2019 was the year I left everything in Singapore for a year-long internship in Stockholm under a start-up to learn about entrepreneurship. A completely different year from my past years, but this year has taught me that: In my future years, there will probably not be a year like any years I’ve had. Each year will be so new, so fresh, full of experiences. Or at least, try to make them so. A year where I did my greatest leap of faith and a year of things so unlike what I would have usually done.
A year spent abroad, and my biggest concern is that my memory of it will disappear. Spending a few days in Singapore so far (note: a few), and Stockholm sadly felt so far and living like a memory. Some habits still stay as of now such as keeping on the right, trusting Google reviews more than I’ve, and the Jet Lag (slept at 4am and woke up at 3pm on the first official night). My biggest hope is to not lose that part of me in Stockholm now that I’m back.
Here’s for what I learned in 2019:
Working in a foreign country is the best thing to do overseas! I really enjoyed that I had this aspect more than my exchange friends. I was/am not an opportunistic person. I’ve heard stories from them about loneliness, boredom, lack of cultural exchange. I mean, I do feel them too. But with my work, I am living a much more fulfilling and integrated overseas experience! I got to immerse in a different working environment, and lucky me, Sweden advocates a work hard, play hard attitude! Lagom, which means just the right amount, is applied to their daily work and life. Not too much, not too little.
My colleagues are the cutest group of people, they are also inspiring people! I’ve picked up good habits and behaviours from them. Some of which I think can be passed down to my future workplace.
I got to pick up meditating, working on the mind. It’s something that I’ve never practised in my life. I’ve heard of its benefits but never worked my way through it. I was exposed to the mindful culture of Swedes, especially from the influence of Dag, who turned from my colleague to my Yoga teacher to a hippie musician and being a Yogi again. He encouraged me to turn up for classes, taught me to focus on my mind and to be more conscious of myself. I hope I do get better in controlling my mind and focus.
This is my favourite takeaways. The concept of Challenge Me. It all started when my CMO, Josefine, raised a topic of discussion for a potential idea that can boost our user growth. I wasn’t a fan of it as I think there could be a better alternative. And she basically raised her points, and said Challenge me, what do you think is good or bad? And we had a whole discussion of pros and cons. This ended up with a better solution that was thoroughly considered. Not only is this concept good for the organisation, but it tells people:
“I want to hear your thoughts, I value your opinions too.”
My farewell – Julbord
Living by myself
Independent living brought me to another level of awareness. I have been too blessed in the past with everything in the house done and bought for me. On the first day when we went Ikea, people sort of knew what they had to get, but it was a good to have shopping for me instead – I was given a room with most of the furniture in place, yes luck strike again. I didn’t know how frequent to clean the room, wipe the table, mop the floor or pack my stuff. But still, these don’t have rubrics to follow, and it’s up to an individual’s comfort. Which (un)lucky me, have pretty low standards for. I didn’t know that the hair accumulates and clogs in the drain when I shower, that bedsheets should be washed regularly.
I also discovered new fun facts! I use a roll of toilet paper a month, which is fantastic for someone who shits frequently. A full tube of toothpaste lasted me 6 months. I generate little waste that I can clear my rubbish once every 2 months. I like to decorate my place with pictures and objects that take up white spaces.
Sadly I have no regular pictures so here’s when Cheryl came to find me. 🙂
I sleep with my curtains opened because I love looking out to the sky, I would open the window to feel the breeze outside and to hear more than still air. I would sing songs for fun and wrap myself up in my blanket. I think I start to love being with me, and the thoughts that wrap my head. When placed in my own room, with a private toilet which leaves the primary door handle cold, I learnt to feel myself and my surroundings. To be at peace with who I am, no need to take into consideration another soul.
I realised I still refrain from crying when I watch sad shows even though no one’s watching. I laugh to myself when I see a funny video, and share it to people I know would have a good time over it too. I talk to myself and is my best entertainment. We are busy out there living every minute fully that we miss out the peace of being comfortable where we are. (definitely not what everyone agrees)
Although there are no parents to care about your hygiene and aesthetics, there’s also no control and expectations of how you should be. I didn’t have to go home by 7pm so we could eat dinner together. I can come back at 4am after drinking if I wanted to, or gym after class and have my meal at 10pm without them worrying over me. It was nice to be so liberating and have yourself accounting for what you do!
It was really lovely when they came and packed my whole room though, felt like I could see free spaces again. :”) But once in a while is good enough HAHA HAHA.
Live on your own, you grow your soul.
When you travel overseas with a group of 9 people, and all of you journey on the same path, there’s a special bond that forms with the vulnerability and need for each other. It’s basically the kind of exclusivity that I like from my friends and people around me LOL. But it’s so cute – when it reaches 6pm, and SG turns to midnight, my chats are usually filled with theirs, and it’s light and chill.
I didn’t expect to be very close friends with these people when I first saw them during the meeting, I didn’t feel like they were potential friends. BUT, circumstances really puts you to the test, we just had to hang out with each other. Learn to be comfortable with traits we weren’t, adapt to the social humour of the group and put in the effort. I like that the times when you had other plans for your other friends were not a common excuse you could pull out. Really appreciative of NCST28. 🙂
Hanging out overseas also taught me to reach international friends and be more open to meeting new people! This includes reaching out to people you haven’t spoken in a long time – I talked to Eegin who was at Copenhagen and even went Gothenburg to find Flora! I got to meet William from Canada, Isabella from Sweden, Taylor from US and Valerio from Italy (and I met him before I left again!) from Relate’s internship. They are a bunch of fun-loving and opportunistic youngsters!~ So glad to have known them.
I also made friends from Hackathon, and the most memorable incident was when I went to Visby and stayed with 2 foreign guys who are older than I am. #everythingyourmumtoldyounotto I asked for accommodation, and Philip kindly brought me and Daniel around the island of Gotland! We went to Faro by car, and it’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a local guide. They were also friendly and hospitable – accommodating to me as “I wouldn’t come back here again”.
Can I just say Faro was so beautiful!! The rocks and formation, fun fact, the 200kr dollar note was referenced off the place! Philip’s home was also charming, I had a spacious and comfy room to myself. They aren’t people that I click well with, but being with them has taught me to communicate more carefully. (they always apologise for speaking in Swedish even though I always say it’s alright!) If y’all happen to read this, thank you so much for the pleasant times in Visby, it was great!
Other than my friends who I found, some friends visited me too! Here’s some of them:
I also met new friends apart from NOC – exchange pals, friend’s colleagues and neighbours:
So lovely to have the senior batch to welcome us and teach us how we could have fun, and for the junior batch for us to have fun with!
I also had the luxury to travel around Europe during this one year. I took some weekend trips and longer holidays in the middle. I covered 14 countries in Europe and took 19 flights! D: I had a total of 12 trips where I did 2 solo trips, 2 pairing trips, 3 trips where I visited someone, 2 trips on the sea, 1 family trip and 6 trips with my friends.
Solo-travelling is a tick off my bucket list! I was not someone who would have taken a solo trip, I am not gutsy, and I fear danger. This solo trip happened because Junyi pushed me for it. I was supposed to find SH in Belgium and JY gave me the idea to visit Amsterdam nearby too. And I hesitated really long before I decided to DO IT. And it almost didn’t happen because SAS had a strike and my first trip there was cancelled. (luckily also refunded, and claimed for insurance)
I researched a lot because I didn’t wanna die LOL. I was mapping out my whole itinerary and watching many blogs/vlogs. I was really glad that I went in the peak of summer, where sunlight was from 4am to 10pm. I went to the red light district alone at 8pm and it was still bright, though business must have been affected.
Amsterdam was really good as I got to do everything that I like, without having to bear concern for another party. #selfaccountable It was also really pretty!
A regret I have about all my travel trips was that they are planned very lately, which means not a lot of research went into them. The purpose of these trips became more to check off a place than to understand its beginnings and story. I’ve seen great wonders but I’ve not felt their existence as they should be. Leaving the places without a good contextual knowledge is pretty sad. I did still have a great time everywhere I travelled, some due to the place, some for its activities and others for the company.
Travelling was a good break from everything back in Stockholm, it was exploration and activities-filled. It was also bringing an identity out that has been buried by routine. Some memorable moments were:
- When I couchsurfed in Lithuania and met Roland – my first couchsurfing German friend. We had a great chat and I was glad we walked around together.
- Oktoberfest – didn’t expect that I would be drinking litres of German beer
- Tallink booze cruise – sooooo high and all round entertainment
- Trolltunga – 11hrs of climbing :’), Norway was beautiful though
It was such a new year, full of unexpected things, new friendships, new discovery and growing up. You did a great job Ann Qi, you led a comfortable and accountable life. You’ve laughed and had so much happiness collected, and distributed so much peals of laughter to those around you. I think the best part was feeling you grow within you, and seeing the choices that you’ve taken lead you to where you are now.
To the future you, 2020 sounds like another year of opportunities. Whatever you choose to do, you know that you will everything will turn out okay. I hope this year you find a new level of accountability to your own body, eat well and live well. Love yourself and those you love! As you graduate, it’s another huge milestone and turning in your life. Make good use of your youth.