Category: Career


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I know this is my longest blog post yet, but if you treat it like a short story in a book, by an amateur girl who likes to write, then it might be good entertainment 😀 I decided to split it up into sections because it would make a massive post if it were all amassed into one chunk. This is the first part of a series that I’ll be blogging, and the only public post of the series (after which it becomes too intimate/private to blog publicly. Please email me to request the password of the subsequent private posts).

My 2.5 months of holiday in Hong Kong was probably the most memorable of all the holidays I’ve had in Hong Kong, and perhaps, this statement may even extend to all the holidays I have ever had in my life. It may partially be due to the fact that:

  • it’s my longest stay in HK since I emigrated (from 18 Nov to 10 Feb),
  • or perhaps the first time I could immerse in the festivities of Chinese New Year since I left HK (i.e. 10 years),
  • or the seemingly unending succession of celebrations – Christmas, my birthday, New Years, my dad’s birthday, Chinese New Year…) – accompanied with luscious indulgences and subsequent agony of witnessing my face becoming progressively inflated…
  • or the first time I lived with my step-mother, Auntie Grace, and witness my dad’s life turn around, happier than I had ever seen him be for a long time…

But, by far, the most notable factor that contributed to such an indelible imprint on me was the opportunity to work at Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) (13 December to 29 January). Although a large part of this holiday’s unforgettability is due to the evocative experiences I had in DL, I think that merely working alone is enough to make one appreciate the times when playing is allowed… Note that this was the first paid job I’ve had outside employment of a family business. I suppose that’s partly why this has been so poignant for me: I was thrown down the deep end: thrown into a really unfamiliar environment… unfamiliar with everything imaginable, from the people, to the language, to the rules and regulations, to the huge place (read: labyrinth)! Although they say HKDL is the smallest of all the DLs, it was no easy task to memorise both the onstage and backstage locations….

The following passage will track down, in the following format: the chronology of a series of events that led to me getting the job; the daily routine of my working days there; a few tidbits and anecdotes about the stalls I worked at and interesting happenings each day; the numerous rules I broke; the colleagues I met there; and of course, the obligatory happy sappy ending about what I had learned and nostalgic reminiscences yadda yadda.

It all started in Australia. I received an email from Auntie Grace in early September 2010, where she asked whether I would be interested in working as a seasonal staff in HKDL. Auntie has a friend of a friend who works in the HR department of HKDL, so I bypassed the job hunting process and sent in a CV, with this in my reply:

I was thinking of doing work, but I wasn’t sure where, especially since my Chinese is not very good.. I thought of maybe a waitress or shop assistant in shops/restaurants in Central or the Peak (where there are more English-speakers), but I’d love to work at Disneyland too! I highly doubt I would be able to work there though, since my Cantonese is only soso and I cannot even speak mandarin (I think there are a lot of mainland Chinese going to Disneyland, right?) Anyway I will try my best.

Note the highlighted part, “I’d love to work at Disneyland!”…my my my…. Everybody thinks working at DL would be like a dream come true, but gosh, things were put into perspective when reality hit.

Later, I was told that Disneyland called my dad’s home phone to arrange an interview for me in early November, but my parents told them to call on the 19 Nov. The day after my arrival in HK, I was keen to receive the call from them, waiting with both trepidation and anticipation… Unfortunately, HKDL is very elusive (and my impression of them still remains that way), and I had no way of procuring their number to take matters into my own hands! Finally, in the afternoon, after a few false alarms, the phone rings. (my poor translation from the little information I could make out from the super-fast-speaking Cantonese lady)

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Bonnie?”

“Yes, I am.”

“This is HKDL calling. Are you still interested in the seasonal job here?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, you’re scheduled for an interview on 22 November, at 3.15pm. Do you know how to get here?”

“Um… I know I catch the MTR…”

“Yeah, go to the HKDL MTR station, then walk straight ahead, turn right at the green sign, then go to the 招聘中心 (I now know this is the recruitment centre). You need to bring your HK ID card, proof of residence, and a bank statement.” (at the time, I had great difficulty understanding everything she said in Cantonese terminology and I was utterly confused….)

