To the present and future high school graduates

Greetings from me on my senior high graduation day. It’s November 2011 and it’s been two whole years since I left senior high school. Although it’s not that long, I have changed so much in these two years that I start thinking to myself, “What if I do things differently in high school? What if I do things differently after high school?”

I still remember vividly, the times when my friends and I skipped class together, went to sweet seventeen parties, and then stressed out because of exam. The HSC (Higher School Certificate – NSW curriculum) was the holy grail for us to go to our desired university. But to the 17 years old out there who are wondering about their lives, here are the sayings of a girl who has walked in your shoes two years earlier.

Study hard to get good grades, but not too hard.

I was swallowing all the subjects (Math, Math extension 1, Math extension 2, Biology, Chemistry, Physics) like they were the Bible, and I wish I had given myself more leniency. I didn’t regret it that much though, I studied so hard and I did get good grades, but now thinking of it, no one will remember what grades you had during high school. I know I won’t. Plus, I didn’t really need that good grades. The enter score to Bachelor of Arts was way below than my own enter score, and thinking of that, I wish I’ve spent time more with my friends, my teachers, or read more novels that I like.

While writing this, I was thinking of a friend who was so smart back in high school. But she paid it with having eight extra lessons after school (from Korean, Japanese, Biology, yada yada yada). It was so hard to ask her to go out. I guess it was ok if she was happy, but for me, one day, I’ll regret it.

Listen to other people’s advice, but in the end you need to decide for yourself.

I was a science student back in high school, and now I am doing a degree in Arts, majoring in Psychology and Media and Communication. My first option is actually hospitality, and if you are wondering ‘where has the science gone’, you are right. I did science back in high school not necessarily because I like it, but partly because I could do it, and partly because those were the subjects that my older sister took four years earlier.

I was accepted in Bachelor of Biomed, but one week before the administration closed, I changed my course to Bachelor of Arts. I have always known that I don’t like science, but in high school I had limited options. Now in uni, it’s up to me to decide which degree I want to pursue, and I’m thankful that I did change my course at that time. Can you imagine the horror that I’ll go through If I take Biomed? Simply, I won’t even make this blog.

I think, if your parents want you to take engineering, your grandparents want you take business, and your teachers want you to take architecture, in the end, it’s up to you to do what you want. I am grateful with my supportive parents who let me decide the course that I want to take, but I know it’s not the case for some of my friends.

I wish I had taken a year off.

When you come from an Asian background, you are encouraged to ‘graduate sooner’, and to ‘graduate younger’. Come to think of it, I’ll be a university graduate by the age of 20. A friend of mine is a graduate at the age of 19. My other friend is a Master’s graduate at the age of 21. We are pushed to finish education as young as we can.

Yet, I have seen 22-year-old students who are still in the same level as me, and yes, they are way smarter. If I study for my exam, I’ll just cram everything together for the sake of the exam. But older students understand what they are studying, and they can study accordingly. Psychologically saying, their brains have matured enough to understand what the subjects teach them. While for me, I’m still having that high school brain which remembers (hopefully) everything on the exam day and forgets everything afterwards.

It’s not common in Asian countries (but quite common in Western ones), and I wish I had taken a year off. Of course, now you are seeing your peers at the same level as you, and if you take a year off, you’ll be left behind. But 10 years from now, who will make such a big deal about it?

I wish I had been traveling, working part time jobs here and there, trying to intern in various companies, and seeing the bigger picture of what the world has to offer. I wish I had more time to decide what I really want to become in life, before I am stuck in uni for 3 years, then work, then do further degree (IF I decide to do one).

In the end, each person should decide for themselves, but remember, whatever you have decided, if it ends up to be the wrong decision, don’t stress out. Life has much more to offer, and success is determined by how high you can bounce back after you fall.

The ugly truth – finishing a degree to start another one

Again, many thanks to my editors and for Meld Magazine for running this. Check the original version here.

NEWS flash: 15 years of education hasn’t really prepared you to face the world. No, now you need 20.

