Author Archives: joshuasunga

Learning when to say no

I’ve learned a lot since I started to get involved in extracurricular activities in high school, volunteer and leadership opportunities during university, as well as full-time and part-time jobs that I have taken the last few years, along with the roles that I have taken on here in Mongolia.

Reflecting on these experiences, I think that the most important thing that I have learned is when to say “no” to something or someone. When I was younger, I always felt bad about saying no – I didn’t want to be the person that stood in the way of something, I didn’t want to be perceived as someone who held the team back. At the same time, however, I found it frustrating whenever I willed myself to agree to something I felt was a bad idea or just was not comfortable with.

After some reflection on this matter, I found that there were four situations that I would find myself questioning a decision, or saying no to a decision:

  1. It is wrong. Some people think that it is okay to operate in an ethical grey area, or to break rules that were put in place for a reason. I usually feel uncomfortable with taking decisions that are borderline unethical or skirt/bend the rules, especially when there is a risk for others to be negatively affected. I usually start questioning a proposed action or decision when I start sensing that something is wrong.
  2. Changing expectations. This is tricky, simply because I have found that there are times when I had to change expectations in order to make something work, which is fine. But there are limits to when expectations can be changed. When I am faced with a decision that requires me to change my expectations, I always try to think about both the positive and negative effects of such a decision. If I or someone else is severely negatively affected by a required change of expectations, especially when I feel as though I or someone else has been misled, I’m often inclined to say no.
  3. Time. I have always had an extremely busy schedule. I value my time, and I like to be able to achieve both my goals inside and outside of work. I like to keep work during work hours because I like to focus on work during the business day. Outside of business hours, I like to focus on other things. When I’m asked to do work on something outside of working hours, I always ask myself if it is necessary for me to work on it outside of working hours in order for me to achieve my work goals, or if I can block off time during working hours the next day to focus on it. This includes meetings. I don’t do this because I am selfish with my time, I do it because I want to make sure that I work on things that I am supposed to work on during the allotted time that has been given to me – I don’t want to put things off.
  4. When someone else should be doing the work. While I want to make sure that I contribute to the team, I also want to make sure that others do their share as well. I’m always happy to help my teammates out, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of and be left doing everything.

I used to think that saying no would lead others to see think of me as selfish. But from my point of view, saying no is a way for me to consider other options and ways of doing things with my co-workers.

And from a more personal point of view, it is a way for me to stand up for myself as well. At the end of the day, if you don’t know when and how to say no, people will walk all over you. Who will stand up for you, if not yourself?

Eventful six weeks

It’s been a while since I posted. I forgot to pay the bill for my website’s host, so the blog was offline for a while, but it seems that everything is set again.

It’s been an eventful few weeks, spanning several cities, so I’ll do my best to cover them in one blog post!

Winter National Leadership Development Seminar (WNLDS) in Erdenet

Train to Erdenet

Train to Erdenet

We traveled by train to Erdenet, the second largest city in Mongolia, for the Winter National Leadership Development Seminar, held the week after I came back to Mongolia from the Christmas/New Year holiday.

The train on the way to Erdenet was fun, but we were also very busy with getting ready for the conference. We had to be careful with our belongings when we stopped over at Darkhan, as the train doors are opened for vendors to sell food and snacks to passengers. There’s an open definition of ‘vendor’ – so that meant that pretty much anyone could enter the train, and this meant thieves and pickpockets. There was a suspicious kid (around 12-13 years old) eyeing us in our doorless cabin – I’m sure he knew we were foreign with all the English we were speaking. We stayed awake the entire time we were in Darkhan (around an hour). We survived with none of our belongings stolen!

WNLDS in Erdenet

WNLDS in Erdenet

Overall, the conference went well. It was nice to see the delegates engaged in the sessions and eager to participate. What I really liked about the conference was how people took the presidential election seriously. Our members showed genuine interest and concern in how they would cast their vote for the next national president. This conference was special because it was the first time MCP candidates were competing for the position in person, instead of via a shoddy Skype connection. What made the conference even more special was that Saikhnaa was elected the next President of AIESEC Mongolia for the 2014-2015 term, the first ever Mongolian AIESEC member to hold the role.


Sudden Return to Vancouver

A few days after I returned to UB from Erdenet, I had to fly back to Vancouver for the citizenship test. I won’t divulge too much details, except to say that I passed and that my life in Canada is pretty much set after my MC term and AIESEC career ends! I got back to UB last week.

