{December 15, 2007}   angst

I think I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.

people always comment on what a great opportunity it is, being in a foreign country, having the chance to experience new things… I must be doing something wrong, then. I don’t see much in the way of interesting experiences – just cheap malls and boring tourist attractions. I’ve never been much of a tourist, really; as a kid I preferred to read books, and now I prefer to be online or with friends. I guess I was hoping that coming to china would magically cure that somehow. now I find myself stuck in a school taking courses I’m not really interested in and hardly ever leaving campus at all.

I feel bad that I’m not putting much effort into studying chinese while I’m in china. I feel bad that I’m not going out and making friends. I feel bad that I’m not traveling around seeing whatever the things are that I’m supposed to see.

but… I feel like I’m trying to live someone else’s life here. I feel bad about not doing things that I’m “supposed” to do, even though they’re not things I generally enjoy. I keep thinking about all the things I could be doing in vancouver, all the new friends I made there before leaving for china, all the new friends I made when I went back in august. I think about all the other things around the world I’m missing out on – the kde4 release party, a bunch of other fun events, the ACM contest, summer of code, internships (although some of that can always be done later).

I find myself wondering what the hell I’m doing here in china.

I don’t regret *coming* here – it’s certainly been an interesting experience, living in a country where I’m just beginning to learn the language. I have a lot more understanding of the troubles immigrants must have in canada. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot.

I’m just not sure how much longer I want to stay here.

for the dual degree program, I’m supposed to stay another year and a half, completing some reasonable number of credits involving comp sci, chinese stuff, and electives. in chinese, of course. this means trying to focus on both chinese *and* CS at the same time – trying to understand assignments and exams that are written in chinese. is it really such a good idea to try to do both at once, instead of focusing on just one and doing a proper job of it? …or maybe it would be better than just straight chinese courses, since I’m pretty bored of those. not that they’re *easy* – I’m just losing interest. it’s been more than a year, and I don’t normally stick with one thing that long.

one thing I could do is leave after the end of the next semester, in july, and switch to the normal SFU CS program for september. I’d take one semester of CS courses in china, and the credits would transfer (if I passed, of course). I’d have time to get home, meet up with some friends, go off to akademy, then back to vancouver and run around putting my life back together before the start of school.

another possibility is to finish up this semester of chinese courses, stick around for chinese new years, and then go home. I wouldn’t have to attempt CS courses in chinese, and I wouldn’t have to look for an apartment here. however, I’d be returning in the middle of SFU’s spring semester, and taking summer courses would conflict with going to akademy – so I still wouldn’t be back at SFU until september, and I’d have to justify this to my uncle, since he’s kind enough to be paying my bills. :) although perhaps I could try for an internship, or apply for summer of code… or pick something to study on my own and argue that this way I don’t have to pay tuition ;)

of course, even if I did go back early, how much of the stuff I want to do would I actually do? it’s all much easier in theory. in reality, there’s only so much time in a day, and it’s quite easy to let most of that just slip away. I haven’t been too good at time management – I need to work on that. there’s just so much I want to do… and some of it isn’t easy, so it would be quite easy to procrastinate. I tend to expect a lot of myself; recent frustrations with plasma seem to come from trying to tackle a big problem that I think I should be able to understand, and then finding out that it’s really complicated and I can’t understand it with the amount of time I’m able to put in, and then being all upset and unproductive for a few days because of it.

how much of this is really wanting something else, and how much is just looking for excuses to not try any more at learning chinese? it’s true that I’m kinda afraid to try and fail, or to get bad marks. actually, my marks kinda suck already :/ that’s what happens when you don’t study a subject that’s mainly memorization, I guess. if you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m starting to not even want to use it.

the other thing that bugs me, though, is that I’m feeling a bit like I did when I was working. it took me until march, then, to see that I was making myself miserable and get the hell out of there. if that’s what’s happening again, then maybe I should get out. but on the other hand, maybe I can turn it around, maybe life doesn’t have to suck so much. in february we’re supposed to move to zijingang campus, and there are more people there that I might get along with better. but the food will still suck, and I’ll still want to code all day instead of studying.

I guess I’ve got to do some real thinking about what I want to do with the next few years of my life.