                             Photo: shho

Most of us have gone through six happy years of primary school, the place where we first made friends, bruised our knees and broke some rules. Then we had six exciting years of high school, the place where we first made enemies, got attracted to the opposite sex and started our first serious learning.

And then most of us began university life.

But after moving half way across the world and enduring three years of sleepless nights combined with a dozen different part-time jobs, international students are nowhere closer to achieving their career dreams.

In an era where education matters, it’s as if work doesn’t matter. I have stopped counting the number of friends who are unable to get a job after graduation. In the end, they work part-time in yet another retail store, or worse, they end up going back to their home countries.

Not all international students invest $100,000 to come here, receive an education and make their way back home. We want experiences, we want to get a job and we want to put our skills on the table.

The most common rejection letter my friends have received includes the line, “Based on some factors critical for success in the job to which you applied (e.g. skills and experience) you were not the most competitive candidate … and the company’s policy is for their candidates to have permanent residency.”

A friend who graduated from a Master of Business Information Systems earlier this year said to me, “When I’m on holiday and want to apply for an internship, they ask for permanent residency. If I haven’t graduated yet, I can’t apply for permanent residency. Now when I’m applying for work they ask for experience. But no one wants to give me a job because I’ve got no experience. But how can I get any if no one will give me a chance?

“Companies ask for a minimum of three-year experiences in a related field for a graduate programmer position. I’ve even checked the websites twice to console my disbelief.”

Despite Melbourne’s recent nomination as the world’s most livable city, I still have my doubts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows unemployment rates have risen to 5.3 per cent. Almost 26,400 people have lost their jobs and The Age economists predict another 100,000 will lose their job by the end of the year.

If companies are letting go of their experienced workers, they’re not going to be hiring newbies.

So the ugly truth is, a bachelor degree only prepares most international students for yet another degree, at least, that’s what has happened to me.

A psychology student, I just learned that while we were sitting in lecture theatres for three years, swallowing theories like they were the Bible, first year students in New Zealand were visiting child care centres, putting those same theories into practice.

Is it the education system? Or is it just me?

So after weighing up the prospect of months and months of unemployment, international students like me will be considering an alternative – a Master’s degree or PhD. Another three to four years of education which doesn’t guarantee us a place in the workforce anyway.

And now for the second ugly truth. There’s no guarantee we will get into a Master’s or PhD program either.

In order to do Master’s in psychology, you need to get an honours degree. Roughly 10 per cent of the students who enroll in honours get in. So out of the 700 odd students studying psychology, only 70 of them will be accepted into honours.

And how many of these 70 students will eventually get into Master’s? 20. I’m betting they will have to be H1 students.

Am I being overly pessimistic?

Undergraduate international students not only need to strive for the prize called H1, they still have to worry about their future, doing part-time jobs and applying for internships.

Do we stand defeated in an ailing economy, walking past retail stores with ‘closing down sale’ signs on their doors?

I just hope this is still university and not a pressure cooker.

Saturday’s story: the 4 wives

4 Wives
by anonymous

There was a rich merchant who had 4 wives. He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much. He’s very proud of her and always wanted to show off her to his friends. However, the merchant is always in great fear that she might run away with some other men.

He too, loved his 2nd wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and in fact is the merchant’s confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.

Now, the merchant’s 1st wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.

One day, the merchant fell ill. Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, “Now I have 4 wives with me. But when I die, I’ll be alone. How lonely I’ll be!”

Thus, he asked the 4th wife, “I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” replied the 4th wife and she walked away without another word.

The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant’s heart. The sad merchant then asked the 3rd wife, “I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No!” replied the 3rd wife. “Life is so good over here! I’m going to remarry when you die!” The merchant’s heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, “I always turned to you for help and you’ve always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” replied the 2nd wife. “At the very most, I can only send you to your grave.” The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.

Then a voice called out : “I’ll leave with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant said, “I should have taken much better care of you while I could have !”

Actually, we all have 4 wives in our lives

a. The 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it’ll leave us when we die.

b. Our 3rd wife ? Our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, they all go to others.

c. The 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how close they had been there for us when we’re alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

d. The 1st wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material, wealth and sensual pleasure.

Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go. Perhaps it’s a good idea to cultivate and strengthen it now rather than to wait until we’re on our deathbed to lament.

Tesselaar Tulip Farm 2011

An overdue travel post, but late is better than never.

Five of us went to the Tulip Farm one Saturday afternoon, and it was a lovely day indeed. The day started with 50 minutes drive to the Tulip Farm, walking around there for around three hours, and then going to Pie in The Sky for having coffee and uhm, pies (yes, we drove all the way to Dandenong). Dinner was at a chinese restaurant nearby my apartment (Grand Tofu), and we all had a fantastic day!

photos courtesy of TJ.

I know, I know, there were lots of other colours and we have taken heaps of photos, but I like yellow (blogger bias here).

Even though it was beautiful, the previous tulip farm was way much better. This was my second time going, and I noticed less tulips, and the food was quite overpriced.

From left: Ivan Subiakto, Pohan Lukito, Jessica Purnama, me, and Tjokro Aminoto (TJ)

That said, it was a refreshing trip nonetheless ;)

Ps. The meaning of yellow tulip is there’s sunshine in your smile.

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Romance in the rain (Qīng Shēnshēn Yǔ Méngméng) (2001-2002)

I know, I know. Some of you will even think, “Gosh, on which year does this blogger live?” or… “Ehm, that’s so old!” But hey, nothing beats a good Chinese/Taiwanese series!

I have fallen in love with Leo Ku (playing Shuhuan in the series) and Vicki Zhao Wei (playing Yiping) at the age of 9. Romance in the Rain (or “Kabut Cinta” in Indonesian), has accompanied me throughout my childhood, and come to think of it, it is definitely one of the best series that I’ve ever watched.

If you have forgotten about this series, let me refresh your memories once again. For non-Asians who never watch this, you may want to read the Wikipedia definition or if you are keen enough, watch the entire series with English subtitles. They are available on YouTube!

The song (Li Bie De Zhen Zhan), which is “Kereta Perpisahan” in Indonesian (shown in the last part of the video above) is my personal favourite. It just shows how Yiping loves Shuhuan so much, even though at that time war is happening and he is called to fight for his country.

Romance in the Rain has a very complex story. To give you a sense of what’s happening in the story, let me introduce you to the main characters one by one (taken from Wikipedia).

Lu Yiping, played by Vicki Zhao Wei
The protagonist of Romance in the Rain, Yiping is one of the many children of Lu Zhenhua, a retired general with nine wives. Her mother, Fu Wenpei, is the general’s eighth wife. Both she and her mother are banished from the Lu household through the actions of her father’s ninth wife, Xue Qin. She has two half-sister Ruping and Mengping, one half-brother Erhao and one stepbrother Erjie. The only family member she bore no strong hatred from the ‘other side’ was Ruping. At first she was at odds with her half-brother Erhao and half-sister Mengping but was able to learn to love them and accept them as her sibling. She had one sister who was also the daughter of her mother called Xinping who died 7 years before the scene. Xinping was the favorite daughter of her father and she always thinks that she could not replace and be better than Xinping. After an earlier encounter, she meets a reporter named He Shuhuan at a Shanghai nightclub. Shuhuan is soon captivated by Yiping’s singing talent, emotion, and mystery. After discovering her half-sister Ruping’s love for Shuhuan, she sought Shuhuan’s love as revenge. However, Yiping soon falls in love with Shuhuan and softens as a result. After the death of her father, Yiping became the sole financial support of the Lu family as Erhao also enlist in the army.

