Christmas is my hands-down, no-contest, favorite time of the year. This also means it’s a sentimental season for me, as it is for many people around the globe. But, being in China for it has definitely thrown my holiday spirits for a loop.
Did I at least get peppermint treats, you may ask? Christmas movies? Time with loved ones? Curling up with hot cocoa to partake in holiday traditions? Nope. Sadly, it was a regular day, wherein I tried not to focus on what I was missing back home.
But that’s how you make it through these periods. I knew what I signed up for when I came here–and I gained more perspective through it, too. What must it be like for Chinese people living in Kansas during the Lunar New Year? What must it be like for Indian people in Texas during Diwali?
Before I could only imagine their pain. Now, I’ve experienced it myself.
Regardless, I will move forward. I’m blessed to be living abroad, even if it is sometime difficult, and still am excited to experience all the wonderful things it has to offer.
Watch the full video above to hear more of my thoughts on the topic. What’s the most difficult holiday experience you’ve ever had? What made it so, and what did you learn from it? Comment below!
So, I’ve officially jumped. I’ve taken the plunge head-first into moving abroad, officially moving to China for a one-year contract as a teacher. I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to my family and pets, then got on the plane to China. And, honestly?
I was confident and excited–up until the moment I zipped my bags closed. Then, I was scared shitless.
“Who Does This?!”
Every way this scenario could go wrong played out in my head. Every fear I had about China plagued my dreams, both when my mind wandered and in my sleep. Who does this? I’d wonder, and it was a fair point. Who leaves everything and everyone they’ve ever known to go live overseas, in a place where they don’t fluently speak the language, they don’t know a single person, and they don’t know what’s waiting for them?
But, apparently, I do. After a lot of mental wrestling matches and talking myself out of buying a ticket home, I decided to stop. Self-doubt certainly wouldn’t make this any easier.
What Moving Abroad Has Taught Me
Moving abroad was a risk, but, these many months later, it’s one I’m glad I took. China hasn’t been perfect. No place is. But, it has thoroughly changed me for the better. It has taught me what I’m capable of withstanding and doing (like enduring the Christmas season utterly alone), as well as exposed me to new experiences and tested my spirit. Ultimately, I could make an entire separate post about all of this. (Keep your eyes open for it!)
For now, I’ll continue to persevere, foster self-confidence, and carry on.
What’s one experience you’ve had where you experienced self-doubt, but finally overcame?
We’ve all seen the Best Nine posts on social media by now, those highlight reels for one’s digital world– but what about for our real lives? The things we’ve accomplished, seen, experienced? That’s what I want to share here, both to keep myself motivated and to share inspiration with others.Tell me in the comments below what you’ve accomplished this year!
First off, for the big achievements!
After countless 8 AMs, essay-writing frenzies, long hours both early and late, I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in International Security, and minors in Chinese Language and Asian Studies. I wasn’t much of a partier nor a sporting-event attendee, and to be honest, I don’t regret the way I spent my time. My college experience was a (sometimes brutally) tough one, but it made finally getting that diploma so much more worth it.
Landed My First Full-Time, Adult-World Job
Before I even walked the stage, I was fortunate enough to already have a job lined up! It helps to have known since age 11 what I wanted my first ‘adult’ job to be, and thus far I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, even the paperwork. (I love paperwork.)
**(For the curious people out there, I’m currently an English teacher at a popular education chain throughout China, though I prefer not to disclose its name for privacy reasons.)
Moved to China
I can’t adequately describe what it’s like moving clear across the world. A place where you don’t fluently speak the language, where you know absolutely no one, where the food and the climate are the complete opposite of what you’ve grown up around, and so forth. Scary? Boy, scary doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But. It’s more than just scary.
It’s exciting, it’s validating, it grows your courage and your sense of self. It tests your limits. It brings out both the worst and the best in yourself–then lets you decide which to cultivate. Though I’ve had many a struggle since I’ve been here and essentially no one to lean on, I am thankful to be here, and can’t wait to see who I am at the end of my year abroad.
P.S. I do, however, sincerely miss salsa. And Cool Ranch Doritos.
Finished the First Draft of my 4th Novel, The Immortal
With my No Angels trilogy wrapped up in 2016, 2017 was high time to begin another tale. I’ve had the idea for The Immortal for many years now, so to have the first draft officially penned is a big milestone. I know it’ll take a while to polish, but I’m enjoying the slower-pace of editing right now, savoring the process, watching the prose develop, and so on. Currently it’s at about 65,000 words, one of my shorter works, but trust me when I say it’s my favorite by far!
