On graduation

A few days ago I took my last final online and, without ado, graduated. I thought I would celebrate that evening with something more than sleep and Netflix, and also very naively thought I would be able to get back on track on all my personal projects the very next day, but my Netflix binge has lasted two whole days (I watched the entire season of Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, a series which was very entertaining, even if not at all critically acclaimed).

I am now (maybe, sort of) back in the right headspace, well-rested and ready to work again, and desperately trying to finish everything I planned to complete in the limbo between graduation and the start of work. I had hoped to use this time to travel (to Australia, to visit my brother), but that, of course, is not possible now. I do not mean to sound bitter: I know that I am extraordinarily fortunate just to have found employment prior to graduation, so I’m at the very least not adrift in the ensuing economic storm. But back on topic: graduation.

Earlier this year, upon learning that I’m graduating this semester, my friend said, “Finally.” I retorted with “What do you mean by finally? I took just the right amount of time.” But right now, especially having spent the last weeks of my undergraduate education in isolation, it does feel like finally. It also feels like I matriculated last year, because all my memories of that semester are so vivid, and most of the intermediate semesters are a blur. I guess rites of passage draw up emotional clich├ęs.

I remember being set on studying Economics when I entered NUS. Back then it was mostly because I had done relatively well in H2 Economics, and wanted to work in a bank (I swiftly realized some time after matriculating that I had very little passion for finance). It was secondly because I had not done well enough to be admitted to law school, and most of everything else did not interest me. It was thirdly because at that time I expected that I would be able to muddle through most other majors I had a vague interest in – Political Science, Global Studies – because I had a natural affinity for these subjects, and wanted to challenge myself doing something more mathematical, having never been too good at math. I suppose this reason should be labelled youthful hubris.

Anyway, I began studying Economics, and it was serendipitous: if I had done better in the A Levels, I would have chosen Law; if I had not taken a gap year to work and chosen to enter university a little earlier, I might have been keener to tread the path of less resistance, and chosen to study something like Political Science instead. But I ended up studying Economics, and found that I love empirical work, and I love applied micro, and I love experimental work, and I love all the cool theories in papers I have and haven’t read. I remain not quite literate and certainly inarticulate in Economics, and struggle through papers sometimes (most of the time), and when I attend theory seminars sometimes (most of the time) I have no idea what’s going on. But I do love Economics, and want to get better at reading Economics, and I guess this may be read as a commitment to regular updates on this blog, as work permits.

Competitively debating and coaching debate (alongside completing other RA duties) while trying to take as many courses as I can to maximize learning in 4 years, approximately SGD 32,000, has not been easy. I think if I could go back I would have chosen to do many things differently. Coaching at two schools was definitely a bad idea, and I should have limited myself to one from the beginning. Maybe I should not have coached at all, but that would have left me financially stranded, so I don’t know. I wish I had obtained better grades in my time at NUS, but they are what they are, and the past is past. I hope there will be subsequent opportunities to study Economics again, and I hope that in these opportunities I will be able to devote myself full-time to my education.

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