A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a bunch of old friends from my days of living at the 8th Residential College (better know as Kolej Kinabalu), during my student days at the University of Malaya. I first met this group, consisting of young energetic boys and charismatic girls during an interesting week in May, almost 19 years ago. This was the Orientation Week in campus where all the first year students got our first taste of life in campus.
It was indeed an interesting mix of people who stepped into campus that week. There were those from the cities and towns all around the country. Then there were those from the outskirts, villages and rural parts of the country. There were those who looked very much their age as a teenager crossing into young adulthood. Then there were those who looked very matured and experienced. There were those who looked confident and sure about where they were and what they were going to do. Then there were those who looked a little concerned about what the next couple of weeks held for them and what they were going to do about it.
Regardless of those differences, we slowly but surely got together, an odd group of mismatched people. We started off together, as we would be staying at the 8th Residential College, at least for the first year of our life on campus. Staying together, we slowly became each other’s family in abscence, in campus. As the week progressed we begun to be each other’s source of support and that is how it stayed throughout life in campus.
In the first week, we faced a number of questions as we settled into life in campus. There were questions that were considered as very complex at that time, such as details on getting registered for courses and classes at the various faculties, getting the student matrix cards, obtaining study loans and scholarships, navigating carefully through the myriad of forms and processes, and so much more. Then there were the silliest of questions, such as where and which public phones worked efficiently, how and where to get good food, fastest way to move between different places, which toilets worked well and other silly stuff. The fact was, we were each other’s immediate support group. Someone had information that someone else required. Someone always knew someone else from somewhere who may have the answer to the question that someone had. Someone was always around or a call away in the event help was needed.
During our time in campus, some of us would eat together during meal times at the Residential College or during supper. Some of us would end up queueing together, waiting for the public telephone to become available. Some of us would walk together to our various faculties. Considering where our Residential College was located, most us had long walks to our faculties and back. Some of us would work together during projects or activities organised by the various student bodies. Some of us would study together. All this helped us bond with each other even further.
As the weeks wore on, turning into months and then years, some moved closer to each other while others edged away slowly. Some moved on, as they associated themselves with different groups of people throughout life in campus. Some moved out of the Residential College to live at the various apartments nearby campus. Some spent more time at the faculty or library to work on their assignments or research and to study with their coursemates. Then there were some who spent more time working hard on wooing that special someone. Through it all, we would still get together for some common occasions like key activities that were held at the Residential College or for birthdays.
Due to the differences in the duration of study for the various courses in campus, some of us ended up graduating earlier than the others. Upon graduation, each of us started off with our respective careers and then worked hard building it. Some stayed on in Klang Valley. Some returned to their hometowns. Some moved to other parts of Malaysia. Some even migrated out of Malaysia. Some continued to further their education before looking for a job.
Through it all, some of us would get together during weddings as people started to get married. As the years rolled on though, we begun to lose touch with each other, keeping in touch with only those that we were very close with throughout life in campus. Of course, technology, especially Facebook, allowed some of us to keep track of each other but only by that much.
Then, someone decided to further the use of technology by creating a Watsapp group. The group grew slowly but surely, as each person added someone else. Eventually almost everybody that could be located were in the group and it seemed like we were back in campus, virtually.
There were days when the group chat would be flooded with so many messages that it took quite a while to read them all. I even recall asking for a summary as there were just so many messages to catch up with, which by the way I did get immediately. Then there were days in a stretch where the group would be silent. Birthdays and special occasions were celebrated within the Watsapp group. Seeing how we were enjoying each others’ companionship via the Watsapp group, someone finally suggested for a simple get together.
That was how, after almost 19 years, a small motley group of us found ourselves together in a quaint clubhouse-cum-restaurant nestled in a quiet part of Petaling Jaya, just outside University of Malaya. As we trickled into the clubhouse-cum-restaurant one at a time, we greeted and embraced each other. There was indeed a little bit of awkwardness for some of us in the beginning as we reintroduced and acquainted ourselves with one another. As the latecomers walked in, they were warmly welcomed into the fold.
Then, as the conversations warmed up, as the murmurs and laughters became louder, as we regaled each other with the funny, quirky, odd, scary or sad experiences, tales that only some knew but others had no knowledge about, we grew comfortable as a group, just as it was almost 19 years ago. Ahh…. how the young energetic boys and charismatic girls from almost 19 years ago, have morphed into awesome men and amazing women.
P.S.: The featured image was sourced from Pexels.