Growing up in Singapore, I always wanted to go to university but knew my parents couldn't afford to put me through. I decided that if I was going to take out an educational loan to attend, that I had to make the most of it - that's why I ended up at The Australian National University.
When I was in Canberra, I just loved it, even after I discovered how cold it could be. I stayed at Burton and Garran Hall, which was a lot for someone who had previously only lived in the family home. Suddenly, I was sharing accommodation with hundreds of other students - the kitchen was an experience in itself. But everyone was so supportive and inclusive, it was hard not to participate and get involved.
I very quickly became part of the Singaporean Students Association (SSA), even running for elections and becoming a committee member, and got involved in campus life as much as possible. With so many new friends, experiences and perspectives, I felt like my mind and heart were being stretched wide open.
A lot of my student life was centered in Union Court (now Kambri). At Union Court I organized SSA events; I would help host sausage sizzles there during O-Week; and frequently meet and eat there with friends. My main library was the Chiefly Library, which is right at Union Court too. I remember lying on the grass outside the Chiefly Library, watching people pass by and the scenery changing with each season. So, a lot of my memories are rooted in Union Court - I still dream about it, it's so imprinted in my mind.
I also worked on Campus, both as a function of wanting to be involved and needing to pay for my expenses. I was a kitchen hand at Bruce Hall, worked as a note taker for the Access and Inclusion Office, and in various roles at the International Education Office (IEO).
The head of IEO at that time, Ann Bell, was the kind of person who exuded kindness. When I was homesick and my cat was ill, I really wanted to go back to Singapore to see him but work was very busy. I spoke to Anne and she told me, 'Pets are family. Just go, we'll get people to cover you'. That gave me so much reassurance and support. I went for the trip back to Singapore and although my cat had passed by the time I arrived, that visit home was exactly what I needed.
On another occasion, in my final semester, I had budgeted incorrectly and was struggling to make ends meet. Without a moment's hesitation, Anne made sure I was eating well by organising some grocery vouchers for me. I am very grateful I had her in my life at that time.
That sense of human kindness and watching out for each other is not a rarity at ANU, it's the culture. It is what made my whole experience - studying, working and living - at ANU so rich and fulfilling. I wouldn't change it for the world.