With the bigger achievements of 2017 out of the way, here are my smaller (though still meaningful) accomplishments:
Made 12 YouTube Videos
I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, and that’s exciting why?” But here’s the thing: I’ve tried for years to gather the courage to post YouTube videos. I’ve probably made over 30 videos that I either never posted or posted-then-deleted, all because I was afraid. Afraid of getting embarrassed, of the quality not being good enough, and of 500 other things. But 2017 was the year I decided to say goodbye to those thoughts, because fear like that brings no value to our lives. You can check out my channel here, if you’re interested.
Improved My Photography and Video-Editing Skills
On some level, I feel like wanting to take beautiful pictures and videos goes hand-in-hand with travel. When’s the last time you saw something beautiful and didn’t want to share it with the world? However, it wasn’t until recently that I purchased a decent camera, and even then I was a complete beginner at how to use it. After enrolling in an online class on the lighting, composition, angles, etc. of photography, I’ve started to see steady improvement. I hope you have too!
Traveled to New Places
Traveling is something I hope to do every year, but that doesn’t mean I should take any of it for granted! I rang in 2017 with the love of my life in Denver, Colorado, and later we endured the heat of Las Vegas for a couple days of buffets, magic shows, and some good ol’ fashioned people-watching. A week and a half before I went to China, we went on one last trip together to our favorite US city, Seattle, Washington.
From academics to adventure, 2017 has been a success, and I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store–both for me and for you.
Speaking of which, what did you do in 2017? Sit and really think about the lessons you learned, the people you met, and the things you saw, then comment them below. ♥
I’ve studied eight foreign languages, and the one I’ve gotten the farthest with is Mandarin Chinese. I minored in it, figured out what did and didn’t work for me, and have found which language learning resources are truly top-notch. So, here are my recommendations for just that!
***The first time I name a new resource, I will bold it so that you don’t miss out!***
I’ve come across a lot of terrible language textbooks in my studies, but thankfully I’ve found some great ones for learning Mandarin. My favorites are the entire sequence of the Integrated Chinese books, and, once you’re through with those I’d move onto the Princeton Language Study books. Specifically, A Trip to China is the next one I’d recommend!
APPS & WEBSITES
When online, I’dc recommend switching all your sites over to Chinese; Facebook, Youtube, the whole deal. Additionally, join sites like Youku and Weibo to connect with Chinese speakers and learn what’s current!
The biggest recommendation I have however, is to download the Zhongwen: Chinese-English dictionary plugin off the Google store (which is free!) or some other text-to-pinyin plugin. When you hover your cursor over a Chinese character, it will give you both the traditional and simplified characters, pinyin pronunciation, and definition. This helps leaps and bounds in learning new words and understanding what you’re reading.
As for apps, my favorites for studying Mandarin are Decipher, Pleco, Memrise, LearnwithOliver, and Lang-8.
The most basic Chinese language app out there is ever-popular dictionary app of Pleco. Pleco has everything you’d want in a dictionary, from flashcard functionality, to stroke order, to audio, to hand-writing, and so on. This is the number one thing I recommend to Chinese learners of every level.
Decipher is another great app, and very different from others out there. It has daily news articles in Chinese, where you can click on words you don’t understand and add them to flashcard decks, see the HSK ranking (汉语水平考试, essentially a difficulty or proficiency rating) of each article, etc.
Memrise is a convenient app that drills vocabulary and sentence-building, where you can also hear the words spoken for you. This is good for pronunciation, which is very, very, very important for Chinese since it’s a tonal language.
LearnWithOliver is a website, not an app, but it’s one of my favorite resources out there. They’ll email you words of the day tailored to your preferred difficulty level, have drills from multiple choice to sentence construction, reading segments, and so forth, and is all-over just a great resource. This is a high-quality and extremely under-rated gem for language learning, Chinese or not.
For practicing your writing, I have yet to find a site better than Lang-8. There you can write journal entries, and native speakers will correct them to sound more natural. Plus, you can make friends and language-practice buddies!
You want exposure to Mandarin EVERY. DAY. Wake up and, before you get out of bed, read a light news article in Chinese on your phone. As you’re commuting to work or school, listen to Chinese podcasts or music. Try to make friends and talk to people through WeChat and Lang-8 in your target language. Just make an effort!
Watching dramas and movies is a great way to learn new vocabulary and colloquialisms; you can go use Netflix and YouTube, but a recent website I’ve discovered is AiQiYi, and it has almost every Chinese show you could ever want on it. (My favorite Chinese movie right now is The Great Hypnotist. It’s on Netflix, so check it out!) Great musical artists to listen to are Fang Da Tong, Zhou Jie Lun, and Qu Wanting, but there are many others as well. Trying to copy what someone else is saying, whether in a movie or a song, will give you a more natural pronunciation, and also help you to achieve better fluency.
