Greetings from me on my senior high graduation day. It’s November 2011 and it’s been two whole years since I left senior high school. Although it’s not that long, I have changed so much in these two years that I start thinking to myself, “What if I do things differently in high school? What if I do things differently after high school?”

I still remember vividly, the times when my friends and I skipped class together, went to sweet seventeen parties, and then stressed out because of exam. The HSC (Higher School Certificate – NSW curriculum) was the holy grail for us to go to our desired university. But to the 17 years old out there who are wondering about their lives, here are the sayings of a girl who has walked in your shoes two years earlier.

Study hard to get good grades, but not too hard.

I was swallowing all the subjects (Math, Math extension 1, Math extension 2, Biology, Chemistry, Physics) like they were the Bible, and I wish I had given myself more leniency. I didn’t regret it that much though, I studied so hard and I did get good grades, but now thinking of it, no one will remember what grades you had during high school. I know I won’t. Plus, I didn’t really need that good grades. The enter score to Bachelor of Arts was way below than my own enter score, and thinking of that, I wish I’ve spent time more with my friends, my teachers, or read more novels that I like.

While writing this, I was thinking of a friend who was so smart back in high school. But she paid it with having eight extra lessons after school (from Korean, Japanese, Biology, yada yada yada). It was so hard to ask her to go out. I guess it was ok if she was happy, but for me, one day, I’ll regret it.

Listen to other people’s advice, but in the end you need to decide for yourself.

I was a science student back in high school, and now I am doing a degree in Arts, majoring in Psychology and Media and Communication. My first option is actually hospitality, and if you are wondering ‘where has the science gone’, you are right. I did science back in high school not necessarily because I like it, but partly because I could do it, and partly because those were the subjects that my older sister took four years earlier.

I was accepted in Bachelor of Biomed, but one week before the administration closed, I changed my course to Bachelor of Arts. I have always known that I don’t like science, but in high school I had limited options. Now in uni, it’s up to me to decide which degree I want to pursue, and I’m thankful that I did change my course at that time. Can you imagine the horror that I’ll go through If I take Biomed? Simply, I won’t even make this blog.

I think, if your parents want you to take engineering, your grandparents want you take business, and your teachers want you to take architecture, in the end, it’s up to you to do what you want. I am grateful with my supportive parents who let me decide the course that I want to take, but I know it’s not the case for some of my friends.

I wish I had taken a year off.

When you come from an Asian background, you are encouraged to ‘graduate sooner’, and to ‘graduate younger’. Come to think of it, I’ll be a university graduate by the age of 20. A friend of mine is a graduate at the age of 19. My other friend is a Master’s graduate at the age of 21. We are pushed to finish education as young as we can.

Yet, I have seen 22-year-old students who are still in the same level as me, and yes, they are way smarter. If I study for my exam, I’ll just cram everything together for the sake of the exam. But older students understand what they are studying, and they can study accordingly. Psychologically saying, their brains have matured enough to understand what the subjects teach them. While for me, I’m still having that high school brain which remembers (hopefully) everything on the exam day and forgets everything afterwards.

It’s not common in Asian countries (but quite common in Western ones), and I wish I had taken a year off. Of course, now you are seeing your peers at the same level as you, and if you take a year off, you’ll be left behind. But 10 years from now, who will make such a big deal about it?

I wish I had been traveling, working part time jobs here and there, trying to intern in various companies, and seeing the bigger picture of what the world has to offer. I wish I had more time to decide what I really want to become in life, before I am stuck in uni for 3 years, then work, then do further degree (IF I decide to do one).

In the end, each person should decide for themselves, but remember, whatever you have decided, if it ends up to be the wrong decision, don’t stress out. Life has much more to offer, and success is determined by how high you can bounce back after you fall.