Heart & Soul: We are a family, like a giant tree

  • Family
  • Saturday, 31 May 2014

Not every kid wants to leave the nest as some are happy to stay on for as long as they can.

I’ma 22-year-old Malaysian student studying in Britain. Just like many other students my age, I had big dreams to pursue my education overseas. The opportunity came by pretty easily as my grades were more than sufficient to get me into the university of my choice, and my parents were able to support me financially.

Since I had it smooth from the start, I thought it was going to be a breeze to get through my days abroad and I was excited to embark on my new journey.

My parents flew to Britain to help me get settled in. For someone who has never been away from the family for more than four days, I was doing pretty well for my first month.

Little did I know that I would start missing home and very much so. You see, I was always a family-oriented kind of person. I loved spending time, not just with my immediate family, but also with my extended family. We found every reason to have a family gathering – public holidays, birthdays, anniversaries – it didn’t matter. Once we were together, we would forget about work and school the next day. Our lunch gatherings normally extended up to dinner, sometimes even till supper. Being abroad meant that I was missing out on all those events, at least, for a little while. However, it hit me hard when I heard about my newborn niece, and a few months later, the death of one of my favourite aunts.

I flew back during the Christmas break to see my niece and when my aunt passed, but I could not be there at that point of time when it truly mattered. I was not able to experience that moment when everyone heard little Tania’s first cry, or when my aunt breathed her last. I was also not able to celebrate my big 21st birthday at home.

At these lowest points, I questioned the kind of choices I made. There were days I thought to myself, “I could have just stayed back in Malaysia to study just like my sister, and the rest of my cousins and friends.”

However, for the rest of my time here when my emotion is not clouded by homesickness, I’m truly grateful for this opportunity that many can only dream of. The experiences I have gained, the lessons it has taught me, the friends I have made, are all truly priceless. Being abroad has also undoubtedly drawn me closer to my family. Whoever said it years ago was indeed right: Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

I still remember my brother telling me how proud the family was of my achievements, and the letter he wrote to me on my 21st birthday. I remember my mum being excited at the thought of me coming home, and when I arrived, I was greeted by the 10 dishes she had spent the whole day cooking just to celebrate my homecoming!

I remember that smile I had when I saw my sister at the airport in Manchester when she came to spend Christmas with me during my second year. I remember my dad and his warm hugs, and his ever gentle smile every time I saw him after months of being away. Many often comment and ask why I go home at every available opportunity when I could spend my days travelling and exploring the world instead. For me, it is as simple as this: why not?

I personally believe in making the best of what I have. I did get to travel to different parts of Britain and Europe. But while everyone was back studying for exams in January, I had three weeks to study for one paper. So I thought I would suggest the idea of going home during that period and see what my parents said. To my delight, they were pleased to have me home, and that was exactly where I headed.

My family is my support system and my first love, so why would I not leap at every chance I get to be reunited with them? They constantly encourage and push me to thrive harder in all that I do.

Just the other day, I was on Skype with my brother and told him that at some point in my life, I want to own a café and be a columnist. He said, “A café? How are you part of the Philip family? We dream big. You should open a restaurant instead!”

Many would read this and think, “How could a brother crush his little sister’s dream?” Well, that’s how my family has always been. We constantly challenge each other to achieve greater things. When the time comes, I know for a fact that my brother will be behind me, supporting the opening of my little café, and in the meantime, he will push me to dream big and achieve more.

Some of you, like me, might have been labelled “overly attached” to your family by friends. But the way I see it, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have any real-life, heart-warming stories to share with readers? E-mail them to star2@thestar.com.my. We’d love to hear you.

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