Non-Stop Road

Lots to go through in this post; but let me start with something less relevant just to get the ball rolling.

 

Today’s title is brought to you by an anime airing this season called “Natsuiro Kiseki” (A Summer-Coloured Miracle), quite a nice title with a nice slice-of-life storyline; and awesome voice actors who perform the opening and ending themes – I’ve always liked how Japanese anime like to get the voice actors of the main characters to also perform the music for that anime (the most well-known for doing so is probably “K-On”). Nevertheless I really like the song, here’s the opening clip:

 

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Final Year

So at long last I’m heading into my (supposed) final year at university. And once again the dynamics of how my week runs changes; so I suppose I should update most people (who are) on what entails my life for this year, and specifically this semester.

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University

This final year might actually be a bit easier than last year (though to be fair last year was the hardest of my uni career). My Actuarial course for this semester is 1 of 2 non-mathematical courses I will need to complete this year. That is a huge surprise since everyone does expect my course to be nothing but maths; instead it’s exactly the opposite. The course is about thinking through the theoretical issues behind what we do with the maths. Rather than teach us more maths, we need to be taught how to use them in the workplace; so I guess it’s a more practical course although we only deal with case scenarios in the course. Strangely, the lecturer runs the course as a student interaction class. He doesn’t provide much notes and doesn’t want us taking notes. Rather, he wants us to be giving input during class and having us all think through the same topic and add to each other’s understanding. It’s different to other courses I guess and may prove to be more interesting than others since it’s being run differently. It will still be hard since we don’t actually have any notes for any exam discussion questions (yes, no more maths in the exams for this course haha).

 

My other two math courses are third year subjects which so far appear to be easier than last year’s math courses; hopefully they stay that way. My last course is a second year finance course which if done in second year would be considered extremely difficult. But doing it in fourth year, and also after doing an Actuarial course last semester that was EXACTLY like it, this finance course should pose no challenge for me too. Of course the last time I acted arrogantly towards a course in this way, I didn’t do that great; but that’s probably due to the fact that I didn’t study for it, knowing that I had studied for it once already in another course.

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Internships

Recently I have been trying to take these things called “internships” a bit more seriously. I always knew they held some sort of significance over a future job after graduating from university. I guess, with all the busyness that is my weekly routine, I never really got around into researching what they were about. Today I can’t say that I’m up to scratch, but for the least I’ve submitted a few applications to a few places. Some say that’s a good effort, others wonder why I’ve submitted so few.

 

What worries me at the start is that having an internship and not having one can actually be the difference between getting a job (upon graduating) and not getting a job. While it’s good to know that having an internship makes finding a job so much easier, it makes me nervous to think that I must obtain one for fear that I won’t be able to get a job in the future. Of course, I know that failing to get an internship is not the end of the world and it might just merely mean putting more effort later, rather than now.

 

As I went through filling out some of the application forms, I was reminded of applying for the Co-op Scholarship at the start of uni, and how easily I was rejected with the material I put down there. In terms of Extracurricular Activities and Skills and Experience, there is no doubt that a dominant majority of all that for me is all the ministry I have been going about since year 11. Without adding up the hours in total for church, CBS, RICE, ISCF, etc, if there was anything I had to mention on my resume, it would have to be these activities. But are these “acceptable” activities that companies and firms would look for? To me, it seems like Christian ministry is very undervalued in their eyes, whereas “helping out with a uni society barbeque” (just pulling a random example) may be deemed as an important display of teamwork. My Co-op Scholarship was probably rejected for this reason.

 

And that annoys and upsets me a bit, which is why I don’t have much of a care for scholarships of internships now; what company would care about what I’ve done for a God who politically speaking may or may not exist (and from a conservative point of view, he probably doesn’t exist)? It makes me feel quite discouraged and disappointed in every company in society. How would you make them understand the value of youth group, or Bible Studies and such? When it comes to “naming achievements” from your extracurricular activities, do people dare to just simply put down medals and awards? Our high school had a pretty funny merit award system, and we figured out ways to get around the system a bit (in an honest way of course) and obtain a higher class of merit than was expected; by that, most people in our grade were able to obtain the highest level of award, which makes it not that special since everyone had it. Oh, but to companies, would they give you the job because you obtained the highest level award from an educational institution?

 

What value is awards and medals, and do they truly reflect your effort and the person that you are? What would I put down for “achievements”? I would be tempted to put down something like “winning people to Christ for eternal life”. While applicants and companies are taking pride in bits and pieces of paper, I would try to be taking pride in having helped people find the Man who gives eternal life. If I had a choice being eternal life and a piece of paper that did nothing, I’d know what I’d pick. But, what company would accept that to be an achievement, that you helped people find Christ, find life, and find true meaning to life? What value or mark could you put to that for them to measure?