Lu Ruping, played by Ruby Lin
Ruping is one of the daughters of Lu Zhenhua, as well as Yiping’s half-sister from her father, sister to Erhao and Mengping and half-sister to Erjie from her mother. Her mother, Xue Qin, was father’s ninth and final wife. Pretty and sympathetic, Ruping grew up in a wealthy environment but is not prejudiced against Yiping like the rest of her family. Ruping’s first love interest is Shuhuan, who she met after Shuhuan asked her to guard some negatives for him. At the same time, she also meets Du Fei, Shuhuan’s colleague, who develops a strong feelings for Ruping. After the failure of her engagement with Shuhuan and helping her mother and Erjie to escape by contacting Wei Guangxiong which leads to the poverty of the Lu family she ran away trying to commit suicide; however, later she did not commit suicide but joined the red cross and became a nurse helping the wounded soldiers in the battlefield. For a long time, Ruping only loves Shuhuan but when she meets Du Fei in the battlefield during the war, she told Du Fei that unbeknownst to her she has fallen for him for such a long time. She told Du Fei that she missed Du Fei everyday. They end up getting married.

He Shuhuan, played by Leo Ku
A reporter from Nanjing, He Shuhuan is the love interest of sisters Lu Yiping and Lu Ruping. His feelings towards Yiping are romantic, while he only treats Ruping as his friend. At the beginning of the series he was thought to be having a relationship even though he was only treating Ruping as a special friend. Despite several arguments, and going back and forth between Yiping and Ruping, he remains passionate towards Yiping. After reading Yiping’s diary and discovering that Yiping was only dating to get revenge with ‘that side’ of the family he was led to anger and broke up with her. He later engaged with Ruping but left her during the engagement party for Yiping. Towards the end of the story, Shuhuan goes off to fight in the war between Japan and China, leaving Yiping waiting for him.

Du Fei, played by Alec Su
Like Shuhuan, Du Fei is a reporter. He is extremely passionate about his love for Ruping, but Ruping attempts to reject his love. A caring man, Du Fei always helps others in need but is also careless and clumsy. During the war between Japan and China, Du Fei, upset by Ruping’s disappearance, goes to the battlefield as a reporter, and after several years discovers Ruping’s love for him and marries her.

Lu Erhao, played by Gao Xin
Erhao is the son of Lu Zhenhua and Xue Qin, brother to Ruping and Mengping, and half-brother to Yiping from his father and Erjie from his mother. He is the love interest of Yiping’s best friend Fang Yu. However, his relationship with Fang Yu becomes complex after Erhao discovers that his past childhood love, Keyun, once had his child and is now mentally disabled. At the beginning of the series Erhao hated Yiping but for the sake of Fang Yu he tried hard to make peace with Yiping. He was able to put aside his hatred towards Yiping and grew to love and accept her as his sister and part of the family. Erhao later enlists in the army as well leaving Fang Yu waiting for him.

Fang Yu, played by Li Yu
The best friend of Yiping who falls in love with Yiping’s half-brother, Erhao. Yiping is at first against Fang Yu’s relationship with Erhao, especially after finding out about Keyun, but Fang Yu continued to love Erhao despite complications in their relationship.

Li Keyun, played by Xu Lu
The daughter of Li Fuguan and Li Shao, Keyun had a childhood romance with Erhao which resulted in a pregnancy. She did not inform Erhao about this. After their baby’s death, Keyun developed a mental illness. Throughout Romance in the Rain, Yiping, Shuhuan, Erhao, Ruping, Du Fei, and Fang Yu attempt to help Keyun recover her memory. In the end, Keyun gets better when she saw a motherless baby during war. She decided to raise him as her own.

Lu Zhenhua, played by Kou Zhenhai
The father of Yiping, Lu Zhenhua is a retired, respected general. He was married to nine women, all of which he eventually lost interest in. As a result of his tragic romance with Pingping, Lu Zhenhua is inclined to marry any woman who bore a resemblance to Pingping. It is revealed later after he died that the person who bore the closest resemblance towards his long-lost love Pingping was not his wives but his daughter the deceased Xinping, the sister of Yiping and daughter of Wenpei who became his favorite daughter. Although his relationship with Yiping is tumultuous at the beginning, the two eventually build a strong bond through their similarities. At first he was hated by Yiping especially after he whipped Yiping, but as the series goes on Yiping grew to love him. He died after getting shot while fighting off Japanese soldiers trying to protect Yiping and Shuhuan.

