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The Graduate

7 Nov 2018

I will in no way compare myself to the main character in the movie I have titled this entry, but I will write you what life has been like going from a full-time student to a college graduate.

UGH I JUST WANT NORMAL

was a phrase Kate, my super cool sea-star who is also a doggie mum, recalled in a conversation she had with Sam, her hubby. The conclusion was, people like her and me (missionary kids, expats, creative people, CALLED BY JESUS, etc.) don’t need normal, don’t have normal, and cannot have normal.

I totally understand her complaint. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my parents weren’t missionaries and pastors. I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I only spoke one language. I sometimes wonder and then cringe because I cannot ever imagine a life where my universe is limited to one country, one culture, one language, one city, one friend group, one everything.

My world is so vast that I’m not used to the idea of “settling”. I will never be satisfied with a meaningless office job that pays “just enough” and find someone who is “just tolerable” and have a “kinda interesting” life. I know that there is so much to this universe and I am so willing to explore it. I’m not okay with staying at a place I grew up in. I’m ready to fly again.

God has told me 2018 is a year of pioneering for me. I’m ultimately excited about this word but also simply terrified of what is to come. I know where my destinies lie and I understand my dreams are safe in his hands.

Though I have faith that everything is going to be alright, I have basically been overwhelmed by the amount of information I had to sort through from July to October.

THE QUESTION

For one, I constantly had to deal with the question of “WHAT AM I GONNA DO AFTER I GRADUATE?”. Yes, my thoughts were in all caps. many anxiety inducing. such triggering. much ouch. Yes, very dodgy thoughts.

Honestly, I had no clue what I wanted to be doing around the months of July through August. I had extremely many options such as:

  1. stay in Taiwan and find a job
  2. go to Korea and find a job
  3. find a job else where
  4. go study more somewhere
  5. working holiday somewhere
  6. keep doing crafts, leave Taiwan every three months…

The list actually kept going forever, there was option 1a, 1b1, 1b2… I call it the luxury and the curse of a visa-less person who has never felt grounded to any place ever.

This brings me to the other question everyone has been dying to know the answer to. Every time they ask me, I have to explain for 30+ minutes, so here goes,

here is a breakdown of my visa situation:

  • I was born in Korea, thus I have a Korean passport
  • I have lived in Taiwan since I was six years old
  • From the age of six to eighteen, I was a dependent under appa’s missionary visa
  • Umma is also appa’s dependent, THE PAPA IS THE ONLY ONE WITH A CARD
  • By 2009(?), appa received a PARC (Permanent Alien Residency Card), he & umma doesn’t have to worry about visa in Taiwan, basically
  • Starting 2013, I lived with my own student visa from NTU
  • A student visa needs to be renewed every year
  • I’m not allowed to work legally unless I get a working permit from the school (I did for TA)
  • When I graduate, the NIA (National Immigration Agency) asks me if I will leave immediately or will stay six months (buffer period) to find work in Taiwan
  • Right now, as of November 2018, I am on this buffer period
  • My student visa / buffer period expires 31, December 2018
  • I have booked my outbound flight for 27, December 2018 (more on this later)
  • There is no way in this country I can automatically receive a PARC…
    • even though I have lived here 17ish years
    • even though my parents have a PARC
    • mainly because my parents are here on a missionary visa
      • if they were here on a business visa, then I could have gotten one easily
      • yes people, it’s all about money and taxes, they love that stuff
    • unless I was a certifiably disabled or mentally challenged child
    • unless I marry a Taiwanese

Now, you are an inch smarter about how Taiwan’s passport, residency, and visas work. Go spread the word about how bitter I am, please. Although I feel a little helpless about the situation, I have somehow organized my thoughts here (it’s a letter to a personified Taipei City, I’m quite proud of it).

SO I OFFICIALLY GOT MY DIPLOMA

on July 27th. I thought that meant I can stay in Taiwan until January 27—six months. It turns out, they count by whenever the semester ends, so it didn’t matter what day of the month I got my diploma. Cruel.

However, our bye-school day was a good one. Fanny and I watched one last film (The Graduate) at the library, took pictures at our favorite spots on campus, then got our diploma. Our unofficial ceremony felt like another confirmation that friendships are a delicate matter: they take time to build but also cannot be forced by non-reciprocal means. We talked about our traumatizing first day and just laughed till we lost it.

August

was another month of not-much-ness. I helped out with a couple of fringe festival performances. One of them was a mix-mash of flamenco, autobiographical story time, and avant-garde-esque theatre. The main performer was an older (by ten years) former NTU student from my same major. In one of her monologues, she introduced how she got a bachelor in English in Taiwan, got a masters in Chinese linguistics in Arizona, but ended up being a flamenco aficionado. That self-introduction was my favorite part of the show because I could just relate to it to the core—the pain, the awkwardness, the well-please-judge-me feeling, but just laughing on the inside because the conversation is totally déjà vu.

The humid hot days of Taipei ensued. There would be days I would be very motivated to research into my future. Other days, I’d sleep in and hang out with friends in the afternoon. I still tutored English twice a week. Some days, I’d do crafts and update my scrapbook—basically a very extended summer break.

my first job-quitting ordeal (but not really a job)

After collaborating with Totes & Tees for Fashion Revolution and a weekend art festival in June, we decided to keep working on projects. Even though I wanted to work with this small company, my days after December 2018 had no concrete plans and being a small company, they couldn’t provide me with a visa. I didn’t find it practical to be flying in and out of Taiwan every three months. I knew I had to get out and live elsewhere even though my lazy, comfort seeking side truly wanted to never leave. We agreed I would collaborate with them till I left.

However, something about this collaboration never felt right for me. Part of my dissatisfaction definitely stemmed from my own blindspot and stubbornness. Looking back, I feel pretty stupid saying yes to a collaboration with someone I didn’t know too well. I may have miscommunicated some ideas but there were also some red flags from them every other meeting. I won’t dig into the details because they are a rising company and our dis/connection had many personal intricacies. I’m here to say every collaboration/work relationship has two sides and we both probably messed it up somewhere along the line. I’m not proud of the way I ended things but also proud of myself of cutting ties that has been feeding me unnecessary anxiety. I’ll just end this chapter by saying it was a complex issue.

CURRENT DIRECTIONS

This is the information you have been dying to know. I am a story teller and I am unapologetic about making you read a lot of details along the way. However, typing up a six months summary was a tough one, I promise I’ll make it monthly now.

After quitting things, saying no, banging heads, laugh crying, and aging a year. I listed out the things I love and want to do:

First off, I love making things. I know that I can do this anywhere if I put my mind to it.

Second, I love theatre. I love taking part in productions even if it’s a hardcore manual laboring crew job. After rewriting my resume recently, I realized I have taken part in at least one production every year for the last ten years. I cannot go a month without listening to Hamilton, Wicked, or The Fantasticks and my friends know how badly I want to watch all the broadway shows (yes, all).

Third, I want to work in an NGO or set up an NGO myself. In many of my updates, I have written about my heart for the Roma people in Hungary and how I see myself setting up creative jobs for them. However, after working with a fashion related social enterprise, I realized I still have much to learn and this isn’t something I can rush into within a few months.

Four, I love traveling and now I have a great reason to just go out and all around. The funding is a little tricky though.

This list reminded me that my life goals haven’t changed too much over the last few years. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Elim—God is all about giving us many and more. He never forces us to chose between great dreams but gives us permission to open his gifts step by step. I’m called to be a birdfish.

“Be A BirdFish”—meaning, when asked “if you could be a bird or a fish what would you be?” You’d normally chose one and answer. But God will give you the answer “be both!”. Then you’d proceed to comment: “but that’s silly!” You’d laugh and find out God is silly sometimes and loves you so much that he will give you more and most. This anecdote/concept was shared by Pastor Jon at our church a while ago.

So yes, I’m finally choosing just one thing, for now. That one thing requires a long application process.

ACTUAL CURRENT DIRECTIONS

I looked for theatre jobs in New York and London; searched for job openings from ethical fashion companies I love; researched more on how and what I can do. After more research, I found out that theatre jobs usually don’t give out working permits or visas. Then down this rabbit hole, I found that Korea has working holiday agreements with many countries, UK was one of them. Then it all clicked. I’ve always wanted to live in London or New York. I love the cultural scene in London, especially their theatre productions.

The official website for working holiday had extremely difficult wordings in Korean. I asked umma and appa and they both went… well, that’s legal Korean. This also lead me into another rabbit hole of researching for tips and guidelines on Naver Cafes (it’s a Korean thing) and I’m proud to say the iota of Koreanness in me has paid off.

To sum it all up, I have to apply for a governmental sponsorship around mid-January. Then the government will announce the results around March. With that sponsorship, I will proceed to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa (aka working holiday visa) with the UK embassy. If everything goes swimmingly, I will be in the UK by early summer of 2019.

Every document has to be processed in Korea so I booked a round trip ticket—departing Taiwan 27 of December and the return ticket is valid for 3 months. It also happens I have picked the most hectic months in Asia: Christmas, New Year, Lunar New Year… (Valentines Day?). It also made sense for me to stay in Korea for a while just to test out how I’ll live alone somewhere foreign. I also wouldn’t have to worry about visa problems while I’m there; I can actually work legally for the first time in my life without worrying about permits and jazz.

My first step into getting government sponsorship and YMS visa is to take a certified English test aka TOEFL or IELTS. I’ll be taking the IELTS at the end of November. Everyone keeps saying it will be ridiculously easy for me, but I personally just hate taking tests. I’m just not the best test taker. My English may be like-native but tests seem to be testing another crazy dimension called test taking. So after finishing up this update, I will go on a hardcore study mode.

I know I’m leaving soon-ish…

A lot of things are still unsettled. It’s hard for me to believe that I MAY BE IN LONDON soon. I’m all jitters but also 15% fear—the rest is a mix of trusting and holding onto hope while steadily acting upon plans.

As my flight date approaches, I ask you to be gentle with me. I will get time to say goodbye to you personally if you just shoot me a message. But please also know I cannot clone myself and I have already said no to so many little things to keep myself very sane. And please don’t freak out if we miss each other, “forever is made of nows” and long time shall be soon.

If you have read this much, I know you care. Thank you, my angels. Thank you.

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