Putting aside her childhood dreams of becoming a flight attendant, Joy Pui Yen Tan took her mother’s advice to attend college in America. Her mother thought attending college overseas would give her a broader view and a different perspective on things. After deciding to come to the U.S., Tan looked to the South with a desire to experience that southern hospitality she had heard about. Southern Arkansas University caught her attention with its curriculum offerings, scholarships and affordable fees.
Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tan was homeschooled, which is not as commonplace as is it is in the U.S. Spending time with her mother, she heard intriguing stories of her life as a flight attendant for Saudi Arabian Airlines before Tan was born.
“All her stories seemed so magical and amazing, and I always had it in my head that one day when I grow up I would travel the world, just like her,” Tan said.
As she grew older, she has had chances to travel and learned just how tough and taxing working for the airlines would be. So far she’s traveled to Singapore, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Dubai, China and the U.S. She’s deciding that she would also like to one day see Europe and the rest of the world, but as an airplane passenger, not an employee.
The hardest part about coming to the states was actually living away from home for the first time. She was excited to come to SAU, but she would miss home, friends and family. At the airport her friends gave her a going away gift, but told her not to open it until she was on the plane. She managed to hold in her tears during the good-byes, until she opened the gift on the plane. It was a T-shirt scribbled with messages from all of her friends.
She has enjoyed how friendly and accommodating everyone at SAU is. She recognizes that Southern hospitality is a real virtue.
“People hold doors open for other people, strangers say ‘hi,’ that sort of thing,” said Tan. “That’s something I don’t see a lot of in Malaysia.”
Now a junior psychology major, Tan likes the smaller class sizes and individual attention she gets at SAU. She’s in Honors College, but has also joined the International Student Association, Psychology Club and Psi Chi. She is a President’s Ambassador and a supplemental instructor for general psychology and statistics.
Her favorite professors are Dr. Ed Kardas, who is her advisor and Honors College Director, and psychology professor Dr. Chrisanne Christensen.
“They’ve given me much solid advice and guidance during my time here at SAU. I’ve worked closely with them long enough to know that they genuinely want to see me succeed both academically and in life, and that was something I never expected,” said Tan.
While she doesn’t really have a favorite class, she knows she lacks interest in chemistry.
Once she finishes her psychology degree at SAU, she plans to go on to graduate school, and possibly on to a Ph.D.
Tan thinks getting out of her comfort zone has been one of her best experiences and she encourages others to stretch beyond theirs and reach for their goals.
“Do your absolute best. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, because that’s where you gain the most experience. Know your goals and make sure you keep up with them.”
The one thing she hasn’t had time to do while at SAU is start a gaming club to foster her love of video games. She hopes it’s something she will find time to do in the future.
As she’s nearing the completion of her bachelor’s degree, she appreciates the support from her family and the great experience she has had at SAU. She can’t think of a single thing she would change, if she could.
“I’m glad [my parents] didn’t let me choose to study back home,” she said. “The experience I’ve gained here is priceless.”