Winds of Change

New freshman Sarah Tahir reflects on what she's leaving behind and the new future in store for her.

It was almost eleven and we were all squeezed together on the balcony. The wind blew a cool breeze easing the desert heat that surrounded us, almost as if it had sensed our outdoor presence. A few of us were hazy and a few of us were simply uninhibited. I remember feeling this pronounced aura of warmth. Here I was sitting with people I had known since kindergarten in our last year as schoolmates. Although we had developed cliques throughout the years, we were always a pretty cohesive grade. Perhaps it was the fact that we were a class of 108 students at a K-12 school. We inevitably talked about school, college, and those more mundane topics. Soon we delved into more interesting areas; we joked, spoke candidly and grew closer. I remember ending the night debating American politics with the last people I ever expected to talk politics with.

That was senior year for me. A maelstrom of gatherings, discussions and realizations that my high school experience was, as my best friend would put it, “low key chill”.

Now with college upon me, I’m not sure how to feel. For years all I ever wanted to do was travel; I wanted to live my life out of a backpack and educate myself on the road. As I got closer to senior year, however, I realized that college was something I could not get around. And so, I reluctantly set my sights on the prospect of higher education. NYU Shanghai seemed like the perfect compromise. It was an institution that prided itself on internationalism as well as one that would unlock all of Asia to me. However, if you had asked anyone I met during Admitted Student Weekend (ASW) they probably would not have pictured me attending.

I’m not sure what it was, but every single doubt I could possibly have manifested itself over that weekend. I was afraid of being lonely, hating my classes, hating the city and, mostly, of being stuck. Being caged in a one-sided compromise. I was afraid that the only reason I liked NYU Shanghai at all was because it somehow made me feel different or unique, and that the risk I would take in attending would just end up biting me in the ass.

As I write this, I have two unpacked suitcases in the corner of my room and seven days till I board a flight to my new life. An hour ago I tried to pack, but as I sorted through my belongings I felt all those dormant fears rush back. It’s funny how easy it is to idealize the past and forget your hopes for the future, no matter how close the past is in memory. I find that my mind goes out of its way to consistently make me feel like I’ve doomed myself. And like the sea to the moon and sun, my emotions ebb and flow with appropriate measure.

Following ASW, I made a list of pros and cons regarding NYU Shanghai and there were many reasons why I ultimately chose to attend. However, one of the most significant reasons had to do with my application process. Out of all the universities I applied to, I could not recall a school I was more interested in going to, an interview I was more stressed out over or a decision letter I was more overwhelmed by. I remember sitting in my history class when I got the email. I remember crying when I read it. College always seemed like something I was forced into doing and yet here I was crying over an acceptance letter.

I realized that I had to distance myself from the decision in order to weigh it appropriately. I had to remember how I felt when I wanted to be chosen before I could choose back. It is only more evident now that the closer I get, the more anxious I feel. As people, we are programmed to be skeptical of what is new and no matter how much you pride yourself on being adventurous or exploratory, there will always be something you can’t help but fear. Balanced with rationality, that fear is okay. It signifies that what you’re doing is worthwhile. Taken at face value, however, that fear can keep you from doing amazing things.

So while every now and then I find myself longing for the comfort of that warm desert night for fear of a colder future, I know it is simply an apparition of worry.

This article was written by Sarah Tahir. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Sarah Tahir

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