In June 2015, it was a year since I graduated from DIT with a first class honours in Chinese and International Business, and I was depressed. I know a lot of people use the word depressed to exaggerate their own melancholy, but I was genuinely in that bad place. I didn’t turn to alcohol or drugs, though I did enjoy indulge when needed.
Despite doing quite well in college and having the language that was set to be the next lingua franca, I didn’t know how to present myself. I wrote CV after CV and sent them to recruiters and to any graduate recruitment programme I could find, and even put my CV through to companies that imported pencils because I thought I needed something, anything, just something to get my foot in the door.
Some days I would write multiple CV’s for different jobs, each with their own personalised cover letters and I did my research on each company and even did some research into their finances because it was not that difficult to do online.
I was lucky to rejects emails that were copied and pasted for dozens of people. I was even luckier when hiring managers emailed me tips. Some of them were quite helpful like get some certificates in SEO or website building from different online platforms that you can learn from and get a certificate from. Others told me to take any and all internships I could.
My education didn’t count for much when I didn’t have much real life experience besides working in a 99 cent shop on the weekends and being a volunteer for a local youth club. I had freelance writing experience and some small marketing experience here and there, but nothing that was solid like other people.
One recruiter took the time to explain to me that getting into a media job was extremely difficult in Ireland. She told me that I am not competing with other graduates for most entry level positions; Instead, I was mostly up against people who had upskilled during the crash and were in the jobs market with masters and more certificates than stars in the sky.
Prior to the financial crash in 2007/2008, the Celtic Tiger was a time when employees chose jobs and employers tried to match their competitors wages to keep talent. People chose jobs based upon the times they worked and salary and how long their commute would take them.
Today, some people commute from one side of the country to the other just to keep moving forward.
I could blame all my misfortune on factors and circumstances beyond my control, but I would be lying to myself if I only did that.
I had banked a lot on getting a scholarship to study in China starting September 2015. I was so arrogant and sure I would get it that I failed to have a backup plan. I was working in the Dublin Mail Center as an auxiliary postal sorter for the Summer of 2015 and the money I made was suppose to support me until my scholarship stipend kicked in.
I spent months researching programmes in China, emailing and calling universities and I had to bug the Chinese embassy in Dublin so much that they eventually replied to me and scheduled a meeting with me. I was given print outs of a step by step process to apply for a European scholarship programme. The steps were unclear but I somehow managed to get through them all and by the end of the process I had sent my scholarship application to the Chinese-European Office in Brussels with high hopes.
My bubble burst a few months later when the list for those accepted was put online. I remember it very well. I was on a bus into work and I was chatting with some people I knew. I seen the notification and checked the PDF file. I checked it dozens of times and I couldn’t find my name anywhere. It was a kick in the balls. I was quiet for the rest of the commute to work. By the time I finished up for the summer in the Post Office, I was without a job, a scholarship, a direction in life and worst of all, I was bored.
Secondary school was boring to me. It was a shotgun blast of so many disciplines it didn’t make sense to me. It was bulimic learning of eating up a tonne of information and vomiting it on an exam paper and never remembering it, or needing it again. That is the education system in most countries, but in Ireland it is particularly appalling.
University was a little bit better. I was able to focus on two disciplines, International Business and Chinese. It felt more focused and I put a lot of effort into my studies. I can honestly say, I enjoyed putting the time and effort into learning Chinese and the business was okay. It wasn’t anything life changing. It is business studies for Christ sake.
To go from a direction that is straight in front of you to feeling like the whole of yourself has been turned into many pieces that are shot off in so many directions that you can’t keep track, is overwhelming.
I volunteered on a weekly radio station called Hello China on Dublin City FM. I took part-time work where ever I could find it and eventually did a short internship with a Chinese newspaper, though it didn’t last because they told me I was going to be paid and told me I wasn’t until I proved myself, despite proving myself prior during an internship.
I eventually ended up back in the Dublin Mail Center. It was a bit of cushion for me. It was easy money during the holiday season and Christmas was a bit of a goldmine because overtime hours were thrown at you. I made my money and next came an offer to work in Shanghai with a new media platform.
At the time, the newspaper had not been launched. It was being set up to launch in March 2016. They wanted “journalists” to write articles to bulk up their media platform before it went online. I wanted to take the job, but without financial aid for relocation, I would be paying for myself the whole way and they wanted me to there before Christmas.
It fell through and I was stuck in a telemarketing job in Dublin. I was a lead generator. It is a fancy way to say call people and trick them into giving their details willingly for a whitepaper that contains little to no reasonable information for someone in the field it is geared towards. That said, there are some whitepapers that get published that are quite helpful, but the ones I was putting out were useless.
I worked hours between 22:00 to 06:00 and 00:00 to 08:00 depending on daylight savings in Ireland and different parts of Australia. I was making calls in the middle of the night to CIOs across Australia and occasionally to the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, though mostly Australia.
I was expected to make 150 calls a day and this was the minimum amount. It was a tedious job and despite being enthusiastic to prove myself early on, my energy and drive for it and my life just sank. Maybe it was working at night in a job where you had an overbearing presence of management in a quiet, dead office where nobody could talk outside of a 30 minute lunch break, but I was depressed.
Thinking about it now, maybe living abroad gave me higher expectations for myself, or maybe it was my family. My Dad had told me he found it hard to comprehend how going through 4 years of college could not amount to getting a job. I couldn’t either. That is what we were taught throughout our secondary education. Get to college and the you will have a job and beer will flow from your taps and women will want you.
well, maybe not that last part, but you get what I mean. College is built up to be this giant institute that will land you a job if you click our heels, close your eyes and say “theres no place like Google”.
I was smart enough to put through for a scholarship again, but this time, it was for Taiwan. I got it.
I quit my job at the call center, even after they put me on the day shift. It was even worst than the night shift. At least with the night shift, I had a reason to pass out at my desk from being so tired and bored, I didn’t have that excuse during the day shift. I went back to the Post Office and worked as many hours as I could get my little grubby hands on. I didn’t care what I had to do, I needed money to get myself out of Ireland and to Taiwan.
I was given a scholarship to study International Communications in a good university. I also got a stipend of €600 a month and my fees paid for. It wasn’t a full-time job, but it was better than feeling like yesterday’s jam in Ireland.
Unlike a lot of foreigners who come to Taiwan, I had studied Chinese for 4 years and the process of coming here was not as harsh. It was still a nightmare to get through, and at times I was so nervous I felt like shutting the world out. I was making a big step forward and like anything moving forward, it is terrifying.
I was leaving my comfort zone. It was a zone that was filled with rejection and jobs that were a comfort blanket from doing something I really wanted to do. Going to Taiwan was going golden ticket and I wasn’t going to let myself mess it up because of my own insecurity.
I knuckled down, saved my money, said my goodbyes, had my last beers and smokes that I wasn’t going to get in Taiwan and got on the plane and I haven’t been home in a year since.
After being in Taiwan for 1 year, I have finished two semesters of my Masters with a thesis proposal finished relatively early, a job in a field that I am interested in, a lease for a place I like, a girlfriend who doesn’t want to strangle me, though I suspect she is plotting to kill me someday, but the joke is on her, I am not wealthy.
I basically have a lot going for me here and even though I miss my family and friends in Ireland, I know that I would be in a dead end if I stayed. Most people I knew found jobs and most of them are happy, but I couldn’t be. That was my fault and my problem. Blaming outside factors and conditions is easy, but understanding that you aren’t the person you want to be is just as important as overcoming obstacles.
I haven’t become the person I want to be by coming to Taiwan. This isn’t the Last Samurai, a movie about Japan mind you. Taiwan hasn’t been a conduit for me to channel my own frustration and move on, it is my home and it has been good to me. I became more of the person I want to be by realizing I can’t have it all and if I want some of it, I damn well work hard for it.
So there it is, a little insider view of me and my experience of graduating and what helped drive me to be where I am now.
As bad as things might get, or as direction less as you might feel you become, do what makes you happy. I know some people reading this might think “so for you to do what makes you happy meant going to Asia?” It wasn’t, what I did that made me happy was moving forward and taking some control of my life. It wouldn’t matter if I was in Taipei, Dublin, Germany or Djibouti, taking control is always important.