 

But there is one clear thing wrong with hat I just said above. We don’t “achieve” eternal life for other people, I haven’t “achieved” eternal life for the youth that I serve at church. Nor have I achieved “Jesus” for them. Coincidentally we’re going through 1 Corinthians 3 at youth group this Sunday; and 1 Cor 3:5-7 says:

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

I can take no merit for anything in ministry that I have done to this date, because truly it was God who did the hard work (and I thought my work felt hard as it was). What can I boast in then that I have achieved? Nothing. And so what have I to show to companies as achievements over the years? Pretty much nothing. But clearly my “lack of achievements” doesn’t really reflect who I am, and what I am able to do through God.

 

So at the end of the day, for me, I harbour little hope as I fill in internship applications, knowing that there isn’t much I can legitimately put down on paper, and knowing that the way I’ve lived my life will not be appreciated by secular society. It disgusts me a bit I guess, and why shouldn’t it when all the effort you’ve put into the past few years is not counted. However this is okay, it does mean that I’ll keep trying and to not worry if things don’t go the way I want them to.

 

 

A Different Sort of Internship

There is one internship that stands out from the rest, and if there’s any internship I’d ever want to make, it would be this one; and I know that I’ve made it.

 

This particular internship is quite simple, it only has one yes/no question: “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” No doubt, this is clearly the “internship” into a place in heaven. While most people would expect getting into heaven to be harder than getting a job in a big company, it is actually somewhat simple. Sadly, answering yes to that question isn’t easy for a lot of people.

 

Furthermore, you are free to attach your resumes, your cover letters, list down all your achievements, put down the fact you went to the best schools and universities, and anything you’d expect your average company to look at. However, God won’t look at any of that; all He cares is whether you ticked yes or no to that question about believing in Jesus, his son. All you have to do is tick “yes” (and actually mean it), and that’s it.

 

So while companies might not care about how we serve God, for our internship applications, neither does God care about the things you would submit to those companies, as a basis to get into heaven; a strange but pleasant twist of fate huh?

Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Friday

So for once on the last night of MYC, I managed to rack up 3-4 hours of sleep as opposed to 0 hours. Still, the dawn of the last day pretty much meant that camp was coming to an end, and we would soon no longer have all that time to sit together with other Christians, to have fellowship and to study God’s Word. Which is probably why over the years we’ve managed to see that the time spent at MYC is precious and needs to be used in a manner that reflects how rare the opportunity is. Just like all the speakers say, you really don’t get a daily chance to study God’s Word so in depth outside of MYC.

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Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Thursday

It’s funny how by the fourth day, you seem to not think about the rest of camp that lies ahead, but start to reflect on how much has gone by in the last three days. And to put things into perspective, the start of Thursday makes me think about how there’s only one more night left to enjoy the fellowship with everyone, one more night that have fun and to catch up people we weren’t able to chat with since the last three days; because Friday would pretty much be the end of MYC (and everyone goes *sadface* over that of course).

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Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Wednesday

Come Wednesday, people had lost a lot of sleep:

 

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But then again when you only get like 4-5 hours a sleep per night you are bound to start getting exhausted; this is a fundamental factor for any camp. I think Wednesday was the start where we all gradually slept closer and closer to breakfast time, such that we were facing the possibility of not having breakfast at all in the morning. Thirty minutes more sleep in exchange for breakfast probably wasn’t the best deal, but when you’re tired, you’ll take all that you can.

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Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Tuesday

If you haven’t read Monday’s post, please do, because I’m just going to move straight into things without giving another introduction.

 

I forgot to mention cabins in the last post. So this year, our MYC was really full so some of us had to upgrade from the normal cabins to the ensuite rooms (with a surcharge of course). This year I upgraded to an ensuite (to help free up spots in the normal cabins for other people) and it was a really pleasant experience. The ensuites aren’t the most luxurious of rooms of course but the attractive features for me were that:

  1. Non-communal bathrooms. It just felt nice not having to be using a shower or toilet that 50 other people would be using throughout the week as well. Each ensuite held 3 people.
  2. Fewer people means fewer snorers, which means better sleep. I’m a really light sleeper and I detest snorers (in a friendly way). So having fewer people snoring definitely helps me get to sleep easier.
  3. Better beds allows for comfortable sleeping.
  4. Better D&Ms. Fewer people allow for more bromance haha.

Of course having said that, there was still one person my room who snored, but it wasn’t as bad as other people I’ve shared a cabin with. So for once this year, I actually got decent sleep (even though the hours weren’t any better) and so I had a bit more energy for MYC this year, than in my previous two years.

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Mid-Year Conference 2011 – Monday

This is conference number three for me and it couldn’t have come at a better (or worse) time. Worse in that I kind of wish I had another week to relax and cool down from the busyness that was last semester, but good in that I needed something to help give me a bit of a push in terms of growing as a Christian. I guess for me growth has been slow in that spending all your time in ministry growing others gives you less time to grow yourself. I still need to find a balance of Christian ministry in my life.

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Semester 2, 2011 (Preview)

I couldn’t think of a better title, the timetable below is pretty self-explanatory:

 

[2011s2] Jason Tam

Wait, what am I on about? The timetable above is NOT self-explanatory, which is why I’ve also provided a Q&A. But before that, let me point out some straightforward facts and implications.

