It’s easy to confuse the meaning of achieving something that truly matters to you with whatever society perceives as success. In my recent experiences in HKUST and Warwick’s Business Schools, it’s considered successful to secure a job in investment banks or in consulting. In certain cultures, success is the day you purchase your first house. In others, it’s getting a college degree.
In my personal pursuit of success, I spent a little over ten weeks studying at the University of Warwick as a one-term exchange student. It was a magnificent personal feat for my family—I had never been to Europe before 2016, and yet there I was, setting my foot down on the British soils for the very first time. I had never travelled to a new country alone with the purpose of living there, and yet there I was.
Four months later, I flew back to the city in which I was born in, the city in which my parents spent their youth. I haven’t visited my birth city ever since I started university, and visits to my grandparents were becoming scarce. It had a change in purpose, too: I used to come over for holidays, and now it’s for a visit due to their detrimental health. I walked into the familiar house, and that’s when my grandmother embraced me in a hug I didn’t even know she had strength for. She said she was really proud of me for being able to travel around the world and mustering up the courage to do so. I have never seen my grandmother be more proud of me.
It did not matter to her that my study abroad term was mandatory, that several hundred other people from my university followed suit in the pursuits of exchange. The world might have a million perceptions on what success is, but my grandmother has walked the earth for over 70 years and this is the success that matters to her. It matters, and that’s why it makes her proud.
I realized then and there that conforming into society’s definitions of success does not guarantee the satisfaction of my family members nor does it guarantee mine. I might be able to achieve certain career milestones if I put my mind to it, but it would never mean as much if it did not matter to me. Success is personal: communities do not work if every single person does the same job.
Guess the sixth semester is not too late to strip down the expectations people have towards being a BBA undergraduate, eh?
Blueaholic is listening to: Hamilton Cast – Schuyler Sisters