Hello there. I am Terry and I am a full-time undergraduate based in Singapore. I take photos, write a blog and design websites.

And no, I'm not a teddy bear.

Money is the root of all evil… thoughts

So it turns out that I might not be going for an exchange program next January afterall.

It took me awhile to acknowledge the fact, but I felt that it is terribly unfair for me to unload the entire financial burden onto my parent’s shoulder when studying in my university (NTU) during that period is just as good as going to Sweden instead.

Sweden is good, sans the whole Julian Assange rape smearing case which Sterling succinctly pointed out to me on Twitter earlier today. The weather there is nice. The people there are very hospitable, welcoming and eco-friendly. Their meatballs are awesome. If all these don’t cut it, at least I know that it is where my favourite furniture chain IKEA was conceived. Okay, but I still hated IKEA for using Verdana.

I just returned from a one-day trip to and from Singapore to attend this talk about the exchange program and how we should navigate ourselves around those miles and miles of crazy bureaucracy red tape. I’m not going to moan, whine, whimper, cry baby about this wasted trip – I did get lots of information about the lovely country from a senior who had just returned from the very country I’ve been yearning to travel, live and study in, and learning more about the exchange program isn’t exactly something half bad.

The gist of the problem lies with the money. I don’t live in a upper-middle class, or a high class family. We don’t rake in money by the five or more figures monthly. My dad works as a project manager cum architect in a small medium enterprise, while my mom spends most of her days cooping in the tuition class handling kids that are so wild I thought nobody could ever get hold of them. Well, at least my mom did.

The entire exchange program will set me back by around S$10,000 to S$12,000, which is a lot. Probably a few times of our household income. My brother still has one more year to see before he finishes college, and God knows what he’ll do after that. S$10,000 might not sound a lot to you (it converts to around US$7,350), but it does mean a lot to a small family like mine.

Because of my academic achievements, I’ve been studying in Singapore, a country 400km south of my hometown, for the past 8.5 (and counting) years, relying solely on scholarships. The first 6 years I was on a government scholarship since graduating from elementary school, and for the next 2.5 I’m on a university-sponsored scholarship that pays for the rest of my tuition fees.

For a very tiny instant moment I felt that all these should count in my advantage because I’ve been saving tons of money for my parents – instead of channeling that money into funding my education, they have stashed them in all forms of investments, bank accounts (probably not a good idea), fixed deposits and anything that has to do with money without actually spending them.

Immediately my conscience came riding on this moral high horse and giving me a mental lecture about how dare I conjunture such a thought – saving my parents that much money doesn’t mean I’m entitled to spend them right now, even if that S$10,000 is going to be just a fraction of it. Who do I think I am, for being so selfish, to think that I should make my parents pay for my exchange program that is so incredibly expensive?

An instant sense of shame overcame myself. I couldn’t possibly think what my parents have been through after I told them that I have set my eyes on Sweden for the exchange programs. Their jaws were left somewhat agape when I broke the news about the overall costs, and I hate myself even the more now for allowing such a lapse of judgement to take place.

So I make sure that I got it clear today – I told them that they shouldn’t care about what I would think. Even if I would feel disappointed and probably be all sad panda when I couldn’t go to Sweden, I know that the lump sum of money could be better spent elsewhere. I’ll give them the choice to choose – and I very well know that it doesn’t lie with me.

I’ll still be matching my courses for the exchange program, but that doesn’t meant that I’m getting my hopes high for parental approval. I’m not bitter about this, and in fact I feel a little embarrassed that I have been engaged in this endless soliloquy with myself throughout the entire day.

Wise up, Terry.

p/s: For once, I’m ecstatic about me being so honest with myself.

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