I'm 25.

It's my birthday today! In a blink of an eye, I'm now 25. Gone were the days when I was given allowances on a weekly basis, and had absolutely no responsibilities on my back. Now, I have to pay for everything on my own, from car insurance to health insurance. On top of that, there's rent, electricity, water and Internet bills to pay. I suppose it's a part of growing up, so it would only make sense to face reality.

Anyway, I received plenty of birthday messages from family and friends via Facebook, Messenger and Whatsapp. It touched my heart to know that everyone took some time out of their busy schedules to wish me a Happy Birthday. I just had to show my utmost gratitude by thanking everyone individually even though it took me close to an hour to do so.

Woke up to find a gift from my housemate, which was a pleasant surprise indeed. The rest of the day was spent accompanying my partner to work. We then had a nice Japanese dinner at one of my favourite places (Buen 151A) which made me very happy. Even though I had a simple day, it was a good one nonetheless.

Update: 1st July 2016.

In the last few days, my partner kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday, but I refused to answer no matter how many times he asked. You see, I'm quite content with my life right now. I have enough clothes, bags, shoes and to have more of that would only be a bonus. Thus, we eventually agreed not to buy each other a birthday present this year.

But when my partner came home from work during his work break (the day after my birthday), he handed this to me:

A birthday gift! 😍

It was something that I was eyeing the other day, but had chosen to walk off because the price gave me a heart attack. Apparently, he had noticed that I was interested in the item, and decided to surprise me. Thank you!

Issue 2: How to get along better with your parents?

As promised in my Advice Column, here is Issue 2: How to get along better with your parents? Unfortunately, I don't have many photos taken with my parents (as they tend to shy away from cameras), but this recent photo shall do for now.

What does family mean to you? Usually, the definition of family is influenced by how well one gets along with their parents. So it's very important for people to have a strong bonded relationship with their parents. Family is supposed to love and be there for you no matter what, especially when you need them to fall back on when life gives you lemons. But how do you get along with your family? Well, it starts with your parents. However, many people have trouble getting along with their parents...

Why is this so? Well, it boils down to two main factors:

01. Age or Generation Gap

For example, in my case, both me and my mum have a 36 year age gap between us. She's part of the Baby Boomers generation, while I clearly belong to the Generation Y. Due to the experiences and privileges we had while growing up, we were brought up in a different environment which influences the way we think and perceive the world. So to speak, how can I possibly get along with her if we share so many differences? How can we get along with each other?

Once again, as mentioned in 'Issue 1: How to last long in a relationship?', it was mentioned that understanding was very important to maintain a good relationship (this can be referred to spouses, friends and even family). So how can we apply this in real life situations? Well, I'll explain it in terms of a real life situation for better understanding.

A few years back, my parents couldn't understand why I would rather communicate with them via text messages as opposed to talking to them on the phone. They thought that it was much faster to get the message through to the other party over the phone. (They probably thought that I was being disrespectful?) It was only until I explained my side of the story before they came to understand that people in my generation prefer communicating by means of text messaging, Facebook and other social media. By the way, neither me or my parents were wrong to have differing opinions regarding this issue. Having grown up in a distinctive environment, we must learn to understand and embrace generation differences in order to compromise.

02. Assumption that people are mind readers

It is evident that every individual has their own needs and wants, likes and dislikes. However, the common reason why people have disagreements and arguments is all because of assumption. People tend to assume that others understand what they need or want in life, and when they don't get them, they get highly upset. We must grasp the fact that no one is a mind reader. Explain your side and your perspective, not forgetting to listen to what others have to say as well. Be understanding.

There was a period of time that I decided that I wanted to do some travelling in Asia, so I took up this issue with my mum. She disapproved of the idea as soon as she heard about it. As a result, I was very upset as I didn't get the support that I wanted. It took a few hours for me to cool down before re-discussing the issue with her again. I tried to put myself in her shoes in order to try seeing things from her perspective. "If I were her, and had a child who wanted to do what I would do, what kind of worries would I have? What would make me say no?" Everything started to make more sense after that. Getting a clearer understanding of the issue at hand, I brought up the topic one more time so that we can talk things out.

Differing Perspectives

Mum - I just want you to study hard now and get a good job. Once you have a stable job, you can do anything you want. I want you to save money for your future. You're at that stage in your life and have to start saving for a car, a house and your future family. When you get a stable job, you can travel wherever you want. So just concentrate on your studies first.

