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Monday, August 12

"I don't know how I'm going to pay for my fees next year." she said.


There is a girl from Sri Lanka whom I am working with on an assignment in University and this blog post is all about the lesson she taught me in 10 minutes.

I am ashamed to even admit this but when I first met her, all I could think of is what world she has been living on for her entire life. She didn't understand when I asked her "Do you have Whatsapp?" and she didn't understand when I asked her "Do you have a smartphone that you can download whatsapp on ?" and when I eventually asked "Do you have a phone?" She answered me "Vodaphone". I remember myself making fun of her in front of my close friends. I felt frustrated when we were supposed to meet at the main library on campus and she didn't know where it was.

That was before today. Today we had to walk to the tram stop together and we started talking about our lives. I was shocked to find out that she is much older than I thought, and married. But what struck me more than anything was when she said

"I don't know how I'm going to pay for my fees next year." 

I swear that sentence lingered in the air longer than intended until I asked her what she meant. It turns out she is using all her savings since high school to come to Australia for a better life (she explained that she has worked in the banking industry since she graduated from high school). And she is paying the same amount of fees I am paying. She currently works as a cleaner in numerous locations after school to support herself and her husband only works part time due to the visa restrictions. That is only her living expenses, what about her fees next year ??? I continued on to ask a very daft question

"but what about your parents ???"
and all she said was, they're retired. 

We part ways after that but what she said bothered me as I walked back from University. Never has it occurred to me that an international student in Australia will have that kind of financial difficulty. I mean, I have heard of international students complaining about having no money, but that is no money to buy a cup of coffee because they're lazy to walk to the ATM, or they spent too much last month that they have no money this month. Nothing about SUPPORTING themselves or paying their own fees. The truth is, I have never thought anything about international students in Melbourne University apart from wealthy. Maybe not rich people who own 10 cars and plane but generally better off. 

In 10 minutes, this girl from Sri Lanka made me feel extremely fortunate. It made me realize how comfortable my life in Melbourne is. 
I can sit here on my laptop, drumming my fingers on my keyboard, and know that I'm definitely gonna have dinner later. 
I can sleep all afternoon and not worry about having no money to pay rent. 
I can go on Asos.com and buy myself a skirt without thinking how many meals I'd have to skip for that. 
Worst of all, I can skip all my lectures and not have a single doubt that my father will pay for my fees even if I fail. 

She not only made me feel extremely fortunate. The sudden realization makes me so sick to the stomach that I wanted to cry on the streets. Someone out there is betting her entire life on this one chance to get into University, and here I am, spending dad's money and complaining about life. Not only am I ashamed that I have been whining about my #firstworldproblems but also ashamed that I looked down on a person who is 10 times stronger than me. It made me realize that I am no different from some of the city people who looked down on me because I was from a small town. 

Everything I have been complaining and whining about, whether it is my studies, or that the wind is too strong, or that I have no time, or that I don't know what to wear in the morning is absolutely NOTHING compared to everything she is going through. 

In 10 minutes, she can open my eyes to things that I've never seen or thought of before. In 10 minutes, she made me feel so ashamed of myself. I take it as a wake up call, for me to appreciate things more, and to never take things for granted. Thank you, Sri Lankan girl in my group. 

6 comments:

j_fish said...

You are definitely not alone in this case. So many people complain first world problems. It's because people from "first worlds" usually hang out with people from the same world, and thus won't get to see what others face. At least now you know, so study, help her a bit maybe? =)

Mr Lonely said...

awah, that was sad... now i am ashamed with myself too~ =(

Sarah Ni said...

Hey Shuwen, get her to apply for financial aid at the University. Hope her grades are good as well, would be fab.

thomas said...

Life is not always a bed of roses for everyone,so be thankful for all that we are getting and offer help to others whenever possible.

Natasha Ting said...

that sort of thing books wouldn't teach you. only the real world does. and i don't know if it's the same with what you had, but i know that feeling that you just want to break out crying even if you are on the streets, and even if it's another person's life that you are feeling that something about.

Crystal said...

Hey, just stumbled upon your blog. Great stuff. Also, I can't help feeling you should invite her to PlanetShakers.. might change her life :) especially knowing that God will provide for all of His children, sharing the blessing with her would be amazing