Sharing the lessons I learned when I was abroad

Moving abroad is not easy. It challenges you in so many ways you’ve never been before. Every day was full uncertainty, loneliness, and unhappiness.

At least that’s how I felt.

As some of you know, I moved from Vancouver, a beautiful city I’ve called home for the last 12 years to halfway across the world, Bali. Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s gorgeous there. The beach, the daily sunshine, the people. All that is true. And, I was also moving back to the country where I was born and raised in. My parents couldn’t be happier.

I was happy to go on this exciting new endeavour too but little did I realize it’s not all fun and games.

On March 23, 2017, I was invited to speak to a group of students who are thinking of moving abroad to advance their career. I had a hard time thinking about what I should say. Do I sugarcoat everything, or tell the truth even if it might discourage them? 


I decided to go with the latter but focus mostly on the lessons learned. Here’s what I shared:

First and foremost, you have to know and embrace the fact that you will be uncomfortable for awhile. But have a goal in mind and set your mini milestones to get you through. Then,

  • Be open minded and be willing to learn new things
  • Observe, listen, speak their language. Not just the verbal language, but the implicit.
  • Have allies – build trust, spend time to get to know them and they will let you into their world
  • Find a club or association to be a part of

All these take time. There will be many lonely nights where you question yourself why you made the decision to move. When those nights come, remember what you’ve achieved. Zoom out, don’t get caught in the small details, but appreciate every little thing you’ve done.

Also, make sure you have a support system. I am lucky to have amazing friends who were always ready to cheer me on and some even came to visit! 

During the panel session, one of the students asked what self development books or podcast do we recommend. My fellow speakers, Gordon Ching and Jared Lim, both have great recommendations. As for me, I let the students in to one of my coveted life secrets. YOLO. You Only Live Once. So go out there and experiment (but be safe please). I’m an experiential type of person, no book can really convince me to do this or that. I have to learn it myself, either the fun way or the hard way. The latter happens more.

Thank you AIESEC UBC and GradusOne for hosting this event and the kind invitation to let me share my story.

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Such is life

Imagine going to sleep with bad news and waking up to even more bad news.

Well, that has been what my world has been like for the past three weeks. Every day I wake up finding something has gone wrong and by the time I sleep, there are more things that gone wrong. While they are not a matter of life and death issues, but they have a big impact nonetheless. It is draining to be in school while working and maintaining a relationship, but I have been proving it for the last 13 weeks that I can do it. I am not everybody. I have my own ambitions and ways to make it work.

But now I don’t know if I could continue on.

There’s just more added stress than what I have anticipated. While I know it is not my fault, I still feel responsible. I know this post is rather vague and if you are visiting my blog for the first time, you might be confused of what the hell I am talking about. Well, this blog is my way to expressing my thoughts. The posts are unedited and grammar is not my main focus.

So now here I am, 13 weeks past the first day of the Pre-MBA courses and about to start my MBA in 3 weeks. If anyone thinks my life has been so easy, well it is because I made it look easy for you. Those who are actually close to me would know that it is not as simple as it seems. I’m not complaining because I do not regret a single thing, but I just wish it is simpler.

I’m thankful though to have great friends and be in a supportive relationship. EP helps me cope. When I get my random mood drop, he would not leave me alone, he would not get mad at me. Instead, he stopped everything he’s doing and tried everything in his power to cheer me up. It feels great to be loved like that.

Lessons from the stars

There’s just something magical about spending the night under the stars, all cuddled up. At the start of (almost all) my relationships, my (then) boyfriend would say “We should go stargazing sometime!” and then we never did.

But with meteor showers in the forecast, there’s no better excuse to go. So EP and I drove all the way to the ski hill area of Cypress at 10pm. I have always enjoyed driving but last night’s drive was definitely more than enjoyable. I felt like I was one with the car, the wind in my hair, the music serenading the trip up.

Once there, I was distracted with messages I got on my phone but EP wasn’t. He’s there to look at the stars and he quickly saw the meteors that were showering the night sky. I looked up and was feeling frustrated that I couldn’t see any. He said “To see one, you have to look.” And as soon as I put away my phone and just focus on the sky, sure enough I started seeing the meteors passing by.

I would not say the night was the most romantic one ever, because it was not, but it made me realize one thing:

Stars

It’s a vast universe. There are over 7 billion people in the world. Yet EP and I managed to find each other and that itself, is special.

