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Special Guest Interview from the Other Side of the World!

Hi there, ignorant, inexperienced, naive homeschooler! I’m Eunice Tan, the Senior Editor of THG’s column “Our Craft,” and I happen to be an ignorant, inexperienced, naive homeschooler too! Considering how young and immature we are, I’m sure the idea of college and just the future in general can sound extremely intimidating. At least, I know it is to me! Thinking about university and pursuing my dreams in a career sounds so far-fetched, and it sends chills down my spine. And what about studying abroad? It’s a complete package of academic, social, and cultural worries all bundled up in one anxiety-aggravating package… but don’t you fret!

In pursuit of more knowledge in this area, I got in touch with a knowledgeable, experienced, and wise former homeschooler who currently is living her “future plans” of university halfway around the world! Perhaps, hearing her very own words will help us younglings get a clearer picture of how overseas university life is really like! So, fasten your seatbelts and join me in interviewing Ms. Eliza Tan from Malaysia!

Eunice: Hi, Eliza! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with me! I am Eunice, a Senior Editor from The Homeschool Gazette, and I am very interested to learn about your experience as a homeschooler in an overseas university!

Eliza: Hi! Thanks for having me! I’m Eliza, I’m 20 years old, and I’m currently attending Asbury University [in Kentucky, USA]. I’m majoring in Media Communications with a Multimedia emphasis and minoring in intercultural studies.

Eunice: Awesome! Those are really interesting majors, especially with how prevalent media is today! To kick this off on a fun note, what is a weird talent you have? Some of the people I’ve asked have weird talents such as making clucking noises or twisting their fingers in a weird way! What about you?

Eliza: Ah, I can twist my tongue into the shape of a clover.

Eunice: Oh, so can I!

Eliza: Actually, more people can do it than they think! It’s genetic.

Eunice: That’s so interesting. It looks weird, but it looks cool at the same time! So, to move on to more serious things, let’s talk about the beginning of your homeschooling journey. For how many years did you homeschool and what homeschool program did you do?

Eliza: I started homeschooling when I was eight. My parents took me out of private school. We were using a mixture of curriculums then which were mostly American and British and some Singaporean. But then, when I was 10, I transitioned to an online program called Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS). It was online with digital material, but without live classes, so I was lacking live interaction, which I found out as a social person is a really important factor to me. So, for my years of high school, I attended The Potter’s School, an online American Christian school with live classes, and I really enjoyed it! It was difficult because of the time difference, but I enjoyed the liberal arts education and participation in class and having actual teachers and classmates, whom I didn’t see face-to-face, but could talk to! We could ask questions and even have debates online!  

Eunice: So, you experienced home-online schooling! How do you think your education in The Potter’s School has shaped your university experience? Did it prepare you well?

Eliza: Yes, definitely, because it taught a classical liberal arts education. The method of teaching was very much Socratic [which, if you don’t know, is a Greek method of learning taught by the philosopher Socrates which emphasizes critical thinking and rhetorical skills]. That prepared me very well for classes, coming out of my shell, and freely sharing my own ideas and opinions, but equally being open to the opinions of others. I struggled a lot with being self-conscious initially when I first started The Potter’s School, especially when speaking on mic and voicing my own opinions or even knowing what my own opinions were. But after a while, being in such an environment and having classmates who weren’t scared to voice their own opinion, I thought to myself, “Maybe, I can give it a try.”  So, that really prepared me for the classroom environment in college. Because my high school experience was so rigorous and stretched me so much, I haven’t struggled academically in college, so I’m grateful for that.

Eunice: So, the rigorousness of your high school education over-prepared you in a way! That’s great to hear!

Eliza: Yeah, and in a sense, communicating with Americans through The Potter’s School and going through their education helped me experience less of a culture shock.

Eunice: Speaking of culture shock, you practically traveled halfway around the world, and suddenly, you were immersed in a totally different environment which must have been quite mind-blowing! Were there less problems than you anticipated or did you struggle with fitting in? And if you did, how did you cope with that?

Eliza: Well, when I went to college, that wasn’t my first time in America, so I didn’t have that much culture shock when I went for university. I still did to some extent, but not as much as when I first came in 2015 with my sister for a speech and debate tournament of which I was part of its media internship program with about thirty Americans. I was the only new student and the only international, so yes, there was quite a bit of culture shock. And I’m pretty sure I seemed like a total introvert even though I’m not, cos I was wondering, “Why is everybody acting so over the top?” and “Why is everybody complimenting each other all the time?” They were saying stuff like “I love you!” all the time, and I was thinking, “No, you don’t. You barely know me!” So, I was really guarded at first, but eventually, I loosened up and learned how to accept their culture. After coming out of my shell, just relaxing, and becoming open to change, it was much easier to transition after Freshman year of college settling into the new routine, being independent but still finding community, where I met people who were going through similar changes. It’s easy to dwell in loneliness, but honestly, you never have to, because there’s always someone else going through a similar situation. So, be willing to talk about it, and God will provide you with good friends! Culture shock is only something I feel when I expect myself to fit in.

