What I Learned in My 20s… And My Big Announcement

What I Learned in My 20s… And My Big Announcement



Last Sunday, I turned 30.

I ran away to San Diego for 4 days and enjoyed myself immensely.  Despite all the anxiety I felt on the verge of turning 30, on the actual day of and after… well, I felt the same as when I was 29 (and 28 and 27).

I feel good.

I couldn’t think of a better way to turn 30 than in the company of my boyfriend, my best friend and my beloved coworkers… on the beach.  In San Diego.  In paradise.


coronado beach surfing

As I look back on my 20s, here’s some valuable life lessons I learned and lived by:

Travel and live for today, because you never know what will come tomorrow

My trip to Bali. Very happy I blew a ton of money to go here. Worth every penny.

I’ve been indecisive about a trip I want to plan to Asia in May.  A part of me really wants to go, while another part of me knows that it would be smarter to stay and work rather than jet off and have a long and very expensive vacation.

“Mary, remember Sally?” My best friend said to me when I relayed my woes.  “Remember how she was diagnosed with end stage cancer at 32?  Do you remember our friend’s sister who passed away at 34 from leukemia in a matter of 6 months?”

“I just think,” my friend continued. “What if I keep saving and saving money and then something like that were to happen?  If I want to travel, and I can feasibly do it right now, then I should.  You should.  We never know what can happen.  We can always save more money.”

And that sealed the deal.  I bought the plane ticket to go on my vacation.

As morbid as it may sound, I often think about how I would feel if my life were to end tomorrow–and all in all, I feel grateful and satisfied.  I fulfilled my dream of learning Japanese and living in Japan.  I’ve fallen in love.  I discovered China.  My 20s were filled with so much adventure and friendship and love that, honestly, I could die happy.  I’m glad that instead of stay and work up the corporate ladder in the USA, I took the leap to move abroad and added even more depth and meaning to my life.

So, just do it.  Live for today (but don’t blow all your savings on it.  Be reasonable!).

Trust your gut


Your gut is so important.  I mean, almost half of my life’s mistakes were from me turning a deaf ear to the dissent of my gut feeling.

This is especially true for relationships.  You know when you’re not meant to be with someone.

And in contrast, if your gut says it feels right, then it probably is.

Don’t forget or ignore family


In America, most children and young adults count the days until they can leave the nest.  When parents come to visit  them in college or call them multiple times a day, most children will simply reply: “leave me alone!” 

Unlike Asia, when kids leave the nest in the United States they are usually forever separated.  Lives become starkly divided.

When I moved to Japan, my village community always told me:

“Your parents must have done a wonderful job to raise you, because you’re such a good person.”

“Your parents must be worried sick about you living in a foreign country at such a young age.”

“Your parents made a lot of sacrifices for you to be here, don’t forget them.”

I started thinking: oh my goodness, I miss my parents and I was such an ungrateful shit to them all throughout high school and college.

So, I paid for them to come to Japan and visit me.

That’s right, I paid for everything.

When I had to send my parents off to the Tokyo airport after a fun-filled and simply unforgettable 2 week trip in Japan, I waved them farewell and watched their bus head to the airport and disappear in the distance.

And I blubbered like a whale.  I hid near a bush in the Tokyo gardens and sobbed uncontrollably.

Later, my mom told me my dad was also crying on the bus (and quickly told him to man up).  It was a really emotional realization for the both of us.

We’re family and we can’t forget about each other.

I’m sure many of my readers think: Mary, if you dislike living in LA and America so much, why don’t you just move back to Asia?

Well, it’s family.  You only get one, and they’ll be gone someday.  I want to be near them while I can; while they’re still healthy and mentally capable.

Your time is EXTREMELY valuable.  So learn to say no.

Choose friends wisely
Choose friends wisely

You know when you promised a not-so-close friend you’d go to a concert with her, but it’s a 2 hour drive away and you’re broke and you really don’t want to see her anyway and you’re going only to be polite and friendly?

Yeah, just say no.  Just. Say.  No.

I feel like half of my personal problems in my 20s could have been solved simply by saying ‘no’ to people I didn’t want to be with or things I didn’t want to do.

Invest in stocks (or at the very least, learn some basic finance)


I moved to Asia.  I had tons of fun.  I saved money, and then I blew it on travel or learning other languages or moving back to America or whatever.

But when I turned 27, it hit me:

Holy shit.  I have no retirement fund.

I also realized that while money isn’t everything, it’s essential.  I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck or bum around on friend’s couches when I’m in my 40s.  I need to take care of myself.  I need to learn more about how the world works–aka, wall street.

So when I moved back to the states I poured 20% of my monthly paycheck into stocks.  I asked R to teach me about bonds, mutual funds, stocks, ETFS and more (cause he’s a financial guru).

I regret NOT DOING THIS EARLIER.  If you haven’t started investing money yet, DO IT THIS INSTANT.  Even 20 bucks a month is fine.  It’s money that grows.  Be smart and open a ROTH-IRA, if you can.  Don’t be like Mary and wait.

If you need more tips on finances, visit my boyfriend’s new personal finance blog.

It’s ok to be lost at 29.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

I won't lie. It was really nice being lost here.
I won’t lie. It was really nice being lost in Thailand.

I’m 30 and, quite honestly, I don’t know where I’m going.

And that’s ok.

I also have many friends that are already set on a path (such as medicine, law, finance) and realize at thirty: wow.  I hate my job/career and I need change.  I’m going to give my career a 360 spin and go into art.  Or medicine.  Or writing.  I have a friend in his 30s who gave up his 6 figure pharmacy job to go back to school for video game design.

I think there’s an unspoken rule out there that says you need to have your life figured out at 30; and I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true.  Especially with the millennial generation in America.  Hell, we’re saddled with debt and can barely afford rent–how are we supposed to have everything figured out by 30?  So don’t put that pressure on yourself.

Still, when you turn 30, you better start seriously thinking about what exactly you want to do and where you want to be in five years.

Take care of your body

Yes, those are flea bites on my leg. Be careful with your body.
Yes, those are flea bites on my leg. Be careful with your body.

One thing I DO feel different about in my late 20s and now 30s is my body.  My body does not feel as invincible as it did in my late teens and early twenties.  My knees start to hurt after too much exercise.  I get shin splints.  I gain weight a lot easier than when Mary had a young metabolism.  I can’t drink like a fish anymore (at least, not without a killer hangover).

Start a healthy lifestyle early.  Get in the routine of exercising.  Eat healthy.  No processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, and less sugar (basically everything the American diet lacks or has too much of).  Cook more.

I also HIGHLY recommend yoga.  It stretches muscles in your body you never knew existed.  It builds core strength.  And honestly, it helped get me through the rough times when I moved back to the states.  It’s meditation at its finest, and I think anyone over 25 should try it at least once.

And finally, nothing is worth years of misery.  If you’re unhappy, make a positive change.

The move to Shanghai changed my life
The move to Shanghai changed my life

I’ve always taken this advice, and I still strongly believe in it.  Life is too short to be miserable for years on end.  Instead of wallow in misery, think of how you can change your life for the better.  Whether it’s a small change (jogging a mile a day) or a big one (changing a job, location, or even partner), change is what keeps us moving forward.  It’s always hard, but honestly, change is the only way we learn to grow.

Ok you made it this far–time for the big announcement


I’m going to graduate school to study foreign policy and diplomacy.  Probably.

I applied to three schools with intensive one year programs and two have already admitted me.  Applying to grad school was a long, hard and difficult process (I’ll definitely write a post about how to do it), but it paid off.  I got into some pretty good programs.

But I have to be honest with you readers–sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night screaming and in a cold sweat from nightmares about annual 40,000 USD tuition and living expenses.  Graduate school in America is a HUGE expense.  The price tag is seriously stressing me out.  I just paid off my undergrad loan that was much lower than 40k, so taking on another massive burden of debit doesn’t sound appealing.

I’m waiting to hear on merit scholarship results and I’m crossing my fingers for some financial help.

I’m also considering graduate school in Scotland as a low cost alternative (tuition is half and cost of living is also lower than the states), but I know schooling in the UK and US is very different and I worry if the education quality will be the same.

If anyone has any tips or advice on grad school, I warmly welcome your advice!

Also, one last announcement:

I’m going to Japan in May and Shanghai in June for a long visit.  It’s time for me to go back home.

Do you have any life lessons from your 20s? 

