A chat with a fellow blogger set me writing this post. We were chatting about life during our varsity days. I remember vividly till today this part of my days in Melbourne.
I am from an average working class family. There was enough food on the table each day. Though there wasn't any luxury and nothing left to splash around. Whatever was available was saved for our education.
I remember being very careful with my money. There was only so much available. I did not want to stress my parents up with more than was necessary.
I lived on a budget of less than AUD100 budget a week for everything from rent to food and transport. Those days were trying. It was hard and maybe harsh. I remember jotting down everything that I spent every single day to keep tab of the spending so that I did not burst my budget.
I used to buy those no frills brand groceries. No frills rice doesn't taste nice for sure. This much I can say. The no frills instant noodles were as you would have guessed, made in Bolehland. The rest would be bought based on what is on sale. Sometimes I'll get a good bargain when they marked down substantially those items that were about to expire or has just expired. Yes, I used to live on those.
Meat and vegetables were bought from the market at about noon. This is when they try to dispose them off cheaply. Meat was chicken, chicken and more chicken. And it was always the cheapest cut, Maryland.
While the rest had their wheels, I traveled by public transport. Occasionally I would give myself a treat by going downtown for some window shopping. I normally don't have anyone moving around with me then. Friends invite you to come along now and again. But after you have turned them down a few times, they no longer ask. I simply couldn't because I worked. The other reason was because I did not have the dough they had. It would be odd when they go eat at some Chinese restaurants while I excuse myself.
During my second year I was able to give myself a weekly treat. I used to eat Chinese at the Union Cafeteria once a week. Just to perk my spirit up. But this did not last long. Before the second semester started, I lost all my money. The bank went bust and I had all my money there. Everything. And the Government did nothing about it till very very much later. From my summer break earnings to my second semester tuition fees, I lost everything. I didn't tell them at home because I did not want them to worry. Besides there isn't much to go around. And it would be really unfair to my other siblings.
\So from having one four hour part time job a week, I now had three. At one point in time I remember having four jobs. I worked in a local Malaysian Chinese restaurant. I worked as a night filler in a supermarket. I worked as a research assistant with one of my lecturers and I worked as a cleaner at the university flats. Yes, I do a far better job than those shoddy cleaners here. Imagine having to clean up the refuse strewn by those China mature students who chuck their wet garbage from the doorways. The building manager liked me because I made sure that it would be cleaned spick and span before his bosses and the directors come to inspect the next morning. And the only way to make sure of that is to clean it at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning!
I skipped the lectures and tutorials of one of the core subjects. The class was really early and I had to work till the wee hours of the morning at the supermarket. I talked to the tutor who was very understanding. He let me off. Reading up before entering the rest of the other lectures were essential because I hardly had time to revise. The lectures were also the only times I had for that topic of the subject.
Failing was not an option at all. That would have meant staying back another semester or year. That simply means more money! I remember having one paper which carried a full 100 marks. You sit in the exam hall for two hours. If you screwed up, the whole year's effort would have gone down the gutter. That included two big assignments which carried no marks. And if you did not do the assignments, you would be failed no matter how well you scored in the two hour examination. If you break, we'll see you next year. One whole year. There ain't no such thing as referred papers over here.
Things slowly changed. By the end of my studies, I had saved a bit. So much so I could treat my family when they came over for my graduation. Except for their flight tickets I covered all the expenses for their one week stay Down Under.
Yeah. I never got it easy. It was tough. Given another chance I would not want to go through it again. This is not the normal experience many of us would go through during our undergraduate days. I wish it was not like this. But it served it's purpose. It helped build character, personality and resilience.