able to effectively put their lives into perspective and to be aware about the other 7 billion people walking the Earth alongside them. I want to encourage them to dream and to follow and work hard, harder than ever to achieve their dreams.

 I want to see different places in the world and experience the culture of the indigenous people there. I wish that by the time I go to Bali to sell coconuts on a beach that the island is not entirely Westernized. I want to share my culture with them. I want to watch as many sunsets as possible during my life. I want to work hard towards a goal even if it takes decades to attain. I want to feel successful when I accomplish something that I set out to do. I want to make mistakes and get lost. I don’t want to spend my weekends getting drunk, partying and having to piece together memories. It is fun for a while but it wears off. 

I want to plant trees in Canada over a summer, sail under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, sell coconuts in Bali, and truly work hard for something. I want to climb a pyramid, scuba dive the Bianca C and I want to figure things out not just Google it all. I want to set off lanterns with people who are dear to me. I want to spend a night under the stars in Arches National Park in Utah. I want to go somewhere that I’ve never heard of before. I want to watch the Aurora Borealis in Norway and understand the science causing and praise God for creating such wonderful intricate things. I want to take pictures of people doing their work, pictures of them spending time with their families, pictures of them being sad and pictures of them being free and happy. I want to show them these pictures. I want to share love with people.

I want that in ten years I have sailed across the Atlantic, that I can speak a few words from a few languages. I don’t want to depend on others or the bank. I don’t want to conform. I understand why we had to conform in school to wearing uniforms and to an extent I agree with it. I don’t want to have an iphone because it is the ‘thing’ or buy clothes because of the brand. I want to own an analog watch and use it. I don’t want to sit down at home and know that every Tuesday at 6pm is this show and every Thursday at 9pm is this other one and that’s where I’d be every Tuesday and Thursday night. I want to talk about interesting things with my companions not discuss the latest reality show. I want to make meaningful relationships with people. I want to accept that while I might meet someone and love them, I may never see them again and that that is how wonderful life is. I want to be always conscious that there are 7 billion other people sharing this space with me. I want my decisions today not to affect those who will live in 7 generations time.

I want to have real conversations with people, not text or Facebook them all of the time because of my busy life. I don’t want to have a bank loan for ten, twenty, thirty years. I don’t want one at all. If I have children I want them to be able to swim in the ocean and ride their bikes in the road. I want them to be able to trust people. I want them to live for each day, not for the weekend. I don’t want them to base the value of their lives on the number of friends or followers on social media or whatever it will be by then.

I don’t want to have relationships with people that are the results of dreams that I did not achieved. I want to be able to accept that sometimes I will appreciate people a lot more than they will appreciate me, that I may think about someone a lot more than he/she thinks about me and be fine with it.

I want people to understand that true love is selfless. I want people to share their last cookie and not think of it as a loss. I want to be an example to others that I may not have to tell them but that through my actions they will want to change their ways. Just because I’m giving and sharing does not mean that I am weak. Just because I take long to give some answers does not mean that I am uncertain. Just because I make mistakes does not mean that I would never achieve my goals.

I want to show people how wonderful God is. I don’t want to argue about religion with people. I don’t want to spend time discussing politics if at the end of the day the politicians are still going to steal as much as they wish, if the moral compasses never point the right direction, if corruption will continue without end. I don’t want to embrace a party because they aren’t ‘as bad’ as another party.

Seeing that I’m at university I want to learn. Apparently, “this is university, you have to make the grade, it doesn’t matter if you understand it or not, once you make the grade,” I don’t understand this. I want to gain a wealth of knowledge and have lecturers who are living their passion and dream. I want that when I walk pass trash that isn’t mine and put it in the bin that no one looks at me with questioning faces. I listen to whatever music entertains me at a particular time, no specific genre of artist. I enjoy many things and I know that hard work and sacrifice is essential.

Mostly, I do not want to fall into the box of puzzle pieces that is the ideology of our society, I want to achieve my dreams, I want to live my passion and be true to myself.

Bad Experiences- A lesson from myself to myself and whoever else can apply it to the manner in which they approach situations.

You can magnify the good and happy moments in your life as large as you wish but remember that this doesn’t stop the bad experiences, hard times and failures from having occurred and occurring. You still have to deal with them as you deal with the good. We can’t have one without the other. Think of the moon; we never see light on the entire moon, there is always a dark side.  And because of its existence it does not take away from the beauty of the illuminated face that we see. Accept that if there was no darkness we would have no appreciation for light. Ill experiences suck but don’t ignore them, deal with them, live past them, have faith and hope.

Sunsets

“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.”

– Elbert Hubbard

Image

 

Sunset taken from my university, University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. Working towards my assortment of goals, some will keep me here others are a world away. Each sunset I’m one day closer, one day wiser. 

New Year’s Resolutions

 

New Year’s Resolution: 8/10 for 2013 

“How few there are who have courage to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” –Benjamin Franklin

As the clock ticks midnight, the champagne bottles are popped, the ball in Times Square drops, the date changes, families hug, lovers kiss, a chorus of Auld Lang Syne begins and the world over many promises are made.  After reflections upon our past year we attempt to make amends in this new year, it’s our attempt at self-improvement. A simple Wikipedia definition tells us what we already know; New Year’s Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves to start doing something good or to stop doing something bad. It’s a new year and we want a new beginning. This is an opportunity to make one for ourselves. Usually, right at that moment when the champagne is popped and drank and all of the family is hugged, I would always disappear into my room or cabin (depending on if we are at home or on the boat) and write a list of resolutions. I write them, read them, and then never look at them again.

