Moving overseas for my education has been a huge leap in my life, and what came along with this leap were very high expectations and hopes from my family. During my second year at university, unemployment became a serious issue for many graduates in Australia, enabling some of my friends and acquaintances to return home or find a job in another country. I then started to panic internally, my mind wondering off to different places but all coming back to the same questions, “What’s my life after university?”, “What am I passionate about?”, “What if I don’t get a job?”.
As someone who was already struggling to get a job, my demotivation increased daily. I was an international student with no actual work experience and no confidence in my skills. Most of the time I’d get rejected for a job, because I didn’t have years of experience or I didn’t speak Chinese. At one point, I was even convinced to learn a Chinese dialect, which was hilarious because it never happened and I’m horrible with new languages. Anyway, I gave up job-searching and concentrated more on improving different aspects of myself.
It started with spotting all the little things I felt uncomfortable doing, most of them coming from me not believing in myself enough. One of things I’ve had trouble with is speaking publicly and speaking my mind. I never know what I should be saying and start messing it up with stutters and of course, the usual ‘Um’s and ‘Ah’s. I’ve always tried my best to avoid situations where it would be my responsibility to be talking and engaging with people because I simply thought it was something I’m terrible at. I wanted to overcome all my fears and I was tired of my unhealthy lifestyle, tired of losing direction and not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
How did I become hopeful again? Here’s the optimistic part of my little story. I received an email from university about a study tour in Singapore. Despite the whole thing being quite vague, I decided to sign up for it and see my chances. I automatically didn’t have any high hopes as I knew I didn’t have much to offer, I had no experience after all.
To my surprise, I received an email from Austern International, a platform that aides millennials in building their skills and finding a career path that they love. I knew this was exactly what I needed, but I was pulled back by the fact that I would be spending three weeks in a country I wasn’t too familiar with and living with people I had never met before. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, and I was scared I would embarrass myself or that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. After thinking long and hard, I realized I was the problem I needed to face. I told myself that if I wanted to improve and learn, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and explore my boundaries. I needed to find myself again and it was time for me to improve those skills I was very weak at.
My Austern journey began in the second week of 2018 as I cluelessly flew to Singapore to live three weeks at a place I’ve never been before, with people I’ve never met before. Our facilitators did a wonderful job imparting their skills and knowledge to us, on topics like perfecting our LinkedIn profile, how to do research efficiently and how to produce the best presentation slides. We were required to interact with each other in groups, to produce quality content in limited time for VMware and Fave (previously Groupon). In groups, we separated our workload and prepared content that would take weeks to perfect, in a matter of days. Sleep-deprived, tired, stressed out and panicky, we still strived to do our very best and challenged ourselves to do even better.
It was immensely nerve-wrecking to present our work and portray our skills in front of all these professionals who have tonnes of experience and expertise in their field. Desperate to prove to myself that I really can improve and overcome obstacles, this desperation became an internal drive for me to push-through my fears. I learnt so much about the different organisational cultures, the way the employees there conduct themselves and about their different journeys.
After those three weeks, I noticed that I was a whole new person. I learned so much about myself and my ability to do something about the things I felt that I can improve on. I no longer fear speaking in front of many people and I feel confident in myself and my skills. I’m no longer afraid of making mistakes as I believe that I’m learning from them and I’m growing to be better every day. I’m forever thankful to Austern, my facilitators and friends from the program for truly making my experience worthwhile. I owe it all to those three weeks that I can share my experiences and encourage and motivate students.
My advice to anyone going through what I have, is to calm down, really examine yourself and the things you need to work on. I think it’s really important to criticise yourself and to admit that there are things you need to change. There’s no shame in being weak at something, the real shame is in not doing anything about it. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, you never know what kind of opportunities you’re letting pass by you just by holding yourself back and being hesitant. Please don’t forget to explore yourself and understand yourself foremost before tackling all your problems. Lastly, don’t beat yourself up too much, it’s never as bad as it may seem. Unless aliens start invading us or memes cease to exist I don’t think it’s worth the panic!
Hanthar Hlaing (Hani)