Have you ever thought about grad school?  If you’ve graduated with a masters, how was the experience?  Was it worth it?

26 thoughts on “What I Learned in My 20s… And My Big Announcement

  1. Those are some great pieces of advice. And I loved the story of your father blubbering on the bus while you blubbered in the bushes.

    Oh, graduate school. Is it worth it? I don’t know yet. If I ever publish anything, the answer will be yes. 🙂

    1. Haha oh Autumn that answer is so… contradicting and ambiguous, but yet it speaks volumes. i get it.

      If you say the answer is yes, then I trust you. Hopefully this blog post of yours comes out and it will give me some wise advice, haha. 😉

      Thanks for the wonderful comment. And yeah, I even felt the tears well up just remembering that scene with my dad. It was like the light bulb went off in my head and I thought: my parents are real people too.

  2. Great advice all around. I’m thinking of going to Bali in May! But we’ll see, currently, I have too many travel plans and not enough time off and money. Ha!

    Oh, grad school. Yeahhhhh. I never finished, but I’m still “paying off” loans. If you’re going to commit, just do it. Don’t be like me and have no degree and half of the debt. (Consequently, I didn’t finish it b/c the teaching program required me to student teach, but not get paid. It was just too much on the pocketbook. Looking back, I should have just plowed ahead, but I was so unsure if teaching was right for me at the time.)

    Advice for 20somethings. Just have fun. The future is promised to no one.

    1. Oh man Lani I have to say, Bali was one of the best trips of my life. Really. People will tell you it’s touristy but if you go to the right bits it truly feels magical. There is something mystical on that island, it’s very rejuvenating and peaceful. It’s rich with culture and full of hospitality. I recommend it 10x over.

      Eesh, you’re still paying grad school debt!? Oh man, why is school so expensive in the USA? It’s just ridiculous…

      I would really like a masters, but justifying the cost is the hard part. I think even if I hated the program to death I would still finish knowing that I threw 40k into the school, haha, I have no worries about quitting.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. A lot of good advice there, some of which I’ve taken myself!

    RE: graduate school. You know that I went to one of the best graduate schools in the world in my field. I am also under a fuckton of student debt. I’m still ~US$50,000 in debt as of this writing, and that’s after working on an aggressive payment plan since graduation. (I never pay the minimum payment. ever.)

    My advice is this: go to the best graduate school in your field or don’t go at all. The debt you accrue isn’t worth it otherwise, especially in America where going to a shit school costs the same as a really good school.

    There are days where I still regret going to grad school. I could’ve travelled to so many places during the two years I was in school! I could’ve been working and earning money! I could’ve done so many other things… Time and money wasted? I’m still on the fence.

    1. Joelle! I was hoping you’d give me words of wisdom for grad school, haha… thank you for keeping it real.

      I might have to PM you, because I’m not quite sure if my program is *that* good. I mean, it’s not Harvard but according to foreign policy ranking it’s #14? There’s also a lot of elite people in the program as classmates, so networking opportunities seem ample. Anyway, even for a good school I don’t know if the debt will be worth it so I’m really on the fence, but I’ve thought about grad school so long I just think it should be done?

      What do you think the UK option for school? Have you heard anything good or bad? (Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to live abroad again, aha).

      Thanks so much for the advice I really, really appreciate it. This decision is so agonizing!

      1. You can totally PM me, and we can discuss this whole grad school business thing.

        I would say you really need to think long and hard about what you want to do and what you are going to get out of it. You really need to think about how much owing a ton of money is going to affect you psychologically and emotionally, and will it be worth the cost to you?

        Having gone to the top school in my field, I’ve gotten a lot out of my school in the way of connections with alumni (I literally can’t go anywhere without tripping over one or two of them), and in the sense of prestige connected with my work in the field (my new boss keeps referencing all kinds of stuff he expects I have done previously). However, I definitely paid a lot for the honour, and there are days when I am seriously, seriously on the fence about my decision to study there.

        1. Oh man Joelle, that really makes me think a lot harder about my decision. I have to admit, when I heard I was accepted I was pretty happy, but when the reality hit of me paying $$$$, my heart sunk. A lot of my American friends are telling me to just bite the bullet and take the costs, since that’s what most Americans do anyway, but an investment that huge for a liberal arts degree is risky to say the least. There’s few things I would pay $50k for (like, a house), and I don’t know if a masters degree is one of those.

          Basically, if I could get a job similar to the one I was offered in DC 2 years ago (international NGO work with a pretty decent salary), I would be happy. Honestly. A part of me thinks that if I got the offer once I can do it again (even without the masters), but another part of me thinks that the offer was an honest to god fluke and there’s no way I’m going to get a job like that again without a. a masters degree or b. mad connections. The person that filled in the role after I refused it was someone with a masters degree from Columbia University.

          Anyway, I don’t know how to PM you through wordpress…? But if you could email me at therubyronin@outlook.com so that I can email you back with some questions, I’d really appreciate it!

          Thank you!

  4. From the standpoint of a recently-turned-27-year-old, I really appreciated reading this–especially since I’m coming upon a similar turning point. I’m looking for work in Shanghai now to hopefully make a transition there this October (any advice or networking suggestions appreciated!), and I’m thinking about long term financial goals for life in the US (as in, closer to family). I feel much calmer about this now than I did five years ago when I was still fretful about ever being able to accomplish my life-long dream of living in Japan. I know I’ll miss Japan terribly, but I’ve done enough with this experience that I’ve finally been able to make more room in my heart for new dreams.

    I did a one-year grad school program in Chinese Studies right after finishing undergrad, but my primary motivation was that I wanted to work more on my Chinese (I still do–which is a big reason I want to live there for at least a couple years), and because I didn’t feel ready to leave my academic cocoon yet. It piled on to my debt and while it gave me a very niche skill, it felt like I didn’t even get the full grad school experience because there was no thesis component. But man, it had me speaking so much more Chinese! Even though I do contemplate going back to grad school again in the future, it’s nice to have the MA under my belt.

    Also, May is one of the best times to visit Matsue, in my humble opinion. ^_~

    1. Oh wow Buri Chan! I had no idea that you also studied Chinese!!! We’re so similar! Japanese and Chinese studies, JET, and then a move to China..? I definitely know how that path feels!

      I’m glad that you feel safe and grounded at 27, and it sounds like you have a plan in place for your future. That’s good. Planning is key, and I really wish I did more of that than hope on chance.

      I totally support you going to Shanghai! You’re going to love it there. I loved Shanghai because there’s a ton of Japanese people there, so it felt like a nice place to keep in touch in Japan while still discovering China. Japanese language skills (as a native English speaker) is also a HOT skill to have in Shanghai. I found a job within 2 weeks of landing in the country (all of my jobs involved Japanese). Maybe I’ll write a post about finding a job in Shanghai, but I think a combo of internet search and recruiters will help you find a job in no time. Were you thinking of any sectors in particular?

      If you feel a bit rusty on Chinese, I also highly recommend doing an intensive Chinese class for one semester. It will help you focus on Chinese study before you go into full time work (because it’s hard to fully concentrate on Chinese while working, although not impossible), and will give you a little more time to search for possible job opportunities. I recommend Jiaotong, Fudan and Shanghai International Studies University.

      In addition to jobs I can definitely introduce you to some cool places and people! So excited for your future!

      Thanks for the tip about grad school. Seems like everyone’s comments on here are pretty much “on the fence.” It definitely has me thinking. And I’m really hoping against hope I get a scholarship.

      Thanks for the comment!

      1. This is so reassuring! I gave you my email in a previous comment to give you Matsue travel tips, right? (For good measure: cir.brittany.partin AT gmail ) If you could shoot me an email there so I could get more of these specific tips from you, that would be great!

        I feel /pretty/ good about the future, but I’ll feel a lot better once I know /how/ I’m taking that next step…

