Everyone said exchange would be a piece of cake: confirm pass, can’t fail. But that wasn’t the case for me.
During my exchange semester in South Korea at Yonsei University, I decided to take a total of 6 modules. They would all be credited as pass/fail modules anyway, so I figured I might as well take more so that I wouldn’t have to worry during my last semester back in NTU.
I opted for 1 mathematics module, 3 economics modules, 1 liberal arts elective and 1 business elective. I thought the examination requirements were manageable, so I didn’t worry much.
When the midterm period came round, I studied normally just like how I would have studied for any other midterm in NTU. I thought that would be fine because I just needed to pass the midterms.
Out of the 6 modules, I had a midterm for everything except the liberal arts module (just a presentation for this instead). And because the economics modules were all theory-based, I assumed I could just write something that made sense related to the theory, so I didn’t put in that much effort.
However, when the midterms came, I came out of every midterm feeling depressed. One of the economics module was a total shocker: the lecture notes were all theory, but the midterm was all calculations! I couldn’t do most of it … all I could do was pray for a miracle.
Because I was failing everything.
I recall trying to finish one of my assignments before church service on Friday night.
I was really struggling, googling books and answers, but nothing was helping. I had agreed to do street evangelism with my church friends, but I was still stuck on the assignment.
So I told them to go ahead without me because I had to finish my work. And even after they had evangelised for more than an hour, I still had nothing written on my paper. I thought I was screwed because all the Korean students would have solved it and submitted long answers … but mine would just be a blank piece of paper.
Funny thing was, I attempted the question again a few days later and finished it in 20mins. Seriously?! I could have done street evangelism with my friends instead of wasting that time away. I should have trusted in God’s providence of time and wisdom, but I relied on my own will.
This made me question what happened to my reliance on God. Because just a month ago, I also had to choose between a school assignment and church. Even though my church leaders told me to focus on my studies, I decided to rely on God’s time and wisdom to complete my assignment.
I got 92/100 for that assignment … How could I forget that?
I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to.
As the finals approached, I started to redo my notes and past papers and attended consultations.
I spent so much of my time studying at cafes that cafe owners recognised me. I tried to plan my time better like waking up earlier to study – or studying between church events.
I tried my best to juggle studying and serving at church because I didn’t want to stop helping out at church just because of my grades (I only had to pass, after all). I really believed in what God was doing in South Korea and I wanted to be a part of it as much as I could before I left.
On the day that scores were released on the school portal, I saw that only 2 of my 6 modules had scores posted. I knew that the scores were not the final grades I would be receiving, but they were indicators if I was going to pass or fail the module.
And it wasn’t looking good. I felt so screwed when I saw my results: 18/100 for Public Finance and 8.5/100 for Money and Banking. My parents would flip if I couldn’t graduate on time because I failed my modules! I tried to play it cool but I was panicking inside.
All that was left was to trust in God’s providence though everything looked impossible. How was God going to help me pass in this situation?
As I waited nervously for my final results, I was planning what additional modules I would take when I got home. But on the third day, I checked my grades to find that somehow I had passed all my modules! None of it made any sense.
The next day when I went to church, my heart was just filled with gratefulness. It was an unexplainable gratefulness. It really made no sense, but everything worked out: I was able to serve at church while receiving the grades I wanted. So of course, I had to ask the important question to God: “What are You teaching me?”
I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to. Having demanded God to bless me just because I had served Him was foolish. I initially served because I just wanted to help the church in whatever way I could. But somewhere along the way I had served because I wanted to be blessed by Him.
And that was what God was trying to teach me: Not to have the wrong starting point. It’s really about reliance on God when it comes to studies because there’s no way we can do it by ourselves.
His grace doesn’t really make sense, but that’s just what it is.