24 August 2020, by Nicholas Quek
It’s finally here! My fourth and final year in university.
My final year feels so different compared to my first year. Three years ago when I first moved to my dorm room, my whole family helped me move in. My siblings and I shared a tender goodbye, promising to keep in touch every week. I remember freaking out during the first week of classes, anxious to know if there was anyone I knew in the same class as me.
This year, I moved in while hitching a ride from my father who was off to pick my younger brother from school. I didn’t tell my siblings that I was leaving. I don’t think it’s because we’ve stopped caring for each other, but more that we’ve grown accustomed to each other’s seasonal habits. I also didn’t find out if I had friends in the classes I was taking; after 3 years here, I was pretty sure there would be at least one person I knew in each of my classes.
I’ve spent the past 5 months developing a stronger relationship with my family after being cooped up at home due to the circuit breaker and school closure, this made it harder to be away from them. During the 5 months, we played board games together almost every night and shared almost every meal together. We’ve spent extended time chatting with each other and hanging out in each other’s bedrooms.
One of the challenges will be maintaining the close bond forged during the circuit breaker period, especially with my siblings. Now that school has started and I’m back in my dorm, I will be making conscious efforts throughout the semester to ensure that the bond stays strong.
This might seem obvious to some, but I really struggle with texting people regularly. More often than not, I prefer to just video call/meet up with someone and catch up over an extended period of time. But now with my school schedule and physical separation from my siblings, texting really is the most convenient and simplest form of communication I can have with them. None of us really enjoy texting, but I always look forward to their messages, even if it’s just a casual conversation.
2. Be intentional in scheduling out time
I have pretty much blocked out Sunday nights for family, and there are very few things that would make me give up this family time. Because there are so many other activities/people/programmes that constantly call for my attention, it helps that I make a mental note that ‘Sunday evenings are for family’. It stops me from making progressively bigger compromises on the amount of time I spend with them and ensures that every week, there will be that precious block of time just me and my family.
3. Be intentional in conversation
When conversations were more commonplace, there was perhaps more time for small talk. We could complain about the weather, comment on minor things that happened throughout the day, etc. But now with our physical talk-time limited, I’ve found that I need to be more intentional about what topics I bring up in conversations. Not that there’s anything wrong with small talk, but if I only have 1 to 2 hours with them a week, I want to spend that time really getting to know how they’ve been doing. Here are two of my favourite questions that you might find useful to you:
a. What’s been on your mind this past week?
b. What’s something that you’re worried about/excited in the coming week?
I’m still thankful that I can return on the weekends to see my family. I know friends who have been separated from their families by geographical borders and denied visas. The pandemic as a whole has made me realise just how valuable my family is to me, and how much stronger our relationships have developed over the past 5 months.
Hoping to maintain them throughout this semester!