Admitted to DAP

Over the Christmas holiday, I made the decision to apply for the Diploma in Accounting Program with the UBC Sauder School of Business. I was admitted to the program a few days before I went to Erdenet. I decided to accept the offer a few days later after I made the final decision to go through with it. Aside from the career path that I have elected to take, the other major and immediate effect this will have on me is that my MC term will be cut short by about two months, as I plan on starting the program in May. I will be leaving Mongolia by the third week of April.

I think that pursuing this route will be a good decision for me. Everything that I have done in AIESEC the last five years and five months has culminated in my decision to pursue this career path. I will definitely blog more about this, but this will be it for now.

Back in UB

Good

  • The commute to UB was long (YVR-PEK-ULN), with an 18-hour layover in Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA), but overall it went smoothly. My luggage was not lost, I managed to sleep in Beijing’s transit hotel in Terminal 3, and it was comfortable overall.
  • Seeing the MC and the members was really nice. When I left for Vancouver last year, I felt really stressed out and I was relieved to be able to get some time out. The time away did me a lot of good.

Bad

  • The 18-hour layover made for a cheaper flight, but I think that it was really long. There’s not a lot to do in BCIA, and the free wifi both in the terminal and the transit hotel was not reliable at all. Lesson learned: avoid excessively long layovers.
  • The price of milk increased by 17%. Nothing I can do about that.

Future

  • I was really happy to see the MC team and the members. A break from all the work was needed, and I think it will help in the long-run. It helped prevent me from getting extremely burned out.
  • Price of milk: nothing much I can do about constant inflation in Mongolia. Being more conscious about how I spend the money I earn from teaching at night is the only thing I can really counter the effects of it.

Passion Do’s and Don’ts

Cover of "The Runway of Life"

Cover of “The Runway of Life”

After I finished my internship with Canada Wide Media last year, I received several parting gifts. Among them was a book written by Peter Legge called The Runway of Life. I didn’t have a chance to read thoroughly until now, but one of the things that really struck me when I was reading the book was a section entitled “PASSION Do’s and Don’ts: Five things you should definitely do and just a few don’ts.”

I won’t paraphrase/quote the entire section – just the Do list:

  1. Start off simple: “Start by simply doing something for yourself.”
  2. It’s the journey, not the destination!: “Many people lose their passion in pursuit of their goals because they forget to take some time to enjoy the journey.”
  3. Oh, the people you’ll meet: “Take time to connect with the people you meet…”
  4. Change your point of view: “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”
  5. New mountains to climb: “As your passion moves you onward and upward, keep in mind that it is not uncommon to lose some of your momentum as you check goals off of your list… Take a bit of time to catch your breath, admire the view and reflect on what worked and what didn’t on your way up.”

Reading this section of The Runway of Life comes just in time as 2013 draws to a close, and 2014 draws nearer. It’s helping me reflect on how the year went, and how 2014 can be better. And while I’m reflecting, I should probably finish reading this book!

Fluidity

I had dinner with a friend on Friday night. We were catching up both with our own lives, as well as the lives of the people that we both were friends with. Many of my friends in Vancouver seem to have moved on to different phases in their lives. Some have graduated, some have taken on new careers, and some (a significant number, mind you) have chosen to pack up and leave Vancouver altogether.

I was aware of the many changes that were happening in Vancouver during my time away this year, but I never really had a chance to mull it over and reflect over it. It was wishful thinking on my end that things would remain static at home while I was in Singapore and Mongolia.

If you go away for an extended period of time, you cannot expect things to remain stagnant, you cannot expect people to remain the same. People will move on, and if you’re returning home after an extended absence, you cannot expect to just pick up where you last left off. You just have to catch up.

Reflections on 2013

Having recently returned to Vancouver for the Christmas holidays, I have had the opportunity to think about 2013. The following list sums up what I have been reflecting on.

1. Uncomfortable

This year has been uncomfortable. I never meant to be outside of my comfort zone in 2013; in fact, I was actually planning on staying inside my comfort zone. I was simply looking for something meaningful to do with my time, within what I initially thought was my comfort zone. Despite my initial intentions, my decisions ultimately led me to situations that I did not always find comfortable, but in the end allowed me to grow and experience new things. While it might seem illogical, abandoning a comfortable life and the prospect of a well-paying job for the unknown abroad was a very good decision.

2. Successes and Failures

This year was risky for me. I don’t think moving to Singapore for my internship with ARI was very risky, but the many things that I did do while I was in Singapore (applying for the AIESEC Singapore and AIESEC Canada national teams) placed me at a very high risk of failure – and actually resulted in failure. The initial success of being selected for the AIESEC Mongolia national team was followed quickly by both successes and failures on the job.