  5. Mary, you speak very wisely. You are like Yoda or something! All your points are very good.
    I will be 32 this year and I still feel like I was 23. It’s not a good thing, haha. But at least with my current job I am happy and I am doing what I want to do.
    I don’t have a masters degree so I cannot comment much on that. But, wow, education in the US is ridiculously expensive. That masters must open a lot of (well paid) doors for that steep price.
    I also think sometimes about being so far from my parents and them not getting any younger, but what can I do? There’s really nothing for me in Spain. Much less now with C. He has a great job here, and there he would be lucky if a Chinese supermarket hired him to take care of the shop…
    Regarding pensions and finances, I don’t have a retirement fund. I read last year that retirement funds in Spain were actually paying less money than what the people invested in them years ago, taking into account inflation and such. Man I am completely illiterate in finance. I will need to read your bf’s blog or some books for dummies. The thing is, I have quite some money saved, both in Spain and in China, and I don’t know what to do with it. My mum works in a bank so she recommended some investment funds and I put some money last year, but the results are not good and she keeps saying it is a long term investment so I don’t even want to check them any more haha. Last year I did get some money in stocks, but the risks make me very anxious. C. keeps telling me I should just buy property in Spain, but a nice apartment in a good location (easy to rent) is not thaaat cheap.

    When you come in June let me know if you have any free moment and we can meet in Shanghai or you can visit Suzhou! *^_^*

    1. Marta! You’re in a great place! I think if you’re happy where you are, then that’s where you need to be. Sometimes I think leaving China (or Japan) was a mistake because damn, I really loved it there. I still liked living there more than here, and I’m sure you probably enjoy China life more than Spain.

      The reason I worry about my parents is because they’re OLD! My dad just turned 74–if he were 60 I would probably stay in China guilt free, haha. While I was in China he got really sick and I felt terrible that I couldn’t be by his side to support him. That was my eye opening moment and kick in the butt for preparing for the move back home. If your mom is young and healthy (and your siblings and father), then I think you’re fine. It seems like you visit once a year, and that’s great! I have some friends here that only see their parents twice a year even though they only live three hours away! That made me feel better, haha.

      I don’t know about investments in Spain and EU, but I don’t think it seems very safe. The stock market is doing bad now (everywhere) so my stocks also tanked, but I just have to close my eyes and forget it’s there and hope to god the value rises again someday. That’s how the market works. I totally agree with C about buying property in Spain though–I see it making a come back! Plus, having an extra house in Spain sounds amazing. Sunshine, beach and siesta? yes please!

      YES! Let’s meet in Shanghai or Suzhou! I’ve actually never been to Suzhou so I might head up there 😉 I’ll be in China for 3 weeks so I’m confident we can meet up!

  6. Great story and advice. I only live away 4 hours from my parents, but we always cry every time I drive back home to Vienna. And really, if you want to travel, you have to do it while you are still young and healthy, and have time! My mom battled cancer about 10 years before, and this awful experince made her encourage me to travel while I still could – and I did!

    I am currently writing/struggeling with 2 master’s theses, one in Japanese Studies (social studies) and one in East Asian Economy and Society (focusing on China’s and Japan’s economic interdependence). What can I say… was it a good idea? Was it a bad one? I can just say that I am currently questioning my decision. I am living of a small scholarship, my savings and with financial help from Mr. Panda. I envy my friends with jobs and that they have so much more money than I do. Although they complain about their jobs all the time. I really envy them and can’t wait until May when my scholarship runs out and I am finally allowed to work again. And on top I am worrying if I can actually find a suitable job for me soon. 🙁

    1. Thanks for telling me your story about grad school. That sounds like such a tough life! Still, I think when you graduate you’ll be proud you did it and I’m sure you could find a better job with the degree (if only slightly). And I’m sure you do enjoy studying in your grad program–in a few years you’ll miss it? Maybe?

      I’m afraid, too, that I’ll go crazy when I’m in grad school and develop anxiety from not making money. I’ve been working for 8 years, so to quit cold turkey and go back to school with zero income is stress inducing to say the least.

      Thanks for your advice and best of luck to you!

  7. The advice is on point. I couldn’t agree more. I came back to the States from Taiwan (and lived in China before I went back to Taiwan). I personally was kind of happy to be away from my toxic family (long story).I was mentally happier because of it. I kept hearing them say, “It’s a good thing you’re not in Asia anymore!” Um, no. Please, shut up.

    My husband wants me to go back to school to do graphic design. Apparently being a professional student is better than nothing. I can’t say I’m in a good place right now. I’m 33 years old and I’m more clueless about life than ever before. I’m simply going through depression (and I’m not trying to be cute). You see people who they really are when you’re back home.