Every year my dad would proclaim to everyone, as he had done the year before, that he doesn’t make resolutions. Twenty how-many-ever odd years ago he made one last resolution and that was to stop making resolutions. He kept it. I grew up with this and always agreed with him. Why wait for a whole new year to change something about you? You are here now and you have to live out the how many ever months until Old Years night living the same way, then, as the clock strikes twelve and a new year begins you’re going to somehow change the pattern of your life to bring you closer to the image of the person that you want to be simply and solely because it is a new year. Why not start from the moment that you think an area of your person, personality, character or attitude of your life needs changing?  If you want to stop smoking, stop. If you’re going to start exercising, start because when you wake up on the 1st of January, not much is going to be different besides the date. The strength that you needed to go on your quest isn’t going to present itself just because it’s a new year. That has to come from inside.

This tradition, useful or not has been tied historically tied into our cultures. It seems that back in the day many different groups of people all had similar New Year’s rituals. The Babylonian people would make promises to their gods at the start of each year; promises to return items on loan and promises to pay back those they were in debt to. The month January is named after a Roman god Janus; their years began with similar promises being made to this God. After Christmastime the knights of the Medieval Ages would retake their ‘peacock vows’ reaffirming their allegiance to the codes of conduct of the knights, chivalry. It’s also the tradition of Judaism on their celebration of the New Year, Yom Kippur, to call to mind all of their shortcomings over the past year and to forgive as well seek forgiveness.

For me, the reality was that I felt like it was a good tradition to be aware of what you wanted to achieve over the next three hundred and sixty-five/six days right at the moment that it began. Similarly, at the beginning of each day, by the time my feet touch the tiles I would have already itemized the important things to get done that day. I make lists, tonnes of lists; I write reminders in list to remember to make other lists. They help me to get what I need to get done by being aware of each and its importance. For this reason I believe that New Year’s resolutions can be useful.  However, if you don’t remember them, read them over or are continuously conscious of them they are almost useless. Yet, if they truly are the desires of your heart then once you keep applying yourself and following the your deepest urges while ignoring and not satisfying instant gratification, you are sure to succeed.

The seconds dropped, we set off the fireworks, popped the champagne, and hugged each other, prayed, sang Auld Lang Syne, someone jumped off the jetted into the water, more followed, and in the middle of it all I went back aboard to my cabin and wrote my New Year’s Resolutions just as I had done for the past six years.  It wasn’t anything extraordinary; a few improvements, a challenge and some personal changes that I felt I needed. Ten things total. Of course as everything else it was a long shot. I could finish everything on it if I didn’t start university in September. I really couldn’t decide on either taking a Gap Year or going on to begin university.  I had a thousand opinions about the person that I wanted to become over the next twelve months, some were more realistic than others but they were still there. As with everything else once I wrote it down it was closer to happening.

Somewhere around 4 am that morning was the last time I ever looked at that list until two days ago when I was flipping through my scantly written in diary. As I read down the list I saw that I had achieved what I set out to scholastically. Sweet! I thought. Then I read it over again and really surprised myself. Of the ten resolutions I had fulfilled eight of them! I didn’t get all but that was because I came to university, so they are back on the list for 2014 hopefully to be completed over summer. I knew who I wanted to become over the following 12 months and I didn’t have to continuously remember a list of resolutions, they were achievements and changes that I earnestly wanted to make. I didn’t do it on my own though, others helped me. Up to less than two months ago there were things that would have been left unachieved if not for help from friends. That was the first time that I decided against composing a list of wonderful things that seemed really glamorous versus achievements which were harder to achieve because they needed real dedication.  This year was also the first time that I’ve ever depended on those around me for general day to day assistance. Of course on a few occasions I was disappointed but if it wasn’t for those around me some of these things would not be completed.  Hence, it is important to surround yourself with people who would assist you and help to bring you closer to the being that you intend to become.  This year I really followed my heart and made decisions that were in my best interest (for the most part) and now looking back I’m ecstatic to see that with the help of friends and family along with some really hard work, I achieved what I initially set out to.

Image

At around 12:05 am January 1st 2014 you know where I’ll be. Whether I’m in Tobago partying hard, ringing in the New Year with my friends for the past seven years or if I’m  in Grenada on the jetty setting off fireworks with my blood family and those friends might as well be related to me; I’ll be back in my cabin or van and writing down my resolutions. Will I keep them? I sure hope so. And I hope you keep yours too and work hard and achieve so much more in the New Year than you believe you can. Altogether, I don’t think that there is any problem with making New Year’s Resolutions; however, if these are aspirations that you actually intend to achieve I think it’s best to give them a thought and maybe a plan of action as well first. Remember that if you want to make a change in your life you don’t have to wait for midnight on the 1st to make that change; you’re here now, make that change today. Work hard for it, always go the extra mile. 

 

Love.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

It’s important to remember that this word which is commonly thrown in with the rest of our everyday vocabulary has a deep, profound meaning. Use it wisely and don’t degrade it. For the ones that you LOVE, remind them everyday. For those who are ‘difficult’ find it in your being to express this to them. Remember, we are not perfect and neither are our neighbors, our parents, our friends, our classmates, our housemates nor our siblings. So when the going gets rough and we run out of patience, find pleasure in our brother’s pain, judge or neglect those that we ‘love,’ because we can’t possibly find it in ourselves to love someone who hurt us, find motivation in knowing that although we hurt Him numerous times daily, He died for us and still loves us with the greatest love of all.

John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Image#