  1. I’ll finally have one day off (Monday) a week, instead of my packed 5 days a week this semester.
  2. CBS is heavily impacted in that I will not be able to attend ANY of the “required” weekly events, aside from Bible Study.
  3. I have 18 hours in total, and am not sure how many hours (if there are any) are skippable.
  4. Yes, “skippable” is a word. I don’t care if there’s a red squiggly line under it.

 

Q1. Was this really the best timetable you could come up with?

Sadly yes. This is pretty much the most optimal timetable (for me) that I could make. A reason for this is that all my courses are small, so there aren’t many (or any) classes to choose from. All 12 hours of lectures you see above were already set; there was no possible way to move them. As for the remaining 6 hours of tutorials/labs, some only had two choices, others had more but many of those clashed with a lecture time of another course.

 

Q2. Could you have done other courses instead?

I could. But because my peers are also doing these courses, I did not want to disadvantage myself by doing courses that I didn’t have contacts in; that would just be plain stupid. Having said that, there was one math course which completely clashed with my actuarial course, but the times for that math course were never fixed so I can’t really enrol in that one still.

 

Q3. What about Monday?

Even if I did decide to come in on Monday, and it;d be really hard to bring myself to do such a thing considering how this semester is playing out, I can only have a maximum of two tutorials there. So coming in on Monday for a maximum of two hours of class, I would rather put those two hours elsewhere and get Mondays off. The only serious trade off is that I cannot attend the CBS meeting, and since I have Monday off, I don’t think I’ll come in on Monday just for that meeting.

 

Q4. Why are you doing 5 courses?

Two of them are worth 3 Units of Credit each, and so I still have a total of 24 Units of Credit for next semester. I have 18 hours of class because these are science courses, and not just commerce (otherwise I would get a carefree 12 hours a week). If I do not do these courses now, it will disadvantage me (for the reasons listed in Q2) and it will probably stuff up my degree in one way or another.

 

Q5. What are your plans for CBS next semester?

Seeing as my timetable is completely anti-CBS (semester 1 of last year was the same actually), I am most likely going to wisely step down from my leadership roles there. The only thing I can really help with (or at least attend) is just a Bible Study weekly. I can still lead one if need be, but considering that I won’t be able to attend any other CBS activity, it would probably be wise for me not to lead a Bible Study next semester. We will have to see what my MTSer has to say. But with about 4 hours of break a week, I should still be able to attend a Bible Study group.

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my weekly routine, I cannot attend Core Theology on Tuesday nights because it clashes with my youth group leaders’ meeting. Somehow, my timetable managed to cater for my Tuesday night meeting once again (thank God). I think it will be wise for me to take a step back from CBS activities (only because the circumstances have made it so), so that I can get more time and energy to focus on church activities. My focus and energy has been greatly divided this semester between many things, and it’s felt like I haven’t done anything to as good a degree as I would like. I already mentioned about me being given more responsibilities at church, and so I should be wise about my responsibilities and give more time to that. Plus, uni studies have just plummeted because of all these weekly activities happening. Consequently, church will be my primary focus for next semester.

 

There won’t be many lectures I can skip, I anticipate. But the only ones worth skipping would be the ones that take place at critical time slots throughout the week, namely anything that happens at 1pm. There is a chance I will get Thursday 1pm free, and that will save my “The Bible Talks” hour.

 

Q6. Is there anything we can do for you?

If you’re a CBS person reading this, do pray for me. It really does make me feel bad that I pretty much can’t go to any CBS event without killing myself over my studies and my energy (5 days seriously is painful), but I hope I can still be an encouragement to people in my faculty. I think I’ll still be involved in any faculty planning stuff (unofficially though) and I’ll be happy to offer my opinions and advice if they’re needed. I’ll be keeping tabs on how our faculty is going but I probably won’t be taking any upfront roles.

 

For church people, you are more than welcome to judge me more harshly next semester as a leader since I should have more energy (due to my free Monday) and my somewhat undivided attention for just church activities (since CBS won’t be on my mind as much next semester – but I’ll still be thinking about it of course). It’s not good to not be able to do campus ministry, but in any circumstance that God throws at you, it really comes down to how well you deal with the situation. And so for myself, I would rather get something done right, than to be able to do everything there is.

 

Still have more questions? Shoot me an e-mail or something.

Daydream Syndrome (part 2)

Edit 1: Friday, 4th March 5:53pm

I said I’d post again after a week of uni, so here it is again. But before I get into my uni routine for this semester, I’d like to spend a bit of time looking at this:

 

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Everyone should recognise this to be the chain that hangs off my phone. Most of you will remember that I once had a “gold” one, the one on the left; and now I have a new “silver” one. What was wrong with the “gold” one? Well those of you who have seen my gold one will have most likely FONDLED with it MULTIPLE times. And as a result, the one of the left is now the way you see it is. Before, it used to look just like the one on the RIGHT. Yes, that’s right, my “gold” chain used to be silver; which obviously implies that all your acidic sweaty fingers have fondled my chain such that all the silver colour has rusted away. I guess that can’t be helped. But I would hope that those who find my phone chain interesting, would admire it from a distance, rather than up close with your fingