Advice by Stefanie Markidis // Photograph by Vaite Perosa
Photograph by Vaite Perosa
I’ve just turned 20 and have been offered a full scholarship to study Chinese language in China for a year. I know it’s a really awesome opportunity and I have so much to gain, but I never really thought I’d be awarded the scholarship, and now that I have, it seems much more real.
I can barely take care of myself, so the thought of uprooting my life for an entire year and being self-sustaining is quite overwhelming. I’d also have to defer Uni and put so many things on hold. I also have a boyfriend of 3 and a half years that I’m nervous about breaking the news to. And also, the prospect of living without social media for a year will definitely be a challenge. I’m apprehensive about bringing it up with my parents until I’m absolutely sure with going, since they are quite over protective and would need some convincing–so I have to convince myself first.
But I know opportunities like this don’t come around very often, and I can learn so much both academically and personally. But I’m not sure whether I’m ready to live overseas on my own. But then I think–when are we ever really ready for anything–and it just sort of loops around in my head. I am really confused about it all and was wondering if you could shine some clarity on the situation.
Thanks 🙂 xx
Thanks so much for submitting to our advice forum. I’m Stef, the creative writing editor at Ramona. I’m super into academics (I have too many degrees) and I’ve travelled and studied overseas alone. I hope I can help you to reach some clarity on your decision, or at least to provide another perspective.
First up, congratulations on the scholarship offer! Well done! Things like this don’t just happen by chance. You must be really talented. Please take the time to acknowledge just how wonderful this is. You earned it. How did you feel when you were first notified of the scholarship offer? Excitement? Dread? Take note of that feeling.
There’s no way I can answer this in a neutral way, so I’m going to be upfront about this: I think you should go.
When you read that line, how did you feel? Was your response a ‘Yes, I want to go!’ or a ‘Damn, I wanted to be supported in my decision not to go’? Take note of that feeling.
Truth is, there is no ’right’ answer here, that’s why it feels so tricky. But this is a great opportunity that could really enrich and change your life. Another country, immersed in language and culture, a full scholarship—how amazing!
The first reason why I think you should accept the offer is that, from your email, you seem to want to go. You write about ‘breaking the news’ to your boyfriend and the worry that it ‘will’ be difficult. This is active, positive language that suggests you might already (somewhere deep down) have made up your mind. There’s a reason you applied for this scholarship.
I think you answer the question yourself. You say it’s a really awesome opportunity and you have so much to gain; there are definite challenges you’d have to face while you’re over there (being self-sufficient) and before you go (breaking the news to your family), but you’d learn so much academically and personally. Yes, you would learn and experience so much. That just about sums it up. Oh, the experiences/knowledge/friendships/personal growth/stories/bragging rights you could gain!
Big decisions like this are always going to seem scary. The only way to make them less scary is to get into the practice of jumping in, and letting the universe catch you. Test it out. When you take the big scary leap, great things happen, I promise. The first day of school was terrifying, right?
Life is for living, and we do ourselves a disservice when we hold back due to fear. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move overseas and I declined, partly due to fear and partly because my family disapproved. I still feel angry with myself when I think of how I held myself back. Better to let life move through you then to shut it down, I think.
If you decide to do this, you have the chance to prove something to yourself—that you can do the scary thing, grow from it, and hey, maybe even enjoy it. If you go and you don’t like it, then you can get on a plane and come home. But if you don’t go, you’ll never know…
Here’s some truth about living as an adult. All this stuff about living responsibly, taking care of yourself, being independent and mature—these are not abilities that gently descend upon you as you age. The truth about ’adulting’ is that you learn it as you go. You learn it when you’re not ready, when you try and you fail and you need to pick yourself up. You learn how to clean the toilet bowl by rolling up your sleeves and giving it a go (it’s gross). The truth about living like an adult is that you’re never truly ready—you just have to jump in. You’ll never feel ready for this… until you’ve already done it. Then, the next challenge will come along… #life.
I want to address your concern about your long-term boyfriend. You’re apprehensive about breaking the news to him. This is so understandable. I would be too. The thing about partners is that they can be really caring and understanding. Truth is, your boyfriend would want the best for you, and if that’s a year in China, I’m guessing he will support you in it. What about the practicalities of this? Long-distance relationships do succeed, especially when there is a definite timeframe to work with. A countdown, so to speak. I have so many friends who have successfully sustained long distance relationships for years at a time. It’s really common. I’ve even done it (the only thing I’ve managed to sustain other than my caffeine habit). It requires planning, effort, and trust, but with Skype, apps like WeChat and WhatsApp, and the trusty old telephone, it is possible to maintain a transcontinental connection. Also, you living overseas could give you both some time to focus on ‘me’, and make you stronger as a couple in the long run.
That’s my case for why you should go. But really, the only important reason why you should go is because you want to go.
If you decide not to take up the offer, that’s okay too. Sometimes it’s just not right, and if that’s the case for you at the moment, you will know. Respect your gut, your intuition. If you feel you’re being pressured into it, pay attention to that—you don’t have to do anything beyond your will.
We are so glad you’ve reached out to Ramona for advice, but remember this is ultimately your decision. Not mine, not your boyfriend’s, not your parent’s, not the scholarship provider’s.
Go with your heart.
Jump, and the universe will catch you.
P.S. This is what I do when I really can’t decide. I take a coin. Heads = option one (take the offer, go overseas). Tails = option two (decline the offer, don’t go overseas). Flip the coin. There’s your answer. Are you happy or disappointed? If disappointed, perhaps you wanted the other option. Go with that one. If happy, perhaps you chose the right option. Go with that one.