Q: How was life in college like?

So I’ve been a slacker lately. In my defense, my work got a little intense so everytime I find time on weekends, I kinda want to just do nothing. Which is exactly what it sounds like – I’d just sprawl myself comfortably on the sofa and read nonsense, or stare into space. Kinda regret it now cos I feel like I’m just wasting my time away! At least if I had spared 1 hour to blog, the post would be at least more immortalized then me wasting time reading stuff on elitedaily.

Anyway, thank you Tina for suggesting this topic. I was thinking quite hard on what to blog about, and since I talk about my daily life on my dayre, I don’t feel like repeating them again here. So the question was: Could you tell us how life was like in college?

To my older readers, you probably would know quite a bit since I blogged quite religiously throughout my 4 years in college. But I thought it’d be quite interesting for me to reflect on this question now, almost 4 years after I’ve graduated.

In a nutshell, college was a bittersweet time for me. I’m a little conflicted about my experience actually cos I know I was quite miserable at times, but in retrospect, I did have a great time as well. I think my blog portrayed more of the happy side of things, so I’m going to share more about what it was actually like.

1. I had a hard time fitting in

I had gone to a public school in Malaysia all my life, and in addition to that, I only learnt to speak English when I moved to KL when I was 11. So although I was fairly confident with my written English, I only got to know the extent of how horrible my spoken English was in my first year. On top of everything, I had such a hard time articulating my thoughts, what more have opinions on things. (Opinions? What’s that??)

I remember my first ever class and we were asked to read a few books beforehand. In class, suddenly everyone was talking about what they felt about the readings. I was going to say how much I liked the book, but then I realized everyone had such deep things to say! They were so critical and analytical, and I could hardly keep up. I spent the rest of the semester barely saying anything. Even when I did speak, I was so self-conscious of my accent and how I was pronouncing things wrong, that I could hardly form proper sentences in my head.

That was just in class, I had an even harder time trying to fit in socially. Thank god I knew Audrey and I was close to her and Angie in my first year, so I didn’t feel that bad.

Sorry Aud, I messed up your eye makeup, now you look like a raccoon hahaha

But imagine this, I was incredibly social in Malaysia and I never had to be alone. It was in college that I spent so much time on my own (which probably aided in my self-development thankfully) and had to be very self-reliant.


2. I had to work so much harder to prove myself

Following from point 1, I had to be a lot more hardworking in college. All through out my life prior to that, I was a straight As student. It wasn’t easy, but it was nothing compared to college. Because I wasn’t participating much in class discussions, I had to work ten times harder in my other assignments. I had to start writing papers way before the deadline to make sure I get an A and I had to see my professors one-on-one just so they know I care about the class. All this resulted in my good grades in college, but at the expense of my social life.

nth night at the library, writing papers after papers

I was also always working different part-time jobs just so I have enough money to go out with friends/save up to come back home in summers. Cleaning dishes, running after balls during sport games, clearing trash, cleaning floors etc. For some reason I was always doing blue-collar jobs wtf


 Just keep washing..just keep washing


3. I went through bouts of depression

Of course this is something I never talked about with anyone or on my blog, but it was so long ago and since I’m already talking about college so might as well.

It was hard when Audrey and Angie graduated after my first year, and I realized then that shit, I hadn’t actually made a lot of friends besides them. Shanshan, my only other good friend, had to take the semester off cos she had a benign tumor and had to go through surgery and recovery.

I spent a lot of my time alone that year, seeking solace in my computer cos that was the only form of social life I had. I blogged a lot, talked online to my friends back home, watched tons of korean drama while eating lunch AND dinner alone wtf. I really saw my blog as my main refuge and source of joy cos that was where I had acceptance and recognition. Haha writing it out now made it sound so pathetic, but I guess there’s nothing to be ashamed of cos it got me through tough times.

But thankfully, I got over it a little bit and did make a few more good friends after that. Shanshan was also around in my senior year, along with Giang and Lali so I had a really good senior year!

Shanshan, the most beautiful person I know inside and outside

Giang, who taught me self-independence and reliance

Photo on 2010-09-16 at 21.35 #3
Lali, who constantly challenged me on who I want to be and can be. I owe a lot of my self-realization to her.


4. I learned the most valuable lesson in life

Don’t get me wrong, despite a lot of the setbacks in college, I never regretted going to Mt Holyoke. It was there that I learned the most important lesson in my life: that the pursuit of knowledge is life-long.

Coming from a very rigid education system, I never saw learning for the sake of learning before. It was always for a certain reason; learn to get As, to do well in exams, to get a good jobs, always in that order. It was in college that I was challenged in the way I thought and perceived the world around me. My professors and college mates inspired me tremendously to constantly outperform what I thought I could achieve, and ultimately showed me the beauty of constantly learning about the different things in life.

In fact, in one of my FAV professors’ (Jim Hartley) parting speech to us, he said:

“Look at the person on your left, and the person on your right. In a hundred years, they will both be dead. (dramatic pause) We spend our lives worrying about things that are in the present, things that are transitory and are insignificant in the greater scheme of things.
From henceforth, spend your life thinking about things that are eternal, not temporary. Spend your life thinking about things that will matter 100 years from today, things that mattered 100 years ago and will continue to be important.

Your education has not ended, in fact it starts right after your graduation. Think about the everlasting effect of your existence, read the great books, read because it matters. Your education starts when you start learning about stuff because it matters, and the only questions that should matter are why are you here? what’s the purpose of your life?”

These powerful words got me back to Malaysia, got me into Teach For Malaysia and got me to where I am today, 4 years later. As I continue on my perpetual soul-searching journey, I’m glad I’m always reminded of all the great things I’ve learned in college.

I wouldn’t have been half the person I am today if it wasn’t for Mt Holyoke and TFM.

So…I guess all in all, college was an interesting point in my life. I became a completely different person after that, in both good and and not so good ways.

I became a lot more “intellectual” for lack of a better word, and started having more opinions about everything around me. I started developing my own stances on things, and thought a lot more about the meaning of my existence and the legacy I want to leave behind. Things that I’ve never been pushed to think about before.

But I also became a lot more reserved and less idealistic, took off my rose-tinted glasses and became more pragmatic. Maybe it’s about growing up too, but my moments alone pushed me to be more melancholic and solemn as well.

So yeah, sorry for the long answer to a simple question, but there you go! 


  1. Tina Ng says:

    OMFGOD I CANT BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY ANSWERED MY QUESTION?!?!? What on earthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . *hyperventilates* *screams* *pulls blankets on my head and rolls around, whilst stampeding my feet on the bed spread* In the end though I’m so glad you’re honest with your experiences, that you didn’t sugarcoat or gloss over college, you didn’t pour cement over your college cracks, you magnified them and portrayed to us the darker side that no one likes to talk about.In a society where peoples social media only portray an idealistic image and rarely the sadness or difficult times that lurk under their lives, you REALLY ARE A DIAMOND in the rough.

    You are my favourite blogger, please continue to share your life lessons, beautiful selfies and funny rambles with us.

    PS; I LOVE SHAN SHAN TOO, maybe more shan and sweat adventure stories <3

    Also side note; me and my boyfee were linking posts of you from 2007 and comparing them to 2013/4 and we were amazing at how much change we saw, in the best possible way. You were still funny and engaging, but youw ere also passionate and forward thinking, your desire to create change was so evident and really touched us!


    RIP Madison holleran, college wasn't easy for everyone..

    • sweatlee says:

      Hahahah you’re so cute! I got so much to say in my comment the last time to you so I thought oklah will write a post! What’s your next question, give me ideas on what to post haha
      I agree that social media does idolize certain things and is not very realistic sometimes, it’s quite a difficult world to live in if people have unrealistic expectations about everything. That reminds me of another topic I could talk about, which I just did on dayre! (re: love)

      shan and sweat havent seen each other in 2 years!!! no adventure stories so sad 🙁

      Thanks for reading my old posts again, sadly all my pics were wiped out so can’t really see much now 🙁

      • Tina Ng says:

        I’m so happy that you reached out to your readers, in a way that was genuine and raw. You didn’t sugarcoat, instead you layed out your past struggles with sincerity.

        Topics for future blogs? You are an absolutely creative soul/mind, reading all of your detailed descriptions, short stories, vivid metaphors and your unique way of portraying, a certain perspective—> it’s all so spellbounding! I’m sure you’re more than capable of finding interesting topics to engage your readers! You are our favourite because you constantly write fromt he heart, the passion is real.

        We love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

        PLS tho

        would loveeeeeee a blog on your wedding 😉

  2. Jessie Ooi says:

    A nicely written post, feels like it is reflecting me here in Bonn except I am 5 years older, working, and have difficulty to fit in this challenging environment. I wondered what would happen if I stay longer than I intended to, would it make me also, speaking more “intellectual”?

    Thank you!

    • sweatlee says:

      Haha I think I managed to learn to think and speak more because I had professors and collegemates who modeled it well to me. I found reading more academic books help as well!

  3. Suu says:

    OMG! I actually remember Lali! Not much of Giang though. I remember you always joked that Lali and you are a couple hehe. :3

    I miss seeing ShanShan as well. I read your blog A LOT during your time in college. Btw, miss your short hair a lot. It really suits you.

    • sweatlee says:

      Haha yeah somemore I just cut my hair short and suddenly found a girlfriend lol.
      I miss my short hair toooo except that growing it out was quite a pain :/

  4. kimmy says:

    Hello suet Li!! Came here after I read your post on Dayre. I’ve always loved reading your blog and you’re like my idol! U truly inspire me! also I wish u will update more frequently. I really miss your writings so much. So I stalk u on Dayre. Hahaha.. but of course we are all trying to catch up with work and life so i totally understand. Please continue to be amazing Ok.. Lol.

  5. Shi Jia Koh says:

    I love this post!

    I remember some of the photos as well!

    You used to joked about clearing rubbish as a part time job and there was once the liquid spilled on you? One more was when you forgot about your iPod while you were clearing rubbish and those mean kids were “eeewing” at you. Waaa I sound so stalkerish but I enjoyed your blog post, no matter if it was sweat in college or sweat as a confident working adult haha.

  6. Tina Ng says:


    Does she look happy to you? Doesn’t she look beautiful? Of course, but deep down she was troubled.

    I keep coming back to this! I came back to this post again, after reading a new article about Madison Holleran. You looked like you had so much fun in college! Social media and blogs only show the highlights, they don’t show the in betweens, the loopholes that are filled with despair. I’m still so thankful that you are being honest and perhaps showing people that it’s okay, to not be okay, there’s no shame in admitting one’s difficulties!

    Keep being strong, amazing and honest. Your candidness is great!

  7. Sarah Iman says:

    Hi Suet Li!

    I’m Malaysian studying in Buffalo, Western New York State. I can relate to your story. I was straight As student but college is totally different! everything you write totally hits me straight on my face hehe. And about the depression, that was so so true! I went to a college that there was not lots of Malaysian. I thought that I can challenge myself, being more open to new environment. I was wrong. Since we are international student, we are left behind. I had that depression kind thing when I was in second semester, I started to perform really bad. However, thank God I managed to make some friends after that. Thank you for sharing this. I have two more semesters to finish and Im done with college! I know I’m going to miss USA when I finish my undergrad study 🙂

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