The link led to a website for the “WorldSmart Leadership Program”, which I gathered at the time to be an off-shoot of Up With People. The website advertised international travel, community service, and leadership training. Googling Up With People turned up information on their history of big musicals related to culture and peace and understanding. I had read on their website about something called a “Celebration”. Two and two were put together. I immediately applied.
My parents thought I was crazy. They weren’t paying for it! It’s US$14,500, that’s ridiculous! Why do I want to do such crazy things?! I needed Dad’s credit card to pay the $50 application fee they had at the time. My dad told me “this is a waste of time”.
I did get frustrated but I didn’t want them to stop me. Something inside me was feeling very determined about making it to this program, making a dream come true, earning something. I wrote letters to everyone I could think of that could give me money. None was forthcoming. I didn’t stop.
I remember being in Dhaka for a family visit. The stress of finding funding was getting to me. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the money and was at a loss for ideas. I ended up having a panic attack, the first in a long while; the stress was too much. The next day my dad called and said he’ll pay if I get in. Perhaps a relief, but I wish it didn’t take a panic attack to get that response. (My mum later tells me that my dad was willing to pay all this while. Why give me grief about it then?!)
The interview took place the day after college restarted. I couldn’t really care much about college at that point. The WorldSmart program was taking up my energy. I waited anxiously for a response. 3 weeks passed before I looked into my mailbox one night and saw a letter from Up With People. I tore it open outside my apartment block. I couldn’t believe it.
I was accepted.
The next day was full of joyous excitement and random yelling at people on the phone and online. FINALLY! I succeed at something! I earned something! Now it was time to prepare. Oh all the things we had to do…visas, paperwork, insurance, tickets, packing, it went on and on. I applied for deferment from college since I was taking a semester off to do this program. I wasn’t sure if I’ll be back, I thought I would be.
The week before I was supposed to leave, I was one of the 50 top students who were told that one of our essays needed a rewrite NOW. AFTER we already have our marks. I asked why. The lecturer said that due to a lack of in-text referencing in certain pages, my paper was “too risky”.
That’s when I knew I was never going back to that college.
I randomly added a reference here and there and sent it off. I didn’t care anymore. I have this amazing world trip ahead of me and I’m not going to let anything stop me. So we packed (at the last minute), went off to KL, and I said goodbye to my family to board the plane to the USA…
I felt myself change.
It was an amazing, amazing trip. I travelled with 55 of the most awesome people on the planet; people who inspire me, who bring so much awe. I got to do things I never thought I’d do. I got to explore so many places. I befriended all sorts of people. I got to perform – yes! the dealmaker! I got to learn so so much about so so much. And yes, there were down days. There always will be. But those down moments were so worth it, because the whole trip itself was fantastic.
It was not a waste of time. It was everything I ever wanted. It was all my dreams come true. It was perfect.
I got into a bit of a crisis when I came back. Now what? After some checking and talking, I decided to take up a job in KL – mainly to get money to fly to Denver in April to volunteer for an Up With People relanunch. I applied for an Up With People job. The tradeoff with the parents was that if I don’t get this job, I’ll go back to university. I picked Australia, mainly because they deemed America too expensive and I deemed it too confusing.
I got to go to Denver. But I didn’t get the job.
It was a blessing in disguise in a way; the job eventually disappeared due to budget cuts. But at the time I was very upset. The one thing that makes me happy…and I can’t have it anymore? Will I ever have the chance? What did I sign away my life to?
But apparently I had promised before I left for WorldSmart that I would finish university. I don’t remember making that promise. But I had not much of an option.
I went to Denver in April and had a grand time. I volunteered in their office for a week; then and there I knew that this was definitely the place I want to be. Perfect atmosphere, everyone was friendly and helpful, it’s all just right. Too bad it’s now the place I wasn’t to be in. The show itself was tons of fun – performing is such a thrill. And it was such a huge audience, I don’t know how we pulled it off.
Right now I am sitting in my dorm room in Australia. Part of me is wondering why am I even here. I know where I’d rather be but where I’d rather be won’t take me now. I’m taking classes that are way over my head so that I could take the classes that would most help me in a future UWP job (and also because I was told I’d be good in logistics). Part of me wonders if I will get that happiness again.
And it still keeps on wondering. But in the meantime, I’ll still keep on doing my research. Because you never know what you may find.
What do I strive for, then? Originality. Community. Understanding. Creativity. Acceptance. Love. Happiness. Dreams Come True.
I strive to be me.