I tried capturing the night sky with my Canon 5D mark ii and was pleasantly surprised by a few of the blindly-captured photos we took:14012570_10157486956185647_1110761575_o14002327_10157486956295647_485226288_o14001740_10157486956015647_159097859_o

Thank you stars for reminding me that I’m just a tiny speck in this universe. I’m also reminded that some stars are brighter than others and I wish to be one that helps shine the night.


Photo taken with Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm lens
Edited with Photoshop CS3
Cypress Mountain, West Vancouver, B.C.

Down the runway

When I was younger, I did a couple fun runway modelling. I wasn’t exactly the leanest nor tallest girl in the cohort, but I had this huge confidence in me that led me to be chosen. I modelled a few children’s clothing and the last time I modelled, it was for an Indian fashion show.

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It was one of the most memorable high school activities I’ve ever participated in. It was my first time putting a Sari too and I felt wonderful in it. I love the soft silk and the bright colours. I love walking down the stage, popping my hips, and smiling widely to the audience. Above all, I love being silly and being someone else for a change.

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Earlier this month, I wrote an article about confidence and how it seems to decrease as we gets older. That’s just the sad truth. We’re all so busy thinking about what others might think of us, but what’s the fun in that? So when I was presented with an opportunity to put on some fancy clothes from Holt Renfrew, I took it.

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Before going out to the mini “runway”, I asked myself if I want to be mediocre and walk out quickly, or if I want to make an impression. I chose the latter. I channeled the confidence young Stephanie had and I walked down the runway with confidence. I played with the outfit and I teased the audience with my poses. I’m not quite sure if it’s very chic or Holt Renfrew-y, but I knew I accomplished my mission when a throng of women from the audience just came to say hi to me afterwards and complimented my style.

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They liked how cheeky I was and how much fun I expressed. I liked that too. For a few minutes, I wasn’t the introverted emo Stephanie. I was the confidence young Stephanie. I like that side of me and please don’t mind me if I be more cheeky more often.

Digital Notebook

She said, “How analog of you..” as  she pointed to my notebook. I have always considered myself as a (relatively) techie person, but I still take notes mostly with my notebook. There’s nothing wrong with it, but after seeing what she used to take notes, I was sold.

The next few days, I went hunting for Wacom Bamboo stylus that I can use with my iPad 1 that has been doing nothing but collecting dust for the last four years. I finally got it yesterday and been playing around with it. Honestly, the experience has been surprisingly pleasant. I love the ability of creating notes, choosing colours and stroke width, and storing all of them in one single device. It’s brilliant.

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While playing with the different iPad apps (Paper 53, Skitch, InkFlow, and Bamboo Paper), I thought of something clever. I can use my iPad as a drawing tablet! So I downloaded TeamViewer which lets me to control my laptop using my iPad, then I opened Illustrator and started drawing on the iPad. It worked great, though it’s not as sensitive as I wanted it to be. But this means I no longer have to draw on paper, then scan and trace it on Illustrator. I like different parts of the four apps I have mentioned, but Bamboo Paper seems to be the closest to what I needed it for: create PDF, sync with Evernote, multiple stroke width, colours, and books. Though I really liked InkFlow’s ability to select and move objects around. Hopefully Bamboo will incorporate this soon enough.

I know the possibility with gadgets like the iPad is endless, but I finally found a great reason to bring it around and use it. How about you? What do you use to take notes and doodle?

 

Inspire It Forward

Everyone has a bright future, sometimes they just need a little push to get where they are.

Growing up, I had difficulties figuring out who I am and what I want to be, and for awhile, I wished I was Peter Pan. However, after attending Jillian Walker‘s workshop at Beyond Pink 2010 Conference about How to Become a Hot Commodity, I was determined to take actions. I have personally grown so much since then and I am both proud and amazed at myself with where I am today.

It has been such an incredible journey and there were lots of uncertainties along the way, but I kept listening to my heart and did everything with some sort of rationale. Recently, I had the honour to share my story on InternMatch.com, a website providing job-seeking students with great resources on job opportunities, career guides, and success stories. I’ve received a great response from the article, both from my sphere of networks and from others on the interwebs.

Fueled with excitement, I decided to launch a new initiative. Every 2 weeks I will be setting aside an hour of my time to meet with an undergrad / recent grad, to listen to their life story and share mine. I honestly always feel so motivated and inspired after hearing stories from others, so I hope my stories would inspire them too. In return, I will ask them to write a blog post summarizing the meeting including what they were expecting, what they learned, and what their next steps are. I will also challenge them to do another informational interview with someone from their dream company or that have their dream job in the next 30 days.

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I had so many doors in front of me and a number of keys in hand, but I had no idea which key I should try first. The push I got from Jillian helped me sort out the keys and remove the barriers that ultimately brought me to where I am today. I had my push back in 2010 and now it’s my turn to push others to the next level (#payitforward). Tweet me at @stephawie or leave a comment below if you’re interested!

The Value of Small Steps

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At the end of 2012, in the midst of celebrating the change of the year, I could not stop thinking about my resolutions and goals for 2013. I had the same difficulty back in 2011. I always asked myself why resolutions only seem to be thought of at the end of a year? Why could not we start at the moment we wanted a change. Maybe it is easier to have a benchmark, so when we reach the resolution, we can see the progress we have gone through during the period of time. To me, setting goals for the new year is quite difficult because we are always so enthusiastic about the new year, which in turn make our goals be a bit too enthusiastic too. Maybe some of us set a goal to lose weight, to earn double the salary, buy a house, whatever it is, we like big goals. When these goals are not achieved, we get disappointed and lose the drive for the rest of the year.

Before we can start walking, we have to learn how to fall and get up again. Before then, we have to learn to crawl. We often forget the little steps we went through, but like a baby, I prefer to work on a goal through small steps.

Small things can help us everyday to get closer to our bigger goals. For example, I want to lose weight. To get to the weight I am aiming for, I would have to sign myself up to a gym and eat less. But because I am so enthusiastic in losing the extra fat quickly, I force myself to do these two things, however it only lasted for 2 weeks. After that, I would continue making up excuses to not go and as days go by, we are further and further away from reaching that goal.

Instead, consider this. If you dedicate 15 minutes of your morning everyday to run around the block, would not that sound easier? Before last year, I never joined any run competitions, but I set a goal with my sister to jog every day. At the end of the 5th month, I was able to run 10km in 1 hour 8 minutes. It’s not a very impressive time, but this success was what I needed to help me be more excited to continue the training. 

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We can also achieve great things from small steps, like:

  • Learn a new skill. Learn something new for 15 minutes, whether it is by reading an article, or play an instrument, or a new language.
  • Bring happiness. Help a child learn to read by reading him/her a bedtime story, give alms to the needy, lend your umbrella to a coworker, visit an orphanage. You never know how much a few minutes of your time mean to someone.
  • Exercise. Cannot go to the gym today? No problem. Get to your office by taking the stairs, walk further, do push up at home. Every movement counts.
  • Create something. Read a book every morning while you take a sip of your tea, write a story in the midst of the traffic, make a birthday card. Open up your creative mind and enjoy your creations.
  • Save up. Want to travel or buy a new electronic? If we withdraw a big sum of money from the bank right away, then it becomes a heavy burden. Instead, we can save up, $5 everyday for example, slowly that would add up, but you would not feel the “loss” as much.
  • Be thankful. Write 3 things of everyday things that made you happy.
  • Nurture your relationship. When was the last time you call your grandparents, or sing for your siblings? Put aside sometime to make your special ones’ day as special as they are.
  • Create change. We often think that our vote would not make a difference, but we all know it takes many individuals to make a change. Support things that are important to you and join in signing petitions for a good change.
  • Save the earth. Turn off the lights in a room that you’re not in, recycle your papers, put the trash in the bin. So many little things that can help save our planet earth. 

Use the list above to get you started to think about what small steps you can do everyday. There are millions of other ways you can do to make this year more productive without forcing yourself. Be sure to reward yourself every time you achieve something.

Write in the comments below the things you are hoping to achieve this year and your plans of how to reach them.

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*** This post was originally published for StartupBisnis: http://startupbisnis.com/the-value-of-small-steps-by-stephawie/

Experience Reviews

How many food bloggers are there? How many people write on UrbanSpoon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other review websites everyday? Thousands.

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I rarely spend any time writing reviews and I often feel it’s redundant seeing how many people that are already doing that, but in December I had a little epiphany. While I was thinking about my career path and life in general, it hit me that no one really writes about experience. Sure they write about their experience with the food, the service, but only as if experience is a secondary thing. To me, experience is one important aspect that have led me to make so many life decisions and it continues to be something I always look for.