“Um… okay then.. Thanks.”

“Alright, see you there. Bye bye.”

So there I was left with a bewildered look as I gazed down on the scribbles on the paper of the poorly romanised Chinese words and crap English translations that I couldn’t quite get. Oh well, I thought… I’ll just have to make do.

I had in my possession a valid HK ID card and I sincerely hoped they would accept my father’s electricity bill as my own proof of residence, so what was left was the bank statement. I did not have a HK bank account at the time… with just 3 days until the interview, it was far too late to create one. So again, I hoped for the best and took my dad’s bank statement with me, wondering if they would accept my request for my salary to be deposited there.

The Interview

Before I knew it, three days passed and I got ready for my interview, scrubbing myself up and wearing half-decent clothes (although I only had sneakers to wear). “You should wear makeup, maybe they want you to look beautiful!” my domestic helper of 16 years, Minerva 姐姐, said to me… My parents insisted that I travel to HKDL in the company of Miner 姐姐, despite my assertion that I’d be fine on my own. So on that day,

– I left the apartment down to Queen Mary Hospital bus depot,

– catching the Green Mini Bus 55 down to Central,

– walking to Central MTR station Exit A, then a 5-minute walk underground across to Hong Kong Station (with the help of a travelator), through to the platform serving the Tung Chung line,

– taking the 30-minute-ride all the way to Lantau Island (Sunny Bay), the interchange station for transfer to the Disneyland Resort Line

– waiting ~5 minutes for the specially designed Disneyland themed train, with its Mickey Mouse windows and ceiling handles and golden Disney figurines… for the 5 minute ride to the magical world of Hong Kong Disneyland… then came the haunting (in my own scarred mind of too many early mornings of half-asleep “I don’t wanna go to work” moanings… in fact, it is supposed to be very cheerful!) music, followed by the speaker phones blaring “Welcome to the Disneyland Resort line!” (and the Cantonese and Mandarin version prior)… “We will soon arrive at the magical world of Hong Kong Disneyland.” …. “Disneyland Resort station, have a magical day.”

a lengthy and tedious 1.5 hour journey that I was soon to become all too familiar and dreary with. But on this day, it was a journey filled with both trepidation and anticipation.

To be continued…

There is a part of me aching to go to a university steeped in history, prestige and acclaim. I want to be part of that culture, perhaps so that I can feel like an elitist snob. 😀
I seem to notice there being a superiority complex in UQ. The group on Facebook titled “I GO TO UQ THEREFORE I AM BETTER THAN YOU”  is just one example. While I praise the creators for being able to spell ‘than’, using capitals for emphasis, and the very discerning use of the word ‘therefore’, such feelings of superiority toward other universities are quite unhealthy. It also seems there isn’t this problem in other Australian states; there isn’t a “I go to UniSyd therefore I am better than you” group, and from what I remember from my conversations with people there, it appears Sydneysiders respect those who attend UTS, Macquarie or the like. Or in South Australia, I seem to sense there’s an equal ranking between students of the more eminent University of Adelaide, and other institutions like Flinders or Uni of South Australia. I have, however, noticed that an aggressive elitism is also shared between Melbourne Uni and Monash, with the former constantly belittling the latter much like UQ students do to other unis. Must be the stupid Queenslanders and Victorians! I must say I am making a huge generalisation here, and apologise to many of those who do attend the universities and hasn’t fallen prey to the aforementioned pompous attitudes.

I have to admit, part of my reason to want to go into Speech Pathology back then was because I had a chance to go to UQ, a prestigious, sandstone university, no longer taunted (self, psychologically) with the inferiority associated with attending a non-sandstone university, a chance to reunite with my old high school friends, a chance to mingle with high-class, intelligent people.

No, I had to fight all those desires, and tell myself I TRULY wanted to be a dietitian, and not to be blinded by an elevation in ‘university superiority status’ or ‘social popularity’.

