I haven’t seen my college transcript in 11+ years.
Has it been that long?
I hate being reminded of my college life. Those 7 years (6.5 in actuality) I desperately want to forget but can’t. I know there are a few people who would see my trials and tribulations as something to be proud of, perhaps, but I’m simply too damaged at this point to do so. I only see it as 7 years of utter embarrassment.
When I graduated in 2007, I bundled up the whole 7 years and shoved them all into a can and sealed it. Then I buried it as deep as I could, hoping that I will never have to dig it back up again.
Since I haven’t worked a job in the United States at all (10 years), sometimes job applications want proof of college attendance in exchange for working experience. That required me to find my official copy of college transcript somewhere on my shelves and making a digital copy so that I can append it to any applications that need proof of college credits.
Nobody mentioned anything about recent college credits. A degree’s a degree, and I’ve got two.
As I stood scanning my transcript – all 6 pages of it – into PDF files, my eyes habitually began scanning the text on those pages.
And the memories burst out of the can and resurfaced like a tsunami wave to crash over my head.
I didn’t want to go to college. I told my father so, but he didn’t give me an option. I was going because there was nothing else out there for me. Taiwan was filled with people who had college degrees, Master’s, and Doctorate’s degrees. For someone like me fresh out of high school without any higher education, I wouldn’t have stood a single chance of supporting myself.
My father knew better, so I half-heartedly plowed on in my journey of preparations.
Problem was, my father didn’t even give me a choice what I would have liked to pursue. I had thought about areas such as architecture, but as I had finally gotten a little glimpse of the world of psychology during my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I figured I would venture forth in psychology.
My father said there wasn’t a future to be had in psychology. Stay in business, he said. When I tried to talk to my mother, her only answer was, “your father knows best.”
My father didn’t know best, but that is a lesson I will learn much too late.
I started college in the Spring of 2001. Freshman orientation takes place two weeks before classes started, so I arrived in Houston on January 5, 2001 with my guts half thrown up, the other half shoved into my lungs, and my heart in my throat.
I actually got food poisoning on that flight from Taipei, Taiwan to Los Angeles, California, and while my father slept on the flight, I didn’t.
I spent that time looking at my father’s face and crying. I was scared out of my mind. I remembered I didn’t want to go to college, and that I had been on a whirlwind schedule of flights, consulates, and visa papers to get to this point. I shouldn’t have been on that plane, but for whatever reason, I didn’t want to let that man sitting next to me down.
I was going to college as an undecided.
My father was leaving again in 3 days to return to his job… a job that was paying for this education… and I would be alone.
The whirlwind that began before I got to the United States didn’t stop. Bank accounts, cell phone, phone cards, registration at UH, seeing advisors, looking at potential class selection lists…
Or more accurately, what classes still had open slots for me. By the time I even saw the class selection booklet, the majority of the classes I should be in were already full.
Because I missed the minimum SAT Verbal score by 10 points for the state of Texas, I was required to take the TASP exam – the Texas Academic Skills Program exam. It is no longer called a TASP exam. Between the time I took it and now, the state of Texas has re-evaluated and changed the test, probably to match with whatever common core standards that are set through the years.
The college offered what was called a Quick TASP, and I was signed up to take that on January 8, 2001.
The exam took 6 hours to get through three sections: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics, not necessarily in that order.
My recollection isn’t the best, but I believe we didn’t really have breaks. The 6-hour exam began either at noon or at 1pm, and aside from bathroom breaks, we weren’t breaking for food, snacks, stretching, or anything.
It was grueling.
Here’s a snapshot of the final results of my TASP exam:
If you noticed, there are 2 different dates. That’s because I had to re-take the Reading portion of that exam as I missed the minimum passing score by 1 point. It was retaken on March 9, 2001.
Reading comprehension has always been a challenge for me growing up as I learned English, but on January 8, 2001, it wasn’t because I couldn’t understand what I was reading.
I couldn’t see what I was reading.
That was because January 8th – the day of my exam – was the same day my father was leaving, and I was crying through the entire 6-hour exam that I couldn’t reschedule.
The day before, January 7th, I had just moved out of the hotel we were staying at and into the temporary dorms at UH for international students attending orientation. My father departed back to his hotel room after dinner, and I simply laid in bed with the brand new cell phone he bought me next to my head.
Only thing I did was cry as I willed for my father to call me.
I was scared. I was lonely. I didn’t want to be there.
I was trying to come to terms with being completely alone.
My father did call, but I’ll be damned if I remember now what he said to me then. I just remembered trying to swallow back my tears and not sound like I had been crying and begging silently in my head for my father to never hang up the phone.
The call didn’t last long… maybe 15-20 minutes. We said our good-byes. My father gave me words of encouragement. The call ended.
I only remembered crying myself to sleep after my father hung up. I didn’t get a chance to see him the next day before he departed for the airport as he didn’t have a car, and the hotel was a ways away from campus.
I didn’t have tissue with me for the exam. Words swam in my vision. The math wasn’t difficult, and I’ve written enough in my life that I don’t need absolutely clear vision to write any semblance of coherent thought on paper.
The reading, however, I was doing through a veil of tears. I couldn’t concentrate, and all I could think of was my father on a plane… a plane that was taking him further and further away from me with every passing minute.
By the time I finished at 4.5 hours, both my long sleeves were soaked from wiping my face and I was completely dehydrated. My insides were compressed into what felt like a 2 inch x 2 inch x 2 inch cube.
I couldn’t think, see, or hear.
I stumbled out of the test center, somehow made my way back to my room with my own two feet…
I didn’t have much of an appetite. I knew I had to eat and drink something, so I finally tore open a ramen cup, filled it with hot tap water, waited the required 3 minutes, ate it, and went to bed.
That’s how college began for me.
It only went downhill from there.