One of the key things about 2013 is that I have become more comfortable with the idea of risk – the idea that if I pursue something, that there is a chance that I will not be successful. Sometimes, preparation is not enough, and no matter how prepared you are, you will always be at risk of failing.

3. Money

Money sucks. Managing money in Singapore was a bit difficult, but at least I had enough money to maintain comfortable lifestyle. Mongolia is a completely different matter. Despite working 24/7, money can be difficult to come by. Managing money and discerning wants from needs have definitely been two things that I have been able to learn (somewhat) in 2013. Too bad they don’t have Mint in Mongolia.

4. People

I always found the idea of working and living with exactly the same people every day to be daunting, but after six months of working with the AIESEC Mongolia team, I can definitely say that it has been both a challenging and highly rewarding experience. If there’s anything I can take away from 2013, it would be the relationships that I made this year.

5. Patience

I’m used to structure and predictability, and the reliability that comes with it. When it comes to work, I value reliability highly, because it rarely comes with surprises. This year, particularly in Mongolia, reliability was (more often than not) not always there. My patience was tested to its limits, sometimes beyond what I could endure.

As someone who works in a student-run non-profit organization, I am used to working with volunteers, but what I’m not used to is working with volunteers who are much younger than I am, who do not have the same experiences and values that I do. Adjusting to this kind of working environment has been difficult, and it isn’t always easy to keep my patience in check. Being patient and keeping an open mind hasn’t always been easy, but I think in the long-run it has made my stay in Mongolia a bit easier, and has opened me up to new experiences.

Overall, I think that it has been a challenging year. I’m not sure what 2014 has in store for me, but I hope that it will be as rewarding (if not, even more rewarding) than 2013.

Back in Vancouver for Christmas

1461428_10153590540515541_969093531_nJust to update: after a very long commute and two layovers in Beijing and Hong Kong, I am back in Vancouver for the Christmas holiday. I will still be working, and I expect to be on Skype daily to keep updated on what’s happening at UB. I think that this is much needed time away for me to unwind and relax for a bit. I’m here in Vancouver for three weeks, and will be flying back to UB right after New Year’s Day.

To the future

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Me, Anand, and TK. Nathan is behind the camera.

It is already December, which means that it is almost the end of 2013. It also means that I am almost halfway through my volunteer stint with AIESEC Mongolia. Increasingly the last few weeks, my teammates and I have been talking about the future. What are we going to do next? What does the future hold? What are we going to do after AIESEC? What are we going to do after Mongolia? Is what we are doing now worth it?

We’ve been discussing these issues on an on-again, off-again basis, but was nice to get some outside perspective as well. Anand was one of the first “non-AIESEC” people that I met in Mongolia. TK, Nathan, and I hung out with him at his flat for a pizza and movie night, followed by a rather intense discussion of the possibilities that await us after AIESEC. This was a discussion that I definitely needed.

I suppose that by being in Mongolia, we are all pursuing a rather unconventional, and perhaps less comfortable, but nonetheless still very rewarding journey. It’s okay to create your own path, but it’s also okay to return to a more set and comfortable life afterwards. Focusing on career is fine, but you also have to keep in mind the other aspects of your life as well.

Anand is leaving Mongolia at the end of this month. Cheers to Anand. Here’s to the future!

November Wrap-Up

It’s been a while since I posted. November has been a bit crazy, so I will provide some brief updates!

Winter is coming

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Note that it is still coming. It hasn’t arrived yet. Apparently, this is not yet winter.

Career Week

Choindon, team leader for the Career Week Organizing Team, getting interviewed on Mongolian National TV!

Choindon, team leader for the Career Week Organizing Team, getting interviewed on Mongolian National TV!

TK and the Organizing Team for Career Week worked extremely hard to organize Career Week, which took place last week. Media appearances on national TV, as well as events in four participating universities meant that the event was successful.

Recruitment

Interview Day - assessing applicants for the Global Community Development Program!

Interview Day – assessing applicants for the Global Community Development Program!

In conjunction with Career Week, we were also recruiting students to go on internships abroad through the AIESEC Global Community Development Program. Recruitment is still ongoing, with another Interview Day happening next week!

New Intern!

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Annisa’s birthday! Photo by Annisa

Annisa, our new intern from Indonesia, has started her Teaching Internship with Zokhiomj University. She celebrated her birthday with us just a few days after arriving in UB.