Pingping, played by Wang Yan
Pingping was the daughter of a statesman whom the young Lu Zhenhua fell in love with. She also returned his love and they promise to marry each other someday. However, furious about this, her father tried to kill Zhenhua but stopped by his daughter. Lu Zhenhua later pursued his hopes to become a victorious general in order to marry Pingping. And she promised him she will wait for him until he kept promise. However, before he achieved this, Pingping committed suicide in order to avoid an arranged marriage, which had a powerful effect on Zhenhua. Because of his love for Pingping, Lu Zhenhua gives all of his daughters a name that includes the character Ping: Xinping, Yiping, Ruping, and Mengping.

If you have reached this stage in reading this: it’s either you are really interested, or you used to be a fan of this series. Yet if you skipped it, that doesn’t matter as well. But I have fun reliving my memories and try to remember the story once again.

Compared to Korean series or the new Chinese series (such as At the dolphin Bay, Twins, Westside Story, or Endless Love), I still think Romance in the rain surpasses them all. It doesn’t only have love story; it has politics, family conflicts, friendship, long distance relationships, betrayal, trust, true love, loyalty, perseverance, and many more.

The love between Shuhuan and Yiping, as well between Dufei and Ruping is the one worth fighting for. I remember crying hard when the boys are called to war and the girls are forced to wait uncertainly for their partners to come back. I remember the times when Dufei gets rejected by Ruping, but he never gives up. I remember, and I smile.

And even though Lu Zhenhua may not be the perfect father, in the end his children respect him and love him,  for he is, without a doubt, an honourable man. The bond between family is hard to break, and even though you start wrongly, there is still time to fix that now.

10 years from now, I think I will still nominate this series as one of my favourites.

Life updated: second year is officially over

I should have been saying that yesterday (Wednesday, exactly at 4.15pm), but anyway, here you go: my second year is officially finished!

So the critical dates are: 4 November – portfolio for Introduction to Media Writing due, 7 November – Cognitive Psychology exam, 9 November – Deafness final essay due, 16 November – Personality Psychology exam.

It’s kind of exciting and daunting at the same time when you only have one more year to finish your bachelor degree.

So how’s the week been going?

No, I didn’t watch any movies in the cinema last weekend (but I’m positively sure that I’ll watch the Three Musketeers during this weekend). So tomorrow’s review will be about a very ancient TV series, but it was good, seriously.

I had quite a good chat with my Cognitive Psych tutor yesterday. I asked some questions about psychology and now I’m thinking more and more about being a psychologist and working in the education system. No kidding.

Okay, so the image above describes on how exciting a life in Psychology can be (taken straight from my lecture notes, isn’t it exciting already?)

What makes it so hard about being a psychologist is the studying. My first obstacle is of course to get into Honours degree, and when University of Melbourne is the 7th best Psychology University in the world, it’s that hard.

Out of 700 students who are enrolled in Psychology, only about 70 will get in, not to mention all the other international students and the local students from other universities. Gee, I’m excited.

Having an average of 80 throughout all your second and third year subjects is that hard, with an emphasis on Media and Communication. It’s an essay-based subjects, so how can I possibly score H1 in essays? (especially compared to local students whose writing is very good indeed). I am considering of changing my mediacom major to a minor right now, and doing other easier subjects instead (to get better marks so my average will be higher), but I guess it’s not worth it either.

Second question, what subjects should I take next semester? It’s quite hard to choose the subjects, because most of the subjects are of my interest. University has never been harder, and now I envy those people who know exactly what they want to become in ten years’ time, instead of me who slowly try to discover my ‘dream job’ as life goes along.

Image of the week. I had a good laugh actually.

News of the week.. Victoria’s worsening child abuse crisis. I never know that child abuse happens in Australia, and at a surprisingly high rate.

“A FOUR-year-old girl, who had been exposed to domestic violence and medical neglect all her life, was malnourished because her parents had never given her food suitable for a toddler.

Despite her age, she could still not eat solids, had terrible tooth decay, and had never been toilet trained.