Me - Well, if I travel after getting a full time job, I would probably only get two weeks leave and wouldn't be able to travel much. Neither would I have the same experience travelling if I were much younger. When you're young, your interests when travelling would be so different as opposed to those that you might have if you're much older. For example, at this age, I would be more interested in shopping and food if I'm on a holiday. But in 5 or 10 years' time, I'll probably be more interested in scenery and tourist attractions more than anything else. I really hope you can understand that I want to have as much fun as I possibly can before starting my adult life, aka a full-time (9 to 5) job. Once my full-time job starts, I'd be tied down with more responsibilities to even think of travelling anywhere in the world. Can you see things from my perspective?

After much discussing and contemplation, we finally came to the conclusion that it would be alright for me to travel as long as I have the finances to do so. However, travelling must not be a distraction or affect my job in any way. In other words, travelling must not be a priority in my life and I must never put my job on the line to make allowances for travelling.

"We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves." - Henry Ward Beecher

Graduation Day

After years of persistence and hard work in regards to studying, I've finally graduated from University! Although I can finally wave my school years goodbye, it's a fact that I'll never stop learning. Life lessons, of course. Anyway, my graduation ceremony took place in Curtin University on the 10th of February 2015. Before the ceremony, we decided to take some photos to commemorate this special day - with friends, family and even my older sister's boyfriend's family from Italy.



Sadly, most of the friends that I invited to my graduation ceremony could not come. This was due to two reasons: 1) Full-time jobs and 2) International students who were still back in their hometown. Nevertheless, everyone still congratulated me on my graduation - which I'm extremely thankful for. I would also like to extend my gratitude to four special people for surprising me on my big day. Ken (my boyfriend) for the very expensive bouquet of flowers, Jacqueline (his sister) for the very meaningful custom-made Graduation Cat and letter, and my parents who gave me a red packet for finally graduating.

Now that I've reached a milestone, I'm on to the next chapter of my life. So...what's next?

Issue 1: How to make a relationship last?

First and foremost, I feel the need to type a short disclaimer to protect me from potential flamers. Please note that I'm not a relationship expert, neither do I have a perfect relationship. Everything mentioned in this blog post are from my own experiences and applied knowledge, and should not be taken word for word. Now that I got that out of the way, let's start.

This is Ken, my boyfriend. We've been together for 3 years and 6 months so far, and our relationship is still going strong. Like every other relationship, we have had our ups and downs. But throughout the years, we have ironed out our differences in personalities and habits to allow this relationship to be a little more smooth sailing.

Note: The most important thing in a relationship would be COMMUNICATION and UNDERSTANDING.

1. Talk about goals you seek on achieving in the future.

Many couples break up when it comes to future goals, as they fail to find a common ground. Ask as many questions about future goals as you possibly can, before you go much deeper into the relationship. The most common mistake that couples make, is to push this to the last minute (usually before engagement) as they don't see the importance of planning ahead.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask:

Do you want kids? If so, how many kids do you want in the future?
Are you planning to live here in the future, or to migrate somewhere else?
When is your ideal age to get married?
How would you like to bring up your children? (Parenting style)

You'll be surprised how many people break up because of these questions. I personally know of a handful of people who have left their significant other because their goals in life were misaligned. Thus, it's extremely important to search for these answers before things get too serious. Do it sooner than later, so that if you don't have similarities in terms of goals, there is ample time and space for negotiation before life-changing plans start rolling in.

2. Talk about differences.

With the understanding that your significant other is different in both personality and habits, you're able to address each and every difference to come to a mutual agreement of how things should work. While you learn to give and take, you must also be willing to let go of issues that are insignificant and unimportant. I hear you asking, how do you figure out what's important and what's unimportant though? Well, if any habits do not affect you or your relationship directly, they fit into the 'unimportant' category. It's unfair to attempt to change someone when it doesn't affect you in any way. Give your partner space.

3. Bring up scenarios.

When you bring up possible scenarios, you are able to see the way in which your significant other makes decisions. This helps you to see your partner's maturity level in handling different situations, and whether he/she has the ability to think in different perspectives. This is very important because it shows whether the individual is an understanding person. When we understand how others are likely to feel, it can guide the way we interact with others. So to speak, better relationships can be formed when both partners have an understanding of each others' feelings, actions and reactions on an everyday basis.

