I’m in a rough place right now. Possibly a quarter life crisis, if that’s even a thing. Sometimes living abroad is hard, and overwhelming. My friends are all starting careers, developing relationships and decorating apartments, and here I am with no career prospects, a master’s degree and $20k USD in debt…. Help me.
I’ve always been one of those people who needs to talk things out. Whether it’s a relationship, or a personal problem, voicing my feelings in words always helps me. It almost doesn’t even matter what the other person says, it’s mainly forcing myself to air out my feelings.
That said, sometimes a little bit of advice goes a long way. The few times I’ve really opened up here, the outpour of support has been amazing! Most notably, my post about leaving my boyfriend to move to China. Honestly, whenever I read your kind messages I get all teary-eyed and emotional. I’m a baby, what can I say.
So basically… I’m really hoping that this can be another one of those times that we can have a little girl talk (or bro talk) and maybe you can all help me sort my life out.
So here we go:
I don’t think I want to live in China anymore.
Oh WOW, stunning revelation Richelle. We all knew this was coming someday.
Yeah, okay I get it. Big deal. You want to move somewhere else. That’s normal. China is a rough country to live in, and the internet censorship is ridiculous, along with the horrible pollution. Of course you don’t want to live there forever.
Just hear me out.
I’m in a really weird place in my life. I’m 23 years old. I’m in the process of getting my master’s degree. I’m $20,000 USD in debt. I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to live, and my life choices are so vastly different from everyone.
Everybody here pretty much plans to go back home after they graduate. This was their fun China year, and then it’s on to a “real-person” job, a house with a white picket fence, a husband and babies.
But that’s not what I want. I don’t want to go home. I’m not ready to go back to the US just quite yet. I’m not done with Asia. I’m not done traveling. I’m not done challenging myself. I’m not down for the 9-5 office job. I’m young, I’m fun, and I want to explore the world while I still have the health, passion and freedom to do so.
So what’s next for me? Where do I go? What do I do with my life?
I don’t know.
It’s so incredibly easy to stay in China. I even have a possible high-paying job opportunity in China next year. I could start leading food tours, writing travel guides about China, and work my way to becoming a “China expert”, all while saving money to get rid of those pesky student loans.
But to be honest, I don’t know if I can live here another year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love China and I will always love China. This country was my first true taste of international independence. China challenged me in ways I didn’t know were possible.
Have you ever been in a very serious relationship with someone, but just known that they weren’t the right person for you? The more you try to make the relationship work, and the longer you stay, the more you begin to resent one another. That’s how I feel about China.
I love China. I will always love China. But the more I force myself to stay here because of all of the amazing opportunities this country has to offer, the more I begin to hate it. I’d rather leave with fond memories, than harbor hate and resentment in my heart.
I’ve been beginning to refer to myself as a “jaded China bitch”. Nothing here excites me anymore. Nothing is new. When things are hard, I don’t see them as a challenge, I just get annoyed. Nobody likes that person. I always used to look at those long-term expats that just bitch about living here, and I would think “If you hate it so much then why are you here?? Just leave!” But it’s hard to leave when all of the opportunities are here.
You know where I really want to live? Taiwan.
I love Taiwan so much. Taiwan is my favorite country (so far). A small island, Taiwan really packs a punch. Cosmopolitan Taipei, with bars and restaurants serving any food imaginable. Night markets, shopping, and cheap hot springs, you can find anything in that city.
Or maybe I’ll live in Tainan, the sleepy city packed with temples and the best food you can imagine. I can go hiking in the free national parks, learn to surf, go scuba diving, lay out on the beach, or drink bubble tea until I puke.
I’d also love to move to South Korea, Thailand or maybe Vietnam. I’m open to the possibilities.
But I have a big problem. I’m also sick of teaching English.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job last year (aside from living in the middle of nowhere), but I don’t want to be a full-time teacher, especially not at an ESL cram school. I teach two hours a week this year and that is more than enough for me. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. The only thing I’m interested in is teaching English to university students.
Why is it so hard to find a job in Asia that’s not teaching English? It’s impossible… unless you’re in China. If you’re in China, all you have to do is sneeze and you can find a job. That’s a huge over exaggeration, but all I’m saying is that if I wanted to stay in China I’m sure I could find a decent paying job that doesn’t involve teaching English to crazy 5-year-olds.
What would I be interested in? I could work as a college counselor to help local students study abroad in the West, work as an exchange student coordinator or study abroad resident director, do social media for a cool company or startup, aid an amazing NGO, or even work at an embassy (I’ll whip out my international affairs degree!).
To be honest, all I really want to do is travel, write my blog and create some cool entrepreneurial projects like backpacker tours in Asia. But I’m not in the place to pack it all up and start making money on my own. I make almost no income from this blog, and I’m $20k in debt. I feel like I would need to pay off my student loans and start making a bit more money before I could make a decision of that magnitude.
A part of me is kicking myself for getting my master’s degree, when all I really want to do is travel. I could have taken that $3k I saved up last year and backpacked around Southeast Asia! Now I’m stuck with debt, only able to travel when my school gives me time off, and I’m forced to take a “real job” to pay off the debt for a degree I don’t even really feel like I need.
So here I am. Full of passion, (almost) two amazing degrees, ready to share my experience and value with the world, and I’m feeling trapped. Why should I settle? I don’t want to have to choose between teaching English to crazy children all day, or living in a country I’m not passionate about anymore.
I feel like I’m in such an odd position, wanting to live abroad, but also wanting a career, and I have no one to talk about it with. All of the backpackers have no clue why I’m getting a master’s degree and no advice about my debt, and my friends here are all heading home at the end of the year.
The worst are the older backpackers who’ve already quit the 9-5 and have no idea what they want to do with their own lives. I can’t even get one sentence out before I hear “Shut up, you’re 23!” But you know what, this is my blog so no one can tell me to shut it here!
I know we’re all lost in life sometimes (or all the time), and it’s completely normal. None of us ever know what we’re doing. But I’m such a planner, and I’m so used to working towards that next goal. I wanted to go to the best high school, and then attend an amazing college, graduate with honors, learn Chinese, get my master’s degree… now what? Move back home and work up the corporate ladder? Stay in China and get a high paying job? No thanks.
I can’t be the only one in this weird position, trying to rationalize my desire for career success with my passion for travel, feeling lost and confused.
If anyone has any advice about jobs I could possibly apply for, or opportunities you think would be great for me, I would really appreciate it. Even if you just have a few kind words, or you’re in a similar place, please let me know so we can endure the struggle together.