But it took a fair bit to fight such desires. It seemed like fate had conspired for me to stay in Brisbane, to stay in QUT. Why do I say that? When I felt desperate to leave QUT, to stop such feelings of inferiority, I was looking for alternatives. First it was thinking of any possible subjects I could do at UQ, and Speech Pathology seemed a plausible option. Yes, I think my desire to leave QUT even clouded me into thinking that I could accept being a speechie. My heart kept pulling me toward Nutrition and Dietetics, I could feel it, but I kept pulling it back because I knew I’d have to stay at QUT and because my mathematics (needed for chemistry) skills aren’t so good. In the end, I listened to my heart.

So after I decided I wanted to be a dietitian, I was still yearning to attend a ‘sandstone uni’. I looked interstate, desperately hoping I’d have a chance.

Victoria: Monash: “Non-school leavers: An applicant’s entire academic record will be taken into account and short-listed applicants will be required for interview in early December 2008. Entry is competitive.” Considering I didn’t do well in my first semester of university, I think it was plain obvious that Monash didn’t welcome me.
ACT: University of Canberra: has a Master of Dietetics, but that would mean I’d have to study for an extra year and also a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to get in.
SA: University of Flinders: considering its prestige is about the equivalent of QUT, I didn’t see why I should move so far away, to a place I never really liked living in (I lived there for 1.5 years).
NSW: University of Sydney: this seemed like the absolute perfect option! Not only could I continue the legacy of my parents’ attendance of Australia’s oldest university, I could actually live in a big city, oh I like Sydney!! My grandma lives there and I could live in her apartment! Yay! Perfect right? Wrong. The Nutrition and Dietetics course is actually just a major in the Bachelor of science, along with all the mathematics that goes with it. It’s even more tough than Pharmacy, where there are no mathematics subjects, and public/community health is pushed to the peripheries with only a few subjects starting in the third year. To make it even worse, despite the relatively low UAI required to get in (93.85, equivalent to OP 4, whereas QUT had an op cut-off of 3), to get into honours year (fourth year for accreditation as a dietitian), you have to get minimum of credit average. Even though it’s quite likely that if I studied hard it shouldn’t be any trouble, but when there is that question of doubt hanging over your head, it’s not really that nice. You already have enough to worry about when you’re studying in university, let alone to worry about whether or not you’ll ever be able to pursue the career you so wished to have! So it was an unfortunate no.
QLD: UQ: UQ seemed to want to taunt me by introducing a new nutrition major and Master of Dietetics for 2009. I thought it was perfect for me, even though there is that slight possibility I may not be able to enter masters, plus an extra half year of studies. All my hope was placed on UQ now: and it was quashed. I looked further into it, and the new degrees were going to be taught at the IPSWICH campus. Yes, Ipswich. Now I’m open to living independently, but if I’m going to move out of my house, I’m doing it so that i can receive quality education. But the thing was, the new nutrition major was going to be offered within the Bachelor of Health Sciences, a degree that is for the laziest of people who just want the easiest way to get into a health career (note, OP 16 cut-off), which is precisely why it was relegated to the boganville town of Ipswich. Do I really want to live in the hole called Ipswich amongst classmates who don’t give a shit about their education? Do I really? no. Furthermore, since it’s a new degree, being their guinea pig isn’t the wisest of ideas.

I was despondent. One after another, it seemed that there was a conspiracy to prevent me from leaving Brisbane, or from attending a prestigious university.
I don’t hate QUT. I think it was more of a very very bad nightmare I had during that semester of design. And having went to a ‘prestigious high school’, I probably became a little elitist myself, and thought I had to go to a ‘reputable university’ just to maintain my status quo. Well, I don’t want to think like that. You stand on your own two feet: you don’t rely on your attendance of university or your grades to measure your worth, and whoever does is not somebody of substance anyhow. Yeah, I’ll have to live with the taunts of “I GO TO UQ THEREFORE I AM BETTER THAN YOU”, I’ll have to separate from many of my friends, I won’t have the honorific title of “Group of 8 University graduate” to lean back on, but at least I’ve learned early on that prestige isn’t everything.  If I could fight this irrepressible urge, it means I am truly choosing a job for its job, not for the pathetic 4 years of studies and the enjoyment it can provide me in that short timeframe, or the foolish pride it would afford me from being able to boast about my “high society” education. It was pretty funny: my little brother was playing with his little friend. They were getting up to some mischievous things, so I chided them. The friend ignored me, and Robbie matter-of-factedly said “Listen to my sister! She went to Brisbane State High! She is very smart!” and at that point I just rolled my eyes, “So what?!”

While I realise that indeed, UQ, and any other sandstone university for that matter, is a very good university giving quality education to its students who no doubt are intelligent to be able to enter in the first place, it doesn’t give them prerogative to regard others with contempt. Many people have considerations other than eminence when making a choice of university; many have no choice but to choose another university because it is more suitable for the degree they want: it is not necessarily because of a lacking OP (or intelligence, for those who erroneously believe the two have a strong correlation). Four years on from now, and everybody’s going to be slaving away as a novice in the lowest of ranks, the graduation certificate you receive is only a license to a lifetime of learning, and which university you went to or what GPA you got would be the most trivial of matters. Ultimately what is important is your character, rather than the shadow of pride that prestigious education or good marks confer.

A career quandry

I can call myself lucky.
I am the sort of person who enjoys abstract theory rather than practical skills. which basically means that I would probably enjoy studying ANYTHING in university (as long as it’s not mathematics, engineering or business related ~shudder~), and precisely why my choice of senior subjects was so diverse: because I derive satisfaction from the theoretical study of anything, really, as I have such a varied range of interests, which is probably why it was so difficult for me to choose a career in the first place! Art, psychology, the humanities (particularly anthropology), science (particularly biology), the English language; I could go through the whole degree happily, unbeknowist of the fact that after this academic phase of learning ‘irrelevant’ theory, I would have to do the practical side, the application, which I may hate.

So why am I lucky? Had I not chosen to study design, where the practical work was surely not appealing to me, I would have naively wasted four years of my life, thinking how great life is while I’m happily engaging in my “head in the clouds” state of academic studying, only get pushed into the workforce to discover how much I hated the actual job (note here that the studies of something can differ vastly from the actual job it leads to). This could have easily happened to any subject I would have potentially chosen. The problem lies within the fact that I would not really enjoy any of the jobs those subjects lead to, I may actually end up hating the career! Although this post seems to imply that I am immensely picky, it’s not so. It’s more about whether I am suited to a job, and because I’m quite aware about what suits me and what doesn’t, it helped me to foresee any potential shortcomings I may have encountered in a profession.

(If you want to just get the gist of how I chose Nutrition and Dietetics, you can skip the coloured text about how I analysed every career I thought feasible)

Read it this way:

First paragraph is: Why I’d enjoy studying this subject…

Second paragraph is: Why I wouldn’t enjoy the job…

Urban planning

Geography is pretty fascinating.

Too much politics.

Arts

Hello art history, anthropology, english studies, sociology…I like the humanities in all its worldliness! I was seriously thinking of choosing it since it’s for indecisive people like me, and especially because of how easy and interesting it is, but I decided it would be of no benefit to me since I’ve pretty much mastered the whole ‘research/essay-writing technique’ Arts lecturers keep boasting about, in high school.

A Mcdonald’s burgery patty flipper (ever heard of the joke? “What did the B.A. graduate say to the law graduate? ‘Would you like fries with that?'” hahhaa.. either that end of the spectrum, or a university researcher, which I probably would love, but the chances are pretty slim, and researchers seem a bit ‘out of it’, disconnected from the world (something I’m already too much of!). Even if not, it would be something like an art curator, with lots of politics and business, a teacher, or an editor or translator. Actually I wouldn’t mind being an editor or a translator. However, my Chinese is a far shot from professional, and I also don’t think I could stand just reading and writing all day long (plus, I’m not that pedantic to be an editor, I don’t think)…

Any of the Medical/Health sciences

Biology is really interesting for me.