Thomas Zander says:

Hi Chani,

a couple of years ago I did some travelling and I spent 3 months in various youthhostels. It was something I could do due to good circumstances. I’m really happy about having done that, the new culture and doing things like an overnight trip though fjortlands and all sorts of cool stuff (I still think I should have done the skydiving)..

I feel that whenever someone tells you that China is a great opportunity for you, they aim mostly at the opportunity of doing completely new things, seeing things you would never dreamed possible in the confines of your own hometown.

The tricky bit here is that the older you get, the harder it is to make the decision to go away for a longer time. As you no doubt saw in leaving Canada already. The problem is that we, as humans, tend to adjust to our surroundings more and more over the years and end up not wanting to change anymore.

So, really, the opportunity is not *just* seeing entirely new things, its being able to find out what you like to do. Because you can only find out you really like to do something if you tried it. And you should aim to make your career of something you like to do. Since you’ll get really good at the thing you like to do.
But you should avoid the mistake of just doing the first thing you like and grab any opportunity to try out cool new things, which may very well lead you to the most pleasurable experience.

So, sure, when you feel you are doing the studies (in China) just for the sake of being in China, then you might want to move on. But what you have to ask yourself before you make such a decision is if you got the most of it. If you experienced everything you could from your stay and if you expect any more opportunities to arise if you stay.
My guess is that just 6 months and only on campus might be a bit short. Did you try getting a job there, did you try teaching English, did you try being a tourist guide, did you try setting up a Linux User Group (or just install-fest)…

Bottom line; look at your stay in China like an opportunity to learn ways of spending time that you will really enjoy. And only go back if you are certain you will not regret it later in your life.

In the mean time; have fun and hopefully see you at Akademy :)

Chani says:

thomas: I don’t think I’m interested in working here at all (although there have been job offers; the ones I showed interest in quickly evaporated). that would mean living here, and I think I just don’t like that.
as for linux… it’s a pain in the ass to get anything non-windows online at this school, so I wouldn’t want to deal with the endless stream of complaints.

anyways… I was thinking some more, and maybe it would be interesting to go traveling after the new year instead of taking classes. I’d be able to meet up with a friend in beijing, and would actually see a bit of china. it’d just be kinda scary to try and plan something like that.

Thomas Zander says:

Sounds like a great plan :)

I know what you mean with it being scary, I’ve had that feeling too. One piece of advice that I heard often that convinced me to go travelling is that if you go to youth hostels or generally places specific to travelers it turns out to be really easy to make friends as everyone is in the same frame of mind as you are. So if you like to talk; you’ll have no problems at all.

Merry Christmas, and a exploratory new year from a whitish Oslo!

Chani says:

yeah, when I spent a day in shanghai I managed to make friends with some random travellers :) it was fun. would’ve been more fun if I hadn’t been too tired to do anything after dinner.

I wonder where I would go…

Marius says:

Hei Chani
Now that was a long blog post :). From reading it and your previous ones you don’t sound too happy to me. I think you should do what you enjoy doing. Nobody’s making you learn Chinese and if you’d rather do coding work , maybe that’s what you should do. Life si too short to do pointless stuff and after all how useful can learning Chinese be ?
On the other hand coding is useful but you’ve also got to think about what you really want to do in life. Maybe you could get a job and start making some money , with your experience I’m sure it wouldn’t be that hard. Don’t just do school to do school , if you feel it’s not what you want , do what you want. After all we’re learning what we have to in school for long enough , there comes a point when we can choose a job, become independent and decide what we really want to do.
This is how I see things. Good luck with whatever you decide to do though.

Chani says:

actually, I had a job once, and it was terribly depressing. :) that’s part of how I ended up back in school. hopefully I’ll be able to get a non-depressing job next time I’m looking. :)

I’m actually feeling a lot better today. yay :) I knew I’d be incapable of feeling happy for a while after pete left china; hopefully that phase is ending now.
now I seem to have things narrowed down to 3 choices: try to catch up with chinese and stay for one more semester, try to catch up with chinese but go travelling in february, or stop stressing out about the chinese, probably not pass all the exams, and go travelling in febuary.

oh, and new reasons to travel keep appearing: there’s some kind of linux conference in beijing, feb 19-20th. :)

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