The girl had poor gross motor skills and could barely communicate.”

Please let children be children.

And… music of the week! There are three songs actually, and they are all great. First vote goes to Michael Buble’s Save the last dance for me (I wonder why I never hear this song before, big mistake, Marcella!); second vote goes to Ryan Shupe’s Dream Big (the lyrics just blows my mind away); and third vote goes to Heartland’s I loved her first (father-daughter song, I love it!).

Well, Happy Thursday from me with my Barista Latte (3/4 latte with special roasted beans – yum), just so you know that I’m still alive and breathing, enjoying my cup of coffee and getting fatter.

And just in case you want to know what my voice sounds like… Out of boredom yesterday (well, actually as an excuse for not studying), I made a cover of two Indonesian songs, titled Setia by Jikustik and Teka Teki Cinta by Project Pop. And yes, I played the piano (have I mentioned that I can play the piano?). It is a bit lousy, but I have made it anyway, so, here you go! I had fun =D.

The world is not as naive as I thought: questioning the ‘V-plates’

The Hollywood has made it clear and the media is also very open about it. Yet it’s a new fact for me, really. Are you sure? Yea, sadly.

The ugly truth came to me when I was browsing articles on MamaMia, and one  title grabbed my attention: Help – she never thought she’d have sex before marriage. As an Asian, and yes, a Christian, I never thought I will use the ‘s’ word, say it in conversations, (or even type the word) to public. Moreover the ‘v’ word (read: virginity).

So in that situation, a girl wrote:

“I’m in my early twenties and I’m a virgin. I’m a Christian, so being a virgin kind of comes with the territory, with the whole ‘no sex before marriage’ thing. That’s all been well and good, until I met a guy that I really like. He’s not a Christian and has had his fair share of sex. This has kind of got me thinking differently now. I really want to sleep with him.

My question is, I was wondering if there was anyone that’s been in the same position? I get that this is more of a religious kind of issue so it may rule out some people’s experiences, but I’m really interested about all of your opinions, regardless of background. Also, are there any Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. out there who have done it outside of marriage and just not regretted it at all??

I’m really keen to hear your thoughts. “

And why does the word ‘virgin’ keep ringing on my ear as the ‘vigin Mary’? (Yes, I watch too much Hollywood movies). Yet it is striking how many people (I think almost all) have sex before marriage, and most of them are living together before they tie the knot. I know this happens in movies, yet I do not really expect this situation can be translated straight to the reality.

And in the midst of reading other too-open-for-my-background-culture articles, I remember one that is featured in my tutorial earlier this semester: Guard your virginity. Once lost, it’s gone forever.

“While each person should decide for themselves, my recommendation would be to wait. Wait for the right moment, the right person and the right situation. Becoming sexually active is not to be entered into lightly. I have seen too many girls damaged by a decision that was not carefully considered. The results are usually confusion, loss of self-esteem and a cynical view of relationships. My problem with casual, random sex is that while it might be physically pleasurable, it cannot possibly be meaningful or allow for personal growth.”

Well, you rock girl.

So imagine this (adapted from Joshua Harris’ ‘I kissed dating goodbye’ book).

You are dressed in stunning white gown (or black tuxedo, depending on your gender), and you walk down that aisle, looking in the eyes of your partner that soon will be ‘the woman or man who I will spend the rest of my life with’. You are swept away by the moment, yet suddenly you notice an ex-boyfriend, and another ex-boyfriend, and yet another, standing there on the corner of your eyes.

As soon as the priest asking you both to take the marriage vow, you remember all the things you have said to your ex-partners. From “I love you’s”, to “I will never leave you” to “We’ll have the entire future to ourselves” and God knows what else. In a blink you remember what have you been doing with your ex-partners, and a big sense of guilt come.

I will be giving the leftovers to the man who will soon be my husband.

Having said that, it is true that a person should decide for themselves. But weighting the pros and the cons, guarding own virginity is not old-fashioned,  uncool, or out of trend. It is simply an act of respecting yourself, your partner, and God.