A doctor/speech pathologist/pharmacist/dentist/occupational therapist/physiotherapist/optometrist/whatever else (too: stressful/too boring/too routine/too much detail/too caring/too physical-exercise-based/too much physics and monotonous. One of my main options was speech pathology, chosen because of my love of language, but the actual job is actually more about teaching others about how to make sounds rather than about the artistry of language.

Science

Unleash the inner bio freak within!

Scientist: (I can’t imagine myself in a lab coat tinkering with beakers, prodding mice and writing down numbers all day)

Environmental science

Geography and biology combined in one! Hell yes!

Environmental scientist/manager: I’m just not a tree-hugger.

Psychology

Theories? Essays? Analysing the inner workings of a person’s psyche? Bring it on.

A psychologist/careers counsellor/whatever (talking day in day out to crazy, stressed, or whatever people will eventually drive me insane. Plus i’m already overly analytical of people, don’t want to add fuel to a fire. And although the thought of being a careers counsellor is appealing because I can empathise with them wholeheartedly, I have to admit they don’t help that much (unless it’s saying “listen to your heart”, which everyone knows but hardly anyone enacts on. Which I suppose, most people DO need to hear that advice (maybe I just didn’t find it useful because I already listen to my heart). Besides, most people who study psychology end up needing to do a masters degree in a completely unrelated subject anyway).

Veterinary science

Oh, how I love learning about zoology! I find animals really fascinating, you can see me watching ants all day if I were allowed.

I just don’t love animals enough. They’re cute, but I am not an animal fanatic. Besides, there’s a lot of hands-on work like operations and other fiddly stuff.

Education

Get to study two things at once! (the actual subject/s (I would probably choose something like English/Arts/Biology), and the theory of teaching)

I’m just not in love with little kids, and teenagers? Keep me a yard away from those pests! As for adult teaching, that’s ok, but not for the rest of my life.. I’m also not much of a public speaker.

Journalism

(aahh.. writing is one of my fortes, if I must say)

You need to be bold. VERY bold. And quick-thinking. And have thick skin. None of which I had been endowed with.

Law

Perfect for an analytical person like me.

Leaving the worst till last. Of all the jobs listed here, I believe I would hate this the most. What was I thinking? Was I ever one to love the rigidity of rules and laws?! Was I ever very fond of debating (aka. twisting the facts and lying)? Nonononono!


Separated from the section of “I will like subjects because they’re all theoretical but will hate practical subjects“, some people, knowing my talent in art and love of cooking, asked why I don’t become an artist or a chef. I laugh out loud, especially at the second one.

Fine Art

Yes, I am a keen lover of art, always have been and always will be. It is an inborn gift that I can have such aptitude for it without much practice.

Yet I don’t particularly LIKE drawing or painting. I can say it’s even quite frustrating at times, as if my perfectionist self will never be satisfied with my own artworks, like a chore. It’s also very hands-on, just too much doing rather than ideological thinking. I can’t imagine myself being some bong-smoking hippie artist (yeah yeah, I know it’s such a stereotype, but all artists are slightly insane. Not that I’m not insane, but I don’t think I want to be more than I already am). Perhaps I am more fond of the notion of art rather than the reality of it.

Graphic Design

It’s true, I like to draw, and make things look pretty, and all that jazz.

I don’t have creativity on demand: it just sparks in me whenever, randomly. And you have to pander your designs to the clients’ wants. Plus, I’m not into technology and computer art…

Culinary Arts

Ok, I do like to cook.

But seriously, a lot of people LIKE TO COOK. Does that mean they should all sign up for the next chef apprenticeship course or partake in the Iron Chef? I would actually quite loathe being a chef, because it’s so routine, so manual, so uncreative. I guess I like cooking more because I get to eat it afterwards, than the actual act of cooking!

So I’m lucky. Lucky I chose something where it was so blatantly obvious I would dislike the job, rather than blindly fall in love with university, then get pushed into the reality of workforce.