Eunice: Yes, it really is our inner expectations for ourselves that makes us feel nervous or self-conscious most of the time!

Eliza: Yes! One way of viewing it is that I don’t belong here and that here isn’t home, but another way of viewing it is that I can belong anywhere. Anywhere can be home! I don’t need to put an expectation on myself to fit in perfectly. Just don’t think about it, embrace differences and similarities, and you will start to love the new culture you’re settling in!

Eunice: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with not fitting into a particular box or stereotypical culture because sometimes, that’s just what makes you special. And also, who says you have to fit into one culture only? It adds to your experience. Home is not confined to a physical location, but it is where you choose to grow, learn, and get rid of confining expectations!

Eliza: So true.

Eunice: Moving on, why did you choose to major in Media Communications?

Eliza: Well, in my high school years, I discovered that I really enjoyed photography and playing around with angles through filming or taking pictures in a couple of movie projects my sister and I did!

Eunice: Wow! It’s really great to know that you were aware of your interests and followed through with them in college and that you are enjoying what you’re doing now! I think it is really important to major in something that motivates you and plays on your individual strengths! Well, one thing that strikes me, is that Asbury University is a Christian university right? So, why did you choose to go to a Christian university rather than a secular university? Are there any differences?

Eliza: I don’t think you have to go to one or another. For me, I wanted a Christian environment which felt safer. Honestly, I didn’t think that much about it, but right now, having already been in a Christian university for three years and hearing what goes on at public schools, there’s a huge difference. There are imperfect things that happen at Christian colleges. People are not perfect. But in general, it is more of a safer place to not only grow academically and intellectually, but also spiritually. And I think growing in that sort of community can really help you develop in every aspect of your character. I think the benefits outweigh the problems.

Eunice: So, that’s great that it is an environment that intentionally fosters your spiritual growth, and I heard that you’ve even gone to your professor’s houses for dinner!

Eliza: Yeah, I have! I know that people care, the professors care, and I am able to reach out to others and get mentored at the same time.

Eunice: Wow. That is fantastic—an environment that encourages you and still challenges you to reach your full potential. Like you said, nobody has to go to a Christian University, but it is just so awesome to know there is a place that nurtures the heart as well as the mind, just like the Bible emphasizes. We shouldn’t love the Lord our God with just all our heart, but also with all our mind! Has this environment helped you grow closer to God and mature in character?

Eliza: Well, in your formative years, you are going to question a lot of things, even beliefs you’ve grown up following. And that environment really helps, where people are willing to hear your questions and are open to mentoring you. It helps so much with owning your own faith.

Eunice: So, it helps you truly understand your own beliefs and not simply follow along with them just because you grew up in a Christian home.

Eliza: Yeah, so the whole idea of Christian universities is not to keep you in a bubble. Not at all! You are going to get out there and see the real world even in schools like Asbury. Instead, it is something that can facilitate the deepening of your faith and solidifying your roots even more.

Eunice: I agree. Ending off this interview, do you have any advice for the younger homeschoolers who may be reading this article and might want to go to university? What should they expect or do in preparation for this journey?

Eliza: Find areas of interest. Don’t put pressure on yourself by saying “This is what I must do after university, and I need to stick with this.” Sit back, pause, and evaluate what brings you joy, apart from YouTube and video games of course. What brings you real joy? How has God been using your talents or what are some of your natural inclinations? And then ask yourself how you can use these talents to bless others. Try to line that up with major and minor options. Just hands-on experience is really important. Explore options actively at an early, young age! Start early, and get off the couch! Build real-life relationships, figure out who you really are, deepen your relationship with God, get involved with helping others, and your interests will shows themselves really quickly!

Eunice: Thank you so much for your time, Eliza! It was really interesting to learn about your cross-cultural experiences and what God has taught you and how you adjusted so well on the other side of the world! Thank you!

Eliza: You’re welcome!

And… That’s a wrap! I hope you all enjoyed the interview and learned from it as much as I did! This is just one person’s story. What about your story? What about mine? We still have a whole future ahead of us, and, to put it plainly, our future is not in our hands.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

~Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV~

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.“

~Proverbs 27:1 ESV~

We don’t even know what tomorrow will be like. But knowing that God drives the steering wheel of our lives, we can joyfully know that He will bring about what is best for us. This doesn’t mean we can just lounge around on our bed and do nothing while waiting for God. Waiting for God is an active situation, not a passive one! Personally, this interview taught me that I need to get off my seat and start actively discovering my passion and start my own projects to do something about it. God doesn’t conjure up a magical puff of smoke that will transport us to our dream university. He chisels our character and works through our willingness to carry out His will. So, in the words of Nike, “just do it!”

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