I wrote this post in 2012, just a few weeks before I moved to Australia. Some time in 2014, my website (the Wordpress version, that is) was hacked and this particular post ended up having nearly 500 comment spam. Instead ofdeleting every single one of them, I thought the better way was to repost it.
As something extra, I'm also adding a commentary from the present in italics.)
So here's a look back in 2012, when I made one of the most important decisions of my life :)
June 30, 2012, was my last day at The Star, the newspaper that I've worked for as a journalist for 12 over years. This decision did not come easily as I loved my colleagues and bosses and the work that I do. I was also hugely aware of the privilege I have - that I could work as a journalist at a time when thousands of journalists are losing their jobs left and right in the West.
But quit I did, and I will be leaving Malaysia for Australia on Aug 3.
My friends all wonder if I'm migrating. If migrating means moving to another country, then yes, I'm migrating. (And yes, I have a residents visa, not a tourist visa, so I won't be playing hide and seek with the border police.) But in Malaysia migrating has heavy connotations, one of which means "I'm tired of being Malaysian and ditching this country for good." And that's not me. Malaysia's not perfect, certainly, but I love being with my friends and family here and career-wise, it's been good for me here. I'd love to return one day. I'm just not sure when yet.
So, what will I be doing in Australia?
1. I will be studying and upgrading my skills.
I pondered about my future the last few years and realised that I wanted new skills - especially after reading about the fates of laid off journalists. I wanted to have more career options and to be more marketable.
At first, I thought about getting a Masters. I flirted with the idea of doing an Creative Writing MFA, but found out that most MFAs cost at least US$30k.
Around 2005, I made a vow to myself never to get myself in debt ever again after years of paycheck-to-paycheck living. For a year, I worked overtime and cleared RM20,000 of debts: credit card debt and a car loan. Since then, I have lived a debt-free life except for my housing loan which I hope to pay off aggressively by the time I'm 45. ✔ (Edit Feb 2016: I managed to do this in 2015, aged 38!)
So, the idea of forking out RM90k (and that's just for tuition fees) to sit for a graduate degree that does not guarantee better career outcomes seemed pretty batshit crazy to me. To me, a degree has to have good Returns on Investment or it's not worth the paper it's printed on.
And the masters degrees that are worth taking will cost me at least RM200k. (Choke.)
A good friend advised me to study short courses instead. It took me some time to dispel my Malaysian, prestige-hungry mentality (I want an MA or MBA after my name!) and agree that that's the wisest thing to do. So, I hope to be taking these courses in Australia (I may not take all of them):
- Certificate III in Aged Care. (AUD1600 to AUD2000) - this two- to three-month course allows me to be an Assistant in Nursingin Australia. I'm seriously pondering a career in the healthcare field. I actually wanted to be a doctor when I was a teenager, but squashed the idea when I realised that my family couldn't afford it. This is a way I could see if a career in the health industry suits me in any way without straight away sinking RM200k in a nursing degree. ✔
- Technical Writing (AUD300)
- 31 Days to Build a Better Blog ($29)
- And perhaps a few SEO writing courses
- Travel Writing - at $350 this is really pricy and I'm not sure if it's worth the expense, but we'll see.
- Editing Techniques (AUD330)
- Intentional Blogging (free!)
- Ebook formatting - so far, I've not found anyone teaching this yet, so I may have to wing it by googling and asking around forums a lot.
- I may also join the South Australia Writing Centre to take some of their workshops. I'd also like to develop my creative writing skills. ✔
- A few theological courses at Paradise College of Ministries (AUD75 to AUD300 each)
The goal of all this, of course, is to I develop to be a writer that can write for modern technologies such as blogs, websites and to perhaps start freelancing as an editor one day. Also, to enhance myself spiritually :)
Edit from Feb 2016: As per my tendency to collect shiny pennies, I had such big ambitions to collect as many qualifications as I could to boost my resume! I didn't manage to do most of what I hoped to do because I was far too busy living and working (thank goodness), but I did surprise myself with some things, such as starting an MFA with Tabor college. Towards the tail end of my stay in Oz, I was enrolled in a CIM Digital Marketing course, but I was beginning to realise that collecting diplomas and professional qualifications wasn't my ticket to happiness.
2. I would like to get Australian working experience
Here's the thing. Things are pretty tough job-wise in Australia, and I don't have great hopes of landing the same kind of job I had. However, I'd like to discover how it is like to work in a foreign culture. The great thing in Australia is that you can get working experience while volunteering and there are community radio and TV stations where you can volunteer your time. In fact, I used to volunteer at a community radio station when I was a student in Perth. It was a blast, and I think this is an excellent way for me to get experience in the broadcast industry. Meanwhile, I'm willing to do any job to keep the money flowing in.
Edit from Feb 2016: Again. Shiny pennies! It turned out that when you have to work 35 hours a week to fulfill visa obligations and pay for the roof above your head, you don't have much time for volunteering! Still, I got to experience working life in Australia which was definitely very different from Malaysia's.
3. I want to travel
I never took a gap year. It just isn't in our Asian culture to do so. But living and working in Australia would allow me to experience Australia in a different way. In order to travel on a budget, I'll be using Helpx, a work exchange programme where you work in exchange for free lodgings and food. The best thing is - you get Australian work experience at the same time! Most of the work is on farms, but you can volunteer at cafes and bed and breakfasts too. What a wonderful way to experience Australia!
Edit: Living in Adelaide from 2012-2015 felt like one long, tumultous vacation. Still, I felt as if I didn't do as much travelling as I'd like. Being the travel whore that I am, there would never be enough travelling, really.