It’s been quite some time since I’ve written, and I miss the therapeutic, creative aspect of putting thoughts down on (digital) paper. A lot has happened in the past year—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life as we know it.
Besides entering a new decade in life, there have been a few momentous changes in life like moving to the Netherlands (where people still assume I’m 21 for better or for worse). Born into a traditional, conservative Chinese family while maturing in a progressive and increasingly hipster, Californian culture was always a huge tug-of-war identity struggle. And ever since studying abroad in Spain and semi-falling in love with European culture, I always knew I wanted to come back.
To be honest, the thirst was quenched while focusing on my career but revitalized during my sabbatical around the world, where I was inspired by young, yet surprisingly mature 18-year old Europeans on their gap years. However, getting to Europe was not so easy. From a failed opportunity in London to an uncertain and hesitant one in Helsinki, finding the right opportunity was harder than expected. But if I truly wanted to go to Europe—I would find a way into Europe. In the mean time, I accepted a job at AnswerLab, a growing user experience research company that helped companies like Apple and Amazon conduct digital product research. Besides the unique experience of having convinced myself of my small yet influential role on influencing the lives of billions around the world, I also enjoyed the progressive culture as well as the remote, work-from-home flexibility of the job—purpose and flexibility have become a few of my non-negotiables in addition to…adventure. And adventure brought up Europe once again…
The failed London opportunity brought about another opportunity that I never thought about—what about graduate school? I remembered the hiring manager for that failed London opportunity was originally from California but completed a Masters degree in Maastricht, the Netherlands. And so I went about researching Masters programs with English-language programs, which amounted to two viable options (given the late, spontaneous decision to apply)—the UK and the Netherlands. The UK wasn’t as appealing given the high cost of tuition, so I focused mainly on the Netherlands. Maastricht University seemed quite appealing with its international student population, renowned reputation for being a top-ranked “young” university, and its small-town charm. With the help of YouTube and Google, I quickly got to work on my application and motivation letter…and within 2 months and a happy acceptance letter…I decided to embark on the next journey of life…the Netherlands.