4. Voice out concerns.

If your significant other has a bad habit or does something that you absolutely can't stand, it is important to voice out concerns as soon as possible. If you leave it to the last minute, it would be too late. Let's assume that your partner doesn't like to take a shower before bed and gives you an excuse that he/she is too tired or too lazy to. It doesn't make it better that you're a clean freak, and you definitely don't want to marry someone who has hygiene issues.

Scenario 1: Feeling uncomfortable about the situation, you try to keep it to yourself as you don't want to ruin the relationship because of something 'small'. Then you eventually get married with your significant other. One day, you just can't stand the fact that he/she doesn't take a shower before heading to bed. You get really upset and tell your partner off, and he/she says, "You have never brought up this issue in the past, and now you're telling me off for this. You can't blame me or expect me to change because I had no idea that you had a problem with me and my personal habits until today!"

From this, you can see the repercussions of not voicing out concerns and leaving it to the last minute.

Scenario 2: Feeling uncomfortable about the situation, you feel like you have to bring up this issue with your significant other to bring up awareness. You tell your partner about your concerns and explain to him/her that it's important not to neglect hygiene despite being lazy or tired. You also explain that you're actually a hygiene freak, and have to sleep in a clean bed.

How do you solve problems with your partner? Well, refer to Point 4.1 for the ultimate step-by-step guide.

4.1 How do you solve problems with your partner?

Step 1: You bring up the problem or voice out the concern.
Step 2: Your partner might react to this and explain his/her perspective.
Step 3: You may react to your partner's reaction and explain your perspective.
Step 4: Both of you should sit down, put yourselves into each other's shoes and have a good think about the situation.
Step 5: Sit down together and come to a conclusion. How will the problem be solved?

Can you see how 'understanding' comes into the equation? Once you can understand how someone else feels, you're able to analyse the situation in a manner that has consideration for the other party. That's being fair to your significant other.

It is very important not to treat everything you dislike in your significant other as a problem. Be sure to only label it as a problem when it directly affects you or it's a trait that you don't want in a guy that you'd marry in future. Other than that, I would highly recommend for you to close one eye and just let it go. We have to understand that expectations have to be realistic. No one can be everything we might want him or her to be, and sometimes we have to accept people as they are.

Warning: Bringing up everything as a problem might possibly create more tension in your relationship.

5. Don't make assumptions.

Never assume anything - I can't emphasize this enough! When we feel close to someone it’s easy to think we know how he or she thinks and feels. But that's not true. It is impossible to read the mind of your partner, so it's only fair to ask for clarification rather than to make a guess. Communication means asking questions, and trying to understand where your significant other is coming from. Your significant other's standpoint and belief system would no doubt be different than your own. Likewise, what is considered a big deal in their life may not have been important in yours. So, please remember to put yourself in your partner's shoes and think from their perspective to try knowing and understanding how he/she really feels.

These are the five top tips for a more successful relationship with your significant other. Remember, it revolves around COMMUNICATION and UNDERSTANDING. Apply these tips to improve the way you manage your relationship (it can also be applied to friendships). I wish you all the best in finding your happiness in life! Good luck.

Sydney or Perth?

Left to right: Lillian, Daniel and me.

Ever since I've came back from my volunteer trip, I've been contemplating about whether I should move to Sydney one day. "Sydney or Perth?" This question keeps repeating itself over and over again in my mind. Why the sudden thought, you may ask? Well, most of my new friends (that were on the same volunteer program) are from Sydney. We have bonded very well, to the extent that I feel like I know and get along better with them as compared to my old friends. Friendship chemistry, maybe? On top of that, I get all the support, understanding, trust, encouragement, love and care I need from these amazing people.

Perth has been hit with a dry spell in regards to job-seeking, as the unemployment rate is rising. It doesn't help that I'm due to graduate on the 10th of February this year. To be exact, in two weeks' time. What are my chances of getting a job in Perth? Submitted a stack of resumes during mid-June last year, to no avail. I didn't even get a 'rejection letter' from any of those companies which was disappointing as the waiting game went on for what seems like forever. It's like watching a movie that seems promising, but you end up not knowing the ending. All I ask is for a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Is it so hard?