I hope these recommendations and tips help you on your language journey! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on my own studies, my move to China, or my other travels, you can subscribe to my mailing list or my YouTube channel, or follow me on my social media accounts via the sidebar. ✨
It’s been some time, hasn’t it? Much has changed since my last update, with exciting new developments and more.
I currently have over 60,000 words written for this bad boy! Still pushing along, and I’m hoping to finish at 75,000 by early August. This is easily my favorite work I’ve ever penned, reaching from Alexander’s conquests to China’s Communist Revolution, from lost alchemic rituals to the bonds that thread us all together. I can’t wait to get this in the hands of readers! Obviously I have a great deal of work ahead, but I’m looking forward to it all the same. I’m hoping to be done with my first full edit of The Immortal by the end of 2017.
A magazine almost picked this up, but then decided it wasn’t for them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Either way, I have this piece out on submission at two other places now, and if those fall through, I’ll take a step back to retool it. I mean, I wrote this two and a half years ago! The writing deities might just be saying it’s time to slap a new coat of paint on it, huh?
I was supposed to post a video at the end of May, but my old computer died, taking that (entirely edited! ?) video with it. However, I do have a different video that I am working on right now (5 Tips to Stay Sharp over Summer Break), so expect that soon! I’m also going to post videos on writing and language learning on my YouTube channel, so click this link and subscribe!
I have officially graduated with my Bachelor’s in International Security and minors in Mandarin Chinese and Asian Studies! And I’m moving! TO CHINA! I’ll be posting more on where I’ll be living, what I’ll be doing there, etc. in the near future, but regardless I am incredibly excited to make my way out into the Big Wide World as a Certified Adult™. In the meantime, I’m trying to get visa documents squared away, working, writing, building up this website, and so forth.
What are you up to during these summer months? Any projects or travels? Leave a comment below! Thanks for stopping by, and until next time!
I’m an avid bullet journaler, and am pretty involved in the “studyspo” community online (studying/productivity inspiration). Lately a challenge has been circulating called The 100 Days of Productivity Challenge, which I’d decided to take a swing at. Boy, am I ever glad I did.
Before I’d started this challenge, my edits on The Final Advent were slow, and my progress on other projects was nonexistent. I hardly found time to write at all. I figured I’d get around to everything eventually, but my studies were simply gobbling up too much of my time.
Let’s flash forward to now, where I have completed editing (and have released!) The Final Advent, and have completed 11k of a different novel and a substantial portion of a short story. Both which I work on now almost every day.
Why the change? What about this challenge, something external and arbitrary, so changed my habits? It all boils down to one thing: momentum.
When I started the challenge, I knew to set realistic expectations. What with 6 hours of homework a night, I didn’t want to set myself on fire just to complete everything that needed tending. Whatever I did, it had to be small. I wasn’t sure it would even make much of a difference. I definitely didn’t believe I’d make it to day 100, thinking the effort would prove fruitless.
My first week went by. Those mere 15 minutes a day had given me a pretty nice chunk of completed work, and hence the more I wrote the easier it became. Plus it offered me a productive bit of respite from schoolwork.
As the time went on, my small fifteen minutes a day started racking up some serious word counts, and the momentum just kept firing me up and the ball kept rolling. Something started to happen. I wasn’t feeling guilty that “oh I hadn’t gotten around to what I needed/wanted to do today, guess I’ll get around to it some other time”; I wasn’t pulling my hair out in stress either. I was getting stuff done, with minimal pressure and a boost of encouragement.
That trend continued, and to this day (long after the challenge) I still work on my writings almost every day. This challenge inspired me to kick my butt in gear, because there is quite literally no time like the present. (Pardon the cliche.)
Heck, I’ve even gotten a new weekly ritual out of it! Once a week I now take myself to a coffeeshop or bookstore, order a nice snack or drink (usually those ridiculously priced, diabetes-in-a-cup Starbucks concoctions), and sit down to write for a few hours. Productive, pressure free, and delicious. Plus oh-so-writerly.
Ultimately, here is what I’ve learned from the 100 Days of Productivity Challenge:
Set realistic expectations. Don’t pretend you’re going to write 1,000 words in a day, because you won’t. Not if you’re already struggling to sit down and write as is.
Force yourself to do it, and do it early. The sooner in the day you complete your task, the more you’ll get done.
Make it fun. If you hate what you’re doing, you’re not gonna do it. Find someplace comfy. Eat something nice, and stay hydrated. Don’t hunch over and strain your shoulders, for god’s sakes. Make it as painless as possible.
Keep track of what you’ve already done. For me, that was word counts. If you’re studying something for instance, keep track of how much you’ve reviewed or your (hopefully) improving grades. Seeing what I’d accomplished was a huge visual payoff for me.
Have you ever done a challenge like this before? If so, how did it go? What did you learn?