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Straddling the fence

(09/21/22 4:00am)

The familiar accent caught me off guard. It had been a while since I had heard those singsong intonations and jarringly imprecise pronunciations. Having been conditioned to adjust the way I speak to suit a different culture, I had to make a conscious effort to retrieve my native tongue from a dusty corner in my mind. It still sounded natural. I heaved a sigh of relief.



It's okay not to be okay

(04/18/22 4:00am)

It has haunted me for more than half my life now, but for the longest time, I refused to acknowledge it as a problem. The sleepless nights, the tightness in my chest and the jittery feeling that was constantly coursing through my veins were just inevitable concomitants of being a high achiever. I dismissed them as seasonal allergies that would wax and wane naturally as stressful periods came and went. Even if they persisted, I believed that I would eventually grow accustomed—or at least desensitized—to them. Teachers, friends and family took turns expressing concern, but I casually brushed off their worries with well-rehearsed shows of nonchalance. 






No regrets

(11/29/21 8:00am)

Duke was never my dream school, but as the only American college I was accepted to, it quickly became the object of my obsession. Throughout my gap year, I was @dukeuniversity’s most ardent follower, religiously keeping up with campus happenings through their Instagram stories and posts. I poured my heart and soul into each monthly blog I wrote for the Duke Gap Year Program, for each served as a precious reminder to myself that I had a place in the Duke community. I participated in as many virtual events as the 12-hour long time difference would permit, longing for the day when I would be able to attend them in person. 


My probation list

(11/10/21 5:00am)

I often tell my friends—half in jest, half in earnest—that I put everyone on probation. The idea of creating a probation list only occurred to me shortly after college began, but some nebulous semblance of it probably already existed in my mind long before that, manifesting in my chronic distrust of others’ intentions and extreme selectivity in friendship choices. The intense socialization of college simply sent this tendency into overdrive.


Food for thought

(10/09/21 4:00am)

For most Duke students, dining at Marketplace is a cornerstone of the freshman experience. As much as we love (or hate) the food, mealtimes are so much more than just nourishment for the body—especially in a communal environment like college. From the moment we step through those glass doors, we are presented with a series of social decisions: how we interact with the staff members, whether to strike conversations with random strangers or familiar faces while standing in line, where we have our meals and whom we eat with. They might seem trivial in the moment but the choices we make, subconsciously or otherwise, can go a long way towards shaping the relationships we have with others—and ourselves.


Peeling the onion of cultural identity

(09/24/21 4:00am)

Hailing from multiracial and multireligious Singapore, I am hardly a stranger to diversity. In the public housing estate I lived in, the concurrence of Chinese funerals and Malay weddings was not an unusual sight. Festivals like Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya were never exclusive to any one racial group but celebrated collectively through a mutual exchange of greetings and delicacies. The sizable and ever-growing immigrant population has enriched the local food scene with manners of international cuisines from Korean and Italian to Caribbean and Nepalese, promoting awareness of their cultures among locals. With fluency in both English and Mandarin—the product of 10 years of institutionalized bilingual education that I once detested with a passion but am now immensely grateful to have undergone—I have had the versatility to traverse freely between Western and Asian cultures and acquaint myself with the values and norms that underpin them.


A year is just 365 days

(09/11/21 4:00am)

 A gap year sounds sexy, doesn’t it? It’s becoming increasingly popular, but still unconventional enough to warrant fascination from others when you tell them about it. It's a badge of honor you wear proudly on your sleeve to announce to the world that you are not afraid to stop and take time to think about what you truly want to do in life, even as your peers relentlessly forge ahead in their educational and professional pursuits.