So why did I choose Nutrition and Dietetics? The sort of job I want is one that is varied, free of rigid hierarchy or routine, one where I can think and analyse, and one where I can help others thrive in a meaningful way. I know a lot of people who want careers where they can just leave all of it behind after 5pm. I’m not like that, I have to feel strongly and passionate about my career. Which is why I think I will leave a profession without too much hesitation if I start losing interest in it, rather than staying in it as most people would-even if it means unfavourable financial consequences. I think by now you’d know that my sole criteria for a job is interest, in the topic and in the work. Call me starry-eyed and fanciful, but wealth or status had no place in my quest for an ideal career.

I have been told that dietitians are either fat or anorexic. Haha, I mean, this sort of cliche is funnily quite true, dietitians either have a love of food, or are health freaks. I must say I am much more of the former, but thankfully not really fat. People ask, “Do you really like food THAT much?”. Well, sort of, yes. I love to eat. I always have. But I think it’s more than just that. I want a job where I can deal with the big picture. With Speech Pathology, I don’t think I would enjoy it much because I think it’s way too specialised and also the sort of work involved seems so monotonous (administering tests, teaching others how to make sounds…) But nutrition is a much more holistic field, where you can really make a difference in a broad way…

I am interested in nutrition, I like how the topic covers the areas of public health/community/clinical roles, leaving a lot of flexibility with social studies, psychology and science… and also get the chance to do some preventative work rather than after the disease has already occurred!

I spent a long long time deliberating over what my career should be fated to be. A lot of tears, a lot of confusion, a lot of despondency. But in the end, I think it’s important to realise that a job is just a job after all: all jobs becomes routine after a while, so don’t have overly high expectations, and know it’s not the end of the world if you feel burnt out and want a change. Human nature is dynamic and ever-changing, and we should always be true to ourselves (I hope this won’t mean changing careers every third year or something…hopefully I’m not that fickle…).

And that, my friends, is my 2000-word summary of my analysis of careers. (which you probably didn’t read)

I guess it’s about time I cleared up on what happened in 2008.

In case you didn’t know, I quit my degree in Landscape Architecture and took a ‘gap semester’ for Semester 2. My reasons for doing so were presented in my previous blog, and I didn’t think it was necessary for me to waste one semester of uni fees and time in a subject I was averse to.

So, you might be wondering what on earth I did during that ‘gap semester’. I did many different things, among them being:

~wasting a LOT of time doing pointless things (e.g. sitting in front of the computer, bumming around);
~attempting to get some work experience to find out about jobs (instead, I got a lot of rejections, and some ‘interviews’);
~researching about different careers (heck, I even went back to the Careers Expo and emailed strangers asking about their jobs: people are actually very willing to talk about their careers to strangers in emails! 🙂 );
~’studying’ Chemistry in preparation for my future studies (that was rather unsuccessful, as expected, self-studying isn’t very effective);

The lovely volunteers at MS Society Pottery
The lovely volunteers at MS Society Pottery

~volunteering for various health organisations (every Tuesday was Multiple Sclerosis Pottery club, Thursdays was working as a “Patient Buddy” in Mater Hospital);
~’lecture shopping’ (I furtively sneaked into lots of different lectures at UQ and QUT, just to get a taste of the different subjects on offer. Some of them included psychology, chemistry, pharmacology etc… It wasn’t very easy to sneak in though, especially when you don’t know where the smaller lecture halls are, or what times they are held… Once, I walked into a lecture that ended 1 minute later (people looked at me like I was from a mental asylum), and another time I barged in the middle of an exam! (luckily nobody saw…or dragged me to take an exam I would have no idea about, haha!);

pic
Psychology at UQ

~and eventually, my mum dragged me to her dental surgery to work as a dental assistant.

Mr. Tooth

Mr. Tooth

As you can see, social activities didn’t feature in my ventures, I’ve discovered I can actually live as a hermit (surprise surprise) (note: I didn’t feel that great though)!!! My ‘gap semester’ was quite unproductive, but very different from usual student life nevertheless.

So now I’ve got that cleared up… you’ll be wondering how I came to my decision to study Nutrition and Dietetics. This will take a mini essay that may be best left for another day to spare you the eyestrain.