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  • Sofea from ELEVEN

Freshman Reflections

Having been part of the Integrated Programme (IP), I lived my life comfortably for six years within my little bubble, surrounded by the familiar set of faces I saw every day in school. At the tender age of 12, I made a decision not to take the GCE ‘O’ Level examinations - a burden which I had to bear six years later, with self-imposed pressure to excel at ‘A’ Levels in order to finally pursue my passions.

Fast forward, here I was, about to accept my offer to enter NTU. Coincidentally, among my close handful of friends, none of them accepted their NTU offers. All of them were going to different schools - NUS, SMU, and overseas universities, you name it. Not only was I left to cope in an entirely new environment, I also didn’t exactly have friends I could speak with. Worse still, all orientation programmes were being conducted online so there was only so much interaction I could do with people on Zoom.

Then again, being alone wasn’t exactly a daunting prospect for me because there really was nothing I could do except to forcibly step out of my comfort zone to speak to someone new. Yet, it seems easy when I objectively view the transition from junior college to university as the act of stepping out of a smaller bubble into a slightly bigger one.

When the semester finally started, I encountered some issues balancing my ongoing commitments on top of having to learn new content. Apart from the completely foreign knowledge that I had to study, I also had to cope with frequent eczema flare-ups which happened almost every single day. This wasn’t always the case, my first ever flare-up happened back in 2020, but my condition gradually became better over time with medication. This particular condition affects the palms of my hands, where my skin gets very dry if left unmoisturised. Blisters start to form and when many of them grow in one particular spot, they form a large blister.

Yes, it is troublesome, but it’s actually worse than you think it is. At times when I could not moisturise my hands readily, parts of my palms started to crack and bleed. This was the most annoying part of my condition. With random parts of my hands bleeding, it was hard to take showers, what more having to wash my hands? After about three trips to the GP, I was told to wear gloves to protect my hands from any foreign surfaces or materials that might aggravate the inflammation.

Even as I type away furiously at this keyboard, I’m currently wearing a glove on my left hand. Previously, I was advised to wear them on both my hands, which significantly hindered my daily activities. When I attended activities or met new people, they would always question, “Why are you wearing gloves?”. To which I’d reply with a genuine answer, “I have eczema on my hands,” and laugh it off. People who made jokes about me being cold or asking if I’m in a foreign country made my days; it was the smallest of things that made me the slightest bit happier.

Before I moved into my hall, I made it a point to make sure I had a personal Qur’an I could bring and recite from whenever I could. I chose The Clear Qur'an, courtesy of Aida Azlin and other content creators I follow who constantly make references to this particular version of translations. The Arabic language is, as we all know, unique and one of a kind. You can never really fully understand the verses with both heart and mind unless you can comprehend Arabic, so my method of overcoming this particular challenge was to study it in the two main languages I know: English and Malay.

The hardcover book weighs heavily on these infected, cracked palms of mine. Past Sofea made a wise, and I daresay, a darn good decision to purchase a copy. By that I meant I flipped back to my favourite verse that I hold dear to my heart, through and through:

“Fighting has been made obligatory upon you ‘believers’, though you dislike it. Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know.” (The Qur'an, 2:216)

We are to trust in Allah’s plans - to have faith in what He has in store for us. Again, whatever Allah SWT has willed, will happen.

Thinking about the next step to take can be incredibly daunting, but the decisions you make now will matter in time to come. At the next junction, you will probably see the implications and consequences of your past decisions. Past me thought it would be a good idea to purchase The Clear Qur'an and currently, I have never been more grateful for a decision made in the past. Past me gathered the courage to speak to someone in my major and currently I have someone I can very comfortably speak to. These were all decisions that have led to a good outcome.

However, the eczema on my hands is a chronic condition, so there is only so much I can do about it. The extent to which I can control how frequent the flare-ups are is minimal. If this is the path that Allah SWT has willed for me, then so be it.

Readily accepting and being content with God’s will or decree, also known as Rida, is something I had to learn the hard way. Everyone likes being in control of their own actions and the outcome of the actions. This makes us feel as if we have some control over our lives. When we lack control, we feel helpless and sometimes, it can get really overwhelming.

"He is the One Who gives life and causes death. When He decrees a matter, He simply tells it, “Be!” And it is!” (The Qur'an, 40:68)

We can only choose to do our best and make du’a constantly for ourselves, for those around us and for the ummah. Meanwhile, we still ought to forge our own path ahead with strength and courage. It was a difficult time but Alhamdulillah, I am coping so much better now with school with regards to juggling my commitments and my medical conditions. I am ever so grateful for the friends I have made so far; friends that I can have delicious meals with and supportive family members.



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