‘So where are you from, Jackie?’
‘Yup – Capetown’
I don’t know why I said what I did to Rodney – probably the first Aussie guy to show a modicum of interest in me. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I had done adequately in my HSC to secure a spot at Sydney University. Rodney was one of my fellow Economics students – a pretty smart, geeky guy. I, on the other hand, was all at sea with my subject choices. I’d picked Economics because one of my brothers had told me it was the sensible thing to do – Asians are meant to be good with numbers after all. I picked Psychology because it sounded interesting and was gaining in popularity.
At my first Psych lecture the hall was filled to the brim with students. It was extremely hot and stuffy, and the lecture, on different brain functions, was incredibly dull. I fell asleep halfway through. I never went back.
Economics was made up mainly of Asian students – apparently they’d all overheard my brother’s advice and signed up in droves. From Day One, we were given a 3000-word assignment to write about the recent Federal Budget speech by Treasurer Paul Keating, and analyse the micro and macro economic implications on the Australian economy.
I had no idea what that was all about. I’d done Science and Arts subjects at high school – History, Physics, Chem, Bio, you name it – but nothing Accounting or Finance or Economics-related. I didn’t even know what micro and macro economics meant. So, I recruited Rodney’s help. Over a couple of meetings, he kept pressing me on where I was from – evidently he wasn’t convinced I was from South Africa. He must have finally asked one of my lecturers, since no-one else in my new environment would know my background – so he said one day – ‘You’re from Malaysia, aren’t you?’
I refused to concede. ‘Nope – South Africa’. I’d gone as far as to look up South Africa in the encyclopaedia, so I was armed with a smattering of facts about the country in case I was interrogated further. I wasn’t remotely interested in Rodney, and I didn’t care about lying through my teeth– I didn’t even care that he didn’t believe me – I just enjoyed messing with his head.
Anyway, despite whatever help Rodney could afford me with my essay, I knew it was so bad I didn’t even bother collecting the assignment back after handing it in. I just withdrew from all my courses (except one – which I didn’t get around to – so I was subsequently awarded an ‘Absent Fail’ for it) – and dropped out of university.