Think about it, when you want to go to get food, you consider the last place you have been to or the new restaurant you heard of. You think about how happy you were when you visited a place and this experience includes the food, the service, decor, and everything else that determine if a place worth to be visited twice or not. When a guest is in town, I always find it difficult to look for a place to bring to that would have a lasting memory. People don’t go to a restaurant merely to have the food, but to have the full experience. While the service at McDonalds might be sloppy, the value of the meal is what get people to come back. At the same time, the food at a fine dining restaurant is usually not too filling, but the service is great. Same as marketing campaigns, there are thousands of them being produced and implemented everyday, but ultimately only a few goes viral for the feel they give to the audience and the cohesiveness with the brand.

Experience is something we feel, yet is often forgotten.

So with this in mind, I feel like I just found a new challenge for me. I want to write “Experience Reviews”. I want to share my experience of a certain place, certain product, certain website. Everything that I feel about them, from what I taste, to what I hear, see, smell, and feel. We are human with five sense organs and it would only make sense to write a full review, making the whole experience as the primary goal.

Five-senses

Am I being too blunt here? Do you think review sites are doing this already?

Networking Events

Last week I attended an event at a very hip and “happening” Hotel in Bali, the W Resort and Spa. It was held by the most prestigious society and lifestyle magazine in Indonesia, in partnership with a popular international fashion brand. The event, as expected, was full of socialites and therefore, created a different aura than what I am used to.

I was quickly disgusted by how pretentious everyone looked, from how they talk to each other, to how they dress, and carry themselves. I value genuinity above all else, so I wanted to leave the event as soon as possible.

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Networking, at its very core, is where people can meet and extend their circle of friends. However, I have seen a shift in networking events where people now often go to look for potential career opportunities. I don’t blame them though because the popular saying do say “who you know, is more important than what you know”. I, too, must admit that I have gone to a few of them for this particular reason. 

So I’m curious, why do you go to networking events? What type and how often? 

Bits about Event Planning

It’s hard to be an Event Planner. 

I was going to be one based on the successes I’ve had with my events, but I quickly realized how exhausting it is to be one. Sure every job has its perks and downside, but event planning definitely is in another level. You have to work long hours and mostly in the weekend; during weekdays, you have to make friends with vendors; time and people management is as important as creative thinking and communicating with clients, vendors, and staff. Not a lot of people realize how much work an Event Planner does until they plan their own event. 

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For Halloween this year, I went to support my SFU classmate at her event. She recently founded a Wedding Coordination company and from my previous experience working with her at school, I knew she’d do a splendid job. It was a fun event and the venue (Heritage Hall on Main St) was quite cool.

The intentions were all in the right places, but there were a few keytakeaways I learned:

  • Setting the mood is important. The Hosts/Organizers were both dressed up to scare and I felt the chills when they entered, but the mood was soon gone as they both introduced themselves. Owning the crowd and making the whole decoration, food, mood all cohesive is important.
  • The games planned was fun, but only involved a certain number of people at a time. People get bored easily, especially if they’re not engaged. So after the first game, people started to move back to their little groups of friends.
  • The Event Planner was playing the planner, decorator, chef, waitress, and MC all at the same time. It didn’t work and would never work. She has to learn to delegate some of these tasks to other people. An Event Planner should just be working in the background, making sure everything is working fine. She should also think about how the event would be like if she’s sick or away. Sure it’s her company, but she also needs vacation and be allowed to have sick days. Definitely something I would recommend her to think about.

I honestly felt a little confused of what I should expect from the event. Is it a wedding expo? The Facebook invitation made it sound like it is, but it was not. Is it a party to announce and celebrate the creation of her company? Maybe. Whatever it is, I was confused.

If I were to do this event, I would:

  • Get the Photographer be focusing on taking lots of photos (though I know he doesn’t need the portfolio since he already got awards etc)
  • Have the Make Up Artist to stand near the door and give everyone a quick make up touch as they come in
  • Make sure the Event Planner to only focus on ensuring the event running smoothly
  • Pick a theme and stick with it, from the decoration, to the food, to the games/dances/songs, and even to how the Hosts speak to the crowd
  • Most importantly, I would make it a Halloween-themed Wedding since it’s for a Wedding Coordination company. Who cares about Halloween party, make it a Halloween-themed Wedding.

Overall, I still had a good time. The food, decoration, and the people made it quite a memorable night and I hope she learned as much as I did from her. I wish her the best of luck for her future events! I’m sure she’ll be even better and ready to rock more events!