Leaving the Comfort Zone to Live Independently Abroad in Pursuit of Education
I was born and raised in Singapore, a modern urban jungle. Due to land scarcity, the island is filled with skyscrapers so that the residents have a home built upwards. To experience nature, we would travel out of Singapore. Singapore has many advantages being a small country; we have one of the world-best public transport infrastructures; we also have malls and countless of eateries and 24/7 convenience shops in each neighbourhood. Life in Singapore is quite convenient with all sorts of delivery services; McDonald’s for example, delivers to our doorsteps 24/7, even though there are at least a few McDonald’s chains within walking distance from home.
For a period of 6 years, I rarely left my apartment. I went out to run errands once every 3 to 4 months; other times, I traveled out of the country 2-3 times a year for 10-14 days each trip for vacations. Life was safe, somewhat comfortable, and seemingly complacent.
I moved to live and study in Perth, Australia since Feb 2015. I started to plan for my relocation since Jun 2014 as I needed more time to take each necessary step in contacting the university, disability support officers, immigration offices, government officials, financial institutes, healthcare providers, psychiatrist and psychologist, movers, and most importantly the accommodation liaison in Perth. I was told that normally, students only needed 2 months to complete the process; I knew I needed more time to prepare myself mentally and be ready for the major changes. Usually, accommodation arrangement was lower in priority; living arrangement, was of paramount importance to me – it’s an Aspie no-brainer, if I couldn’t live there, I couldn’t study (or do anything) there.
I have accomplished all those tasks independently; it would have been easier to have help, but the tasks are accomplishable independently with early planning and organization. Even though I am also effected by executive functions, I have fairly high self-discipline in keeping track of tasks – using Reminders app and plenty of post-it notes. Singapore is not exactly a welfare country, she practices self-efficacy and encourages self-sustainability. In short, if I did not learn how to manage tasks, no one will do it for me. Although it was forced upon me, with hindsight, I am quite thankful to have acquired this life-skill.
Living overseas alone is not the easiest thing, especially that I have a specific learning challenge (Dyscalculia) that impacts heavily on my spatial ability. Getting to places in Perth without a private transport is proving to be challenging, but again, it can be overcome by planning in advance using bus app and maps app. Advance planning helps mitigate anxiety due to unexpected incidents. Sharing the living space with other people is the biggest challenge, but it also ‘forces’ me to learn to set boundaries and make tolerable compromises - something that may be helpful later with working with other people at workplace.
Life is hard, for everyone, on the autism spectrum or not. We all have some levels of difficulties in different areas, but we should actively seek for a workaround so that we could also enjoy the joy of traveling, experiencing a completely different culture, and living independently. I will not lie that I have experienced intensified emotions and episodes of meltdowns since I moved to Perth, but these ‘hardships’ will not deter me from moving forward with my journey. I am a psychology student, I major in social and developmental psychology. I am hoping to use my personal experiences and knowledge to develop effective coping and learning skills for people with pervasive developmental disorder; to live a fuller life.
My name is Lis Sun, I am currently a second year Psychology student at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. I am a blogger, and crochet toy (Amigurumi) designer - I design and sell crochet patterns and some artworks to support myself. In 2013, I received the diagnosis for Asperger’s Syndrome, comorbid with generalized anxiety disorder and dyscalculia-like traits. My blog: http://quirkymissy.com
My craft business: http://simpleartsplanet.com