    I worked as an intern for the salon. I was planning to be a beautician for the deceased and during the time I could use my education towards that goal. The bad news? They changed the law right when I graduated. “We no longer take outsiders. Cosmetology no longer counts.” Now I need to get a degree. Working at the salon was mentally draining. I hated every minute of it. It wasn’t the work itself…it was the environment. I was having anxiety attacks every single day to the point I felt like jumping off a 10 story building. Every time a new client comes near me, I want to smash light bulbs into my eyes out of frustration and oh boy – I was more uncomfortable with that than learning Mandarin in China or Taiwan. Yes, even when people made fun of my accent. Over 90% of my classmates quit…even the very talented ones. When people think we just play with hair…I try not to laugh in their face. xD I only took Cosmetology to make my mother-in-law happy. It wasn’t for me. I graduated a month early due to always being on time, I always did my work with straight A’s…but I swear, I really wanted to jump off a 10 story building every single day for about a year.

    I wish you well with what you decide. I’m sure you’ll do well. Take lots of pictures when you go to China and Japan. I wish I could go with you.

    1. Dang Eileen that is horrible! I really feel for you, going to a place where you want to just jump out the window. What a horrible, horrible thing. I’m glad you made it through and proud you endured! I don’t think I would have been able to go through that.

      I hope you’re feeling better with depression. I know I had some very, very dark days the first year I moved back to the United States. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to make it mentally. I sometimes thought about, on my drive to work, just missing my exit and driving on and on on the freeway and run away from everything. I can’t say that I appreciate America better now (cause I still strongly believe it’s not for me), but I’ve just come to accept that yes, everything is horrifically expensive and yes, we need to drive to go everywhere and it’s horrifically inconvenient and yes, the American diet is terrible (but at least here is good Asian food in the big cities)–but that’s just how it is and I gotta get used to it. I do think of the positives, like woohoo! uncensored internet! Clean air! No contaminated food! (probably) and friendly people! (except when they get road rage!).

      One thing that helped me IMMENSELY was my trip to Europe. I honestly felt like I had been reborn when I came back to the USA. I don’t know. Whether it was the break from work, a rest from the USA, or just the awesomeness of Europe, I was loads happier. Maybe when you go on your trip to Taiwan you will feel better and re-energized, too.

      I totally support you for graphic design (it seems like you really like art, from the looks of your blog and artwork!). I actually thought about that route, too. I have a friend whose sister did graphic design and now she makes cards for Papyrus and loves her job. I was uber jealous when I heard that, but also happy to know that going into art DOES pay–you just have to be smart about it 😉

      Good luck Eileen! I’m rooting for you!

  8. Great post! I really enjoyed reading this. As someone who is in their “late 20s” this “30s deadline” is looming. I don’t really understand why 30 is the number that has been dedicated to this deadline but I certainly feel it! Even though I feel like I’ve squeezed a damn lot into my 20s so far I still feel a lot of (probably self imposed) pressure as it approaches.

    Happy Birthday and good luck with the scholarship 🙂

    1. Yeah I hear you about 30 feeling like a deadline of sorts. I think society gives us this pressure that tells us that we need to have everything figured out at 30… but that’s just asking for too much! I’m 30 but I still feel as young and as good as ever, and to me, that’s all that matters.

      Thank you very much for your comment Cat! Hope you’re enjoying Taiwan 🙂

  9. Congrats on grad school! But yeah, the debt, the job searching…

    It just really depends on what you get out of the program and what kind of job you want to have afterward. Whether a degree will seriously advance you in ways that spending that year getting real life experience won’t.

    Getting my MA was, in retrospect, a mistake. But at the time, I was kind of thinking about staying in education, either doing EFL back home or getting certified to teach in my state. I was really on the fence about it, and the deciding factor was that I could teach in China while getting my degree, so at least I’d have an income while tripling my student debt :/ The degree, and honestly, teaching abroad, haven’t really been huge assets in my job searches (but then, I never tried THAT hard, and I’m not in a big city). Now I’m into web development and I could go back to school for that, or just work on making a really cool portfolio someday…I do like that it’s a field where you can just prove yourself as opposed to needing a paper degree.

    I feel you on this -> “I’m 30 and, quite honestly, I don’t know where I’m going.” Ugh, that’s been me for the past few years. I’ve just been unable to fully commit to a path, but I think I kind of sort of maybe have it now.

    1. Oh no Kelly! I hear you with the teaching abroad experience. It feels like people like us (aka, young people that go abroad and teach English for a year or two) are a dime a dozen, and I don’t think it leaves a positive note on the resume unless you plan on going into teaching (and even then, I’m not sure if it helps when you want to become an American teacher).

      I thought about going back to school (well, just for a certificate or formal training) in terms of web/graphic design. Seems like a flexible and real skill that is actually in demand. I know it could be self-taught, but unless someone cracks the whip I won’t motivate myself to work. Still, even those short certificate programs can run 3-4k in fees. Nothing compared to a masters program, but it still aint cheap!

      I want to work in foreign diplomacy and most people that have good jobs in this field have an MA. I was offered a position in foreign diplomacy 2 years ago but turned it down to be with BF. It’s kind of a life regret now, but I try no to dwell on the past. If I could get that same job without an MA then I would, but I think landing these kind of jobs without an MA will be hard. Right now I’m thinking about how to minimize MA costs, with a degree from abroad being the best option; however, I hear that a degree from abroad is helpful if you want to work in EU/UK, but if you want to work in the USA it might actually be a hindrance. UGH. Why does my family and bf have to live in America, aha…

      Anyway, glad to see you’re back on the blogosphere. We missed you!

  10. hello Ruby! Well firstly shall i say that you’ve lived the life that I wished to live but was too scared to live! I will be on my way to 30 in a few years so really starting to feel nervous about it :o. I’ve been in school almost my entire life (12 yrs K-12 plus 9 yrs uni now!) so I wish I had taken an opportunity to travel 🙂

    I studied Japanese in highschool but did something completely different in uni (pharmacy)… and now I’m in grad school doing a phd in medical science. Congrats on your decision to go to grad school. My 2 cents: grad school is tough but so long as you’re doing a masters (and not a phd) it should be worth the effort. I can’t comment much on your field since I’m in science (sometimes wish I was in foreign relations though– ah, diplomacy…)

    Anyway I digress. As long as you can finish your degree in 2 yrs, I think you should be OK. I’ve heard so many horror stories about US grad school debt and it really makes me feel grateful that grad school is free (for research degrees) here in Australia and sad that you guys have to fork out so much for an education :(.

    If it were me, I would study in scotland to save money (but then, that’s because I’ve been in Australia pretty much my entire life and need to explore the world). But I appreciate that you want to be close to family, after having spent so much time apart. Whichever you choose I’m sure you’ll follow your heart like you have done in most of your life decisions so far. All your international experience will stand you in great stead in your career. I really do wish you all the best. And if you ever come to Aussie following a Bali trip then be sure to let me know.

    1. Hey thanks so much for the really wonderful comment! You know, I’m really happy that I was able to enjoy my life and have so many amazing world experiences, but at the same time I start to wonder if I “did the right thing,” since I wandered so far off the typical life path for your average American, and now struggle to try and fit back into society (aka, get a good job). A lot of my friends who stayed here and worked up the corporate ladder (or medicine ladder) are now making really good money, piling away money in a retirement fund and buying homes, but they often complain to me that they never have time to travel and envied my experiences. I guess you can’t have it all!

      Pharmacy is a great major! (way more useful than Japanese!). My best friend is actually a pharmacist, and although she said pharmacy school was like a mini version of hell (I don’t know how it is down in Australia…), she is making good money now and is pretty set for life when it comes to employable. Are pharmacists also in demand in Australia? Once you’re a working pharmacist I’m sure you’ll have a lot of free time to visit Japan and do some world exploring!

      Very jealous of the lower cost of education in Australia! Ah man, why is the USA so expensive with necessities? (cough education and healthcare cough).

      Thanks for your advice! I think I’d actually be OK going to Edinburgh for grad school because it’s only one year, but I just worry about being able to find job opportunities within the United States after school (and some people say grad school is half networking). I also hear that, although pricey, American schools are loads better than those in the UK… but I just have to decide if they’re 20,000 USD worth better.

      Thank you again for such a nice comment! If I ever go down to Australia I’ll let you know! Where are you down under? What city? Australia and New Zealand are definitely in my top 10 travel destinations!

      Good luck in pharmacy school!

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