Category Archives: Personal

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?

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.

9/11

I still remember how I found out about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

I was in Indonesia, and I just got home from school. I started watching TV, and then I saw an image from the BBC channel of a plane crashing into a tall building in New York.

I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, so I flipped to other channels, and eventually settled on Nickelodeon.

The next day, I woke up to the news that another plane crashed on to the other WTC building, the Pentagon, and an empty field in Pennsylvania. School was shut down for a week, and that’s when I knew that this was serious.

The world as we knew it back then changed, and 9/11 continues to affect us today. I hope that you will take a few moments to reflect on 9/11, and to remember those who were killed on that day.

May we never forget.

New Opportunities

So if you’ve been following my blog the last few months, you’ll know that I was selected to join AIESEC in Spain’s national team as VP Outgoing Exchange. You might also know that over the last few months, I’ve been experiencing visa issues.

Over the last few weeks, both AIESEC in Spain and I have worked hard to try to resolve the situation; unfortunately, due to excessive government bureaucracy, we weren’t successful. Despite the numerous documents I sent to the Spanish Consulate in Toronto, despite the numerous follow-ups that AIESEC made with the relevant offices in Madrid, unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. With this in mind, I made the decision to pursue other opportunities.

I was going to get co-op credit for my year-long work-term with AIESEC in Spain; however, since the school year is about to start, I decided to apply for co-op positions posted with the UBC Arts Co-op Program instead of waiting for my visa to come out. I was selected in late January for this position, and I’ve been in “ready to move to Spain” mode for the last eight months, so I didn’t want to waste any more time.

I’m disappointed with how things worked out, and that I can’t pursue the national position with AIESEC in Spain, but things don’t always go according to plan. I’m extremely grateful to the AIESEC national team in Spain for helping me out and accommodating me the last few months. Hopefully I’ll be able to do an AIESEC internship sometime next year.

While I’m bummed out at how things went with Spain, I’m confident and excited with what the near-future holds for me. Life is boring without a little bit of uncertainty.

Shuswap Lake

 

The view of Shuswap Lake from the cabin patio!

I was in Shuswap Lake all last week with friends and family. If you’ve been following me on Twitter you might’ve noticed I posted some pictures!

Anyways, the weeklong holiday was great. Kayaking was extremely fun, and relaxing too. When I went white water rafting with my brother and friends, I actually fell off the raft, and I ended up losing one of my slippers!

The cabin we stayed at was amazing – it had all the amenities you would need, even board games and old Nintendo video games! The only thing missing was wifi, so I ended up checking my e-mail on my brother’s iPhone; but then again, it was also nice not being too obligated to do work (by my standards, anyway).

It was great getting away from Vancouver, especially in light of my Spanish visa situation. It allowed me to get some perspective, and plan out my next steps. I’ll elaborate more on next steps in a future blog post once things get clearer on my end.

I hope you’re enjoying the last bits of summer!

What I’ve been doing in July

I haven’t been able to blog lately. I know it’s no excuse, but July’s been a bit of a difficult month. So if you’ve been following, I’ll give you a summary on what’s been happening with me this month.

Visa application frustrations

My visa application hasn’t yielded any favorable results yet, though I’ve been in communication both with the Spanish Consulate in Toronto and AIESEC in Spain. I didn’t anticipate that the Spanish visa application process would take 3+ months, but at least I’m not the only one waiting. Five out of eight members of AIESEC’s Spanish national team (3 Colombians, 1 Korean and myself) are still awaiting news, so I’m in good (virtual) company. Hopefully the visa will come out soon.

Leaders Summit in Madrid

Two weekends ago, AIESEC in Spain had its summer Leaders Summit for executive body members of the organization. The three Spaniards in the national team and the Austrian AIESECer who volunteered to help out in the national office for two months ran the show, organizing both the conference sessions, as well as venue logistics and liaising with the hotel. Needless to say, they pulled it off!

In preparation for the Leaders Summit, the five members of the Spanish national team still abroad were involved in creating and organizing the conference sessions, and helped in one way or another (via Skype) to deliver the sessions to the conference delegates. I had never attended an AIESEC conference outside of Canada before, nor have I ever attended an AIESEC conference virtually, so helping facilitate a conference virtually was an interesting experience. I also had the opportunity to meet with the delegates (via Skype, essentially someone walked around with a laptop so I can talk to people during the conference), especially the ones in the outgoing exchange department, which was great as I had the opportunity to talk to them all at once about strategies and challenges they’re all facing in their chapters.

During the Leaders Summit weekend, the five international members still not in Spain essentially lived in Madrid time. I can’t speak for the others, but the Leaders Summit reminded me of what I signed up for.

MC work so far

AIESEC doesn’t wait for visas, so even though I’m not in Spain yet, I’ve already started working (via e-mail and Skype) for the national team. Because of the visa application situation, it’s difficult to get things started as we don’t have a completed plan of what we as a team want to do yet.

Because of the time difference, and the fact that I still have a part-time job here in Vancouver, I do most of my MC work during night time so that I can Skype with people in the national office in Madrid, or in any of the other local offices, if I need to.

Hanging out

And when I’m not working, I’m usually hanging out with friends every few days, which is nice. Last year my life-work-school balance was way off, but this year it seems to have improved significantly.

I’m actually surprised that I learned (and like) playing Call of Duty now, and I’m improving in the game somewhat. Mind you, I play this game multiplayer so it is very challenging!

This weekend, in particular, was eventful. I went to a goodbye party for Tina, who is moving to Korea to teach English, and hung out for a bit with a few AIESECers during Derek’s “spontaneous” visit to Vancouver.

And that’s a summary of July for you!

New blog projects?

Now that I have my new domain finally fixed and set up, I’ve been thinking of setting up another blog. Unlike this blog, which is essentially My Blog on Everything, I’m thinking of setting up a new blog that’s geared towards a specific topic.

A new blog that I’m thinking of setting up is one dedicated to my year-long stay in Spain while I work for the AIESEC national team there; however, that can’t happen until I actually get to Spain. I’m thinking of blogging about places I visit, food, etc.

Another cool idea that I came up with would be setting up a blog dedicated leadership issues. I did this two years ago, but unfortunately I wasn’t that committed to blogging yet. Leadership is a topic I really like talking about.

A final idea I had in mind would be in honor of my Political Science major: starting a blog dedicated towards BC public issues, and providing readers with a resource to understanding what these issues mean and how it impacts them. The BC general election will be taking place in May 2013, so it might be a good time to get it started!

I’m not committed to getting anything new started yet. What do you think?