Student Stories

The Freedom To Find Myself

Nicole Wong embraced her newfound freedom with open arms but lost herself along the way. She pulled through, graduated and realised home is really where the heart is.

Nicole Wong
Studied in University of Reading BSc Accounting and Finance

Being able to leave home to pursue a degree would be the pinnacle moment of anyone’s life, especially if it’s abroad. (Isn’t it very Malaysian? Any place out of Malaysia is good!)

Newfound freedom

When I received the opportunity to study in the UK, I felt exactly what most of my peers would, prior to leaving home – FREEDOM! The sense of liberation was so overwhelming that I could not wait to explore my newfound freedom.

I was studying in this town in the southeast of England, called Reading – doing a degree in Accounting and Finance at the University of Reading. I barely felt homesick and had the time of my life. Just like that, time flew by quicker than I wanted for me to properly settle down in my studies.

Facing up to freedom

I lived through the routine of classes and made a bunch of friends, but it was slowly creeping up on  me that Accounting and Finance was not a good fit for me. I suddenly found myself directionless – I was lost. I didn’t know why I was doing the course nor did I know who I was as a person, and that hit me hard.

It was one of the most dreaded phases of my life when I felt like I could not live up to the societal construct of always needing to know what you want to pursue in life.

Freedom from societal expectations

During this time of struggle, I discovered that my newfound freedom away from home was not a bad thing after all. I felt more liberated than ever and felt that I could grow the way I wanted and explore who I really was. I had a wider view of the world and the issues surrounding humanity. I was learning a lot about the world beyond Malaysia by meeting people from different backgrounds.

Freedom to be myself

The liberty of living in a culture which accepts you for who you are has helped me learnt more about myself. I learned that I am an ambivert despite my boisterous personality. I learned that I prefer the company of friends over a glass of wine at home rather than head banging in a club. I learned that tattoos were my form of expression (though I have a low pain threshold!). I learned to live life unapologetically. I learned to expect the unexpected. I learned that everyone has their own battle to fight. I learned to be kinder than I should be. And these, are just some pieces of the puzzle I’ve picked up about myself.

True freedom can be found at home

I eventually graduated with a degree in BSc Accounting and Finance, and tried to stay on in the UK to look for employment. To my dismay, I ended up having to return to Malaysia for good. So the bursting anticipation of staying on in the UK was crushed with the reality that I was packing my bags and was on my way home. Little did I know, the true freedom I was to discover was so close to home.

I received a job offer in an international property real estate as a sales education advisor and marketing executive. I found my direction along the way, and until this day I am still learning about myself, and never once regretted pacing myself in order to find my true self.

So, my biggest takeaway is that it’s OKAY to feel lost. It is okay to realise you’re not passionate about the major that you got into. It is okay to feel like you have yet to settle. The beginning of a adulthood is all about soul-searching – trust me – not everyone knows what they’re doing with their lives. We should never conform to societal norms, only you can define who you are. Make full use of your time in the university, go out and meet as many people as you can, experience things you’ve never done and always make time for yourself. As cliche as it can be, you really do live once.

University of Reading
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