Nevertheless, I'm still undecided on whether to choose Sydney or Perth. There are pros and cons to living in both states. Rent and property prices are more expensive in Sydney, but other than that, Sydney takes the lead. I'm fully aware that my choice depends on priority and what I deem important, except I haven't really done a proper comparison to be able to come to a conclusion. Besides, I haven't brought up this issue with my parents yet. Ah, Sydney or Perth? Dilemma, dilemma.

My Volunteer Experience in Taiwan

It has been less than a week since I came back from my volunteer trip in Taiwan. Five days, to be exact. In order to remember all the good memories I had in Taiwan (to look back on it in the near future), I've decided to pen everything down in one blog entry. One word to describe my experience: Unforgettable. Deciding to go on this volunteer trip was the best decision that I had ever made in my life, and my only regret was the fact that I didn't make this decision earlier.

I've gotten so much out of this experience. I've formed close friendships with some amazing people from different countries and states, found out about my hidden strengths and weaknesses, learnt how to be more independent and discovered that I could actually hold a decent conversation with others in a language that wasn't my mother tongue. So thankful that I made the most out of my seven weeks in Taiwan by cherishing and treasuring every moment I had there.

I would like to thank the following people for the good memories:

AIESEC NTPU: Kelly, Leonardo, Max, Daphne, Lucy, Vivian, Lily and the rest of the team.

Exchange Participants (EPs): Lillian, Daniel, Annette, Ann, Oweyn, Jasminee, Eileen, Kevin, Yun, and Tan.

Of course for the sake of self-improvement, I want to list the positive changes I saw in myself after my volunteer trip in Taiwan. To do so, I'll do a comparison with a 'Before' and 'After' so that it'd be easier to identify the change.

01. BEFORE: Was shy and reserved.

Before my exchange experience in Taiwan, I would avoid any situations that required me to interact with others. It even got to the point when I began to run away whenever I saw my friends on the street (and would refuse to approach them to say hi). Every time I had to do a presentation in my classes for University, I wouldn't be able to fall asleep the night before. This was because I kept worrying about speaking in front of 15-20 students, and this would keep replaying in my mind.

01. AFTER: Gained confidence.

During my volunteer exchange experience in Taiwan, I would say that I have gained confidence. When I taught my first class at 桃子腳國小學 (Tao Zi Jiao Elementary and Junior High School) which was assigned to me by AIESEC NTPU, I was not only made to stand on the stage, but was also given a microphone to speak into. It was my first time doing both of these things, although it may be normal for others. Over time, I saw the positive changes in myself. I no longer feel nervous having to speak in front of 30 students, and I'm even able to manage the class well.

02. BEFORE: Having no sense of direction.

If you ask my friends and family, you'd know that I'm horrible with directions. It took me 1 month to remember the route from my house to Perth City via car, and mind you, it's only 10 minutes away. On top of that, I'm supposed to be reasonably familiar with the area as I've been living there since 2003. Thus, it's not surprising that my boyfriend was afraid for my safety in Taiwan, especially since I had no one to depend on for directions. That was how bad my sense of direction was.

02. AFTER: I learnt to find my way around.

After some help from my new friends in Taiwan), it took me only three days to familiarize myself with the area that I was living in. I'm not only able to take buses and trains (MRT) by myself, but I can also go around Taipei without having too much trouble finding my way around. It was amazing that I had never gotten lost in Taiwan - not even once.

03. BEFORE: Struggled to 'find myself'.

I've always struggled to find out the purpose of life, who I am as a person, what I want in life and how I can improve myself. This has been something that has been bugging me for years and I've always wanted to find the answer to these questions.

03. AFTER: Finding yourself.

My journey in Taiwan wasn't exactly smooth-sailing, and there were many obstacles that I had to face. A few weeks back, I had a really bad day and was feeling rather upset. After having a chat with a friend, I was reminded that this experience is merely a challenge for me to 'find myself'. On top of that, he told me that 'finding yourself' isn't just a one-off thing but an ongoing process. And to think that I haven't never thought of it that way. That gave me a clearer idea of what the definition of 'finding yourself' is, and from that, I was able to work my way towards it. PS: I have found the answers to these questions.

Quote: "Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it." ― J.D. Stroube, Caged by Damnation

There are definitely more changes I saw in myself, but these are some of the more obvious ones that are worth highlighting. Anyway, I'm glad that I took a step out of my comfort zone because it was totally worth it. Although I spent quite a lot of money to volunteer in a foreign country such as Taiwan (I'm talking a few thousand AUD), the experience was priceless.

5 Worst Types of Housemates

I've never really had much contact with the real world, until the last few years. My life in the past mostly consisted of interaction with family and friends from High School, which led me to have an unrealistic expectation of the world. I was under the assumption that life was pretty smooth and straightforward, and that life summed up in several words was to 'work for survival until the end'. My priority before University was to study hard, and my parents basically did the rest.

Digressing a little, no, they did not engage in the practice of 'helicopter parenting'. In fact, I must admit that it was a combination of naivety and the mere lack of life experience that made me see the world in this way. It was only after I moved out from home that I realised what the real world was really about. I guess what they say about moving out of home is true: You learn, you grow, and you become much more independent when you don't depend on your parents anymore.

Living out of home has helped me realise that some people lack basic respect.
In this case, I'm mainly referring to the 'forbidden' word: Housemates.

Top 5: The Violent One

This person seems to break everything he/she comes in contact with. Oh look, the towel holder mysteriously fell to the ground. Why is there a hole in the wall? Occasionally, you hear loud swearing followed by banging noises. It wouldn't be surprising if this housemate ends up with a broken wrist and bleeding fingers. I suppose unless you're the one that has to fork out money to fix broken areas of the house, having 'The Violent One' in the house wouldn't affect you too much.

Top 4: The Thief

Expect to see your belongings disappear, whether it be food or personal items. What's yours is his/hers, but what's his/hers is not yours. This kind of housemate pretty much raids your food in the fridge, and uses your shampoo when they have run out of their own supply. You're pretty much financially supporting another person, as you're paying for them to use your stuff. To put it in simple words, it's like being in a financial relationship with your worst enemy.

Top 3: The Loud One

Home is meant to be comfortable, peaceful and relaxing. But this housemate will break all silence that you're deserving of. Slamming of doors, stomping of feet, laughing and talking loudly...etc. You name it, this housemate does it all. You're woken up at odd hours in the morning from loud sounds that should not have even be heard during this time. Because you're a light sleeper, you can't go back to sleep and end up being cranky the next day due to fatigue.

Top 2: The Filthy One

This housemate will fill up the sink with dirty dishes, while you have to manage to wash your own on top of all the mess. You'll see cockroaches, worms, mold and every other thing you wouldn't want to touch with your bare hands. There will be rubbish in places that it shouldn't belong at, like toilet rolls on the toilet floor or chicken bones under the dining table. If you have such a housemate, I hope you're able to brave the bad smells and filth. Or else, I wish you good luck.

Top 1: The Couple

This housemate invites their significant other over on a frequent basis to use the common utilities in the house. As far as I know, this is the worst housemate that anyone could ever have. The problems you have with that housemate are now multiplied by two, with an extra person in the house at all times. Nope, they don't pay their share of the rent or help out with bills. They expect to pay one share of the rent and bills, while two people take advantage of it. 'Double the trouble' indeed.

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Here is a summary of my personal/first-hand experience with 3 of the worst housemates: (Names will be kept confidential!)

Housemate A

- Would host parties late at night, without informing other housemates in advance. Loud and noisy.
- Stole my boyfriend's wine and money.
- Stole another housemate's loose change.
- Leave a puddle of pee and pile of faeces on the floor in the common toilet.
- Invite guys to sleep over on a regular basis.

Housemate B

- Slam the door when entering and leaving bedroom. Woke housemates up from their sleep.
- Left freshly-washed clothes in the washing machine for the whole day. Others can't use it.
- Invited significant other to sleep over on a regular basis.
- Broke the toilet roll holder as well as the towel holder.
- Forgot to lock the front door almost everyday - safety issues.

Housemate C

- Slam the door when entering and leaving bedroom. Woke housemates up from their sleep.
- Play loud music at 3 or 4 am in the morning when people are trying to sleep.
- Invite significant other to sleep over every weekday (5 days a week).
- Laugh and talk loudly at 3 or 4 am in the morning, with the door open.
- Leave rubbish in common areas of the house.
- Does not help out with weekly cleaning.
- Touched my towel everyday - hygiene issues.

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Having lived out of home for 3 years have allowed me to see what the real world is really like. It's quite disappointing that some people lack of common sense or basic respect that should have been taught by their parents from a young age. Never knew that there were such people out there until I was faced with these issues first-hand. So thankful that I had good upbringing and was educated on etiquette and basic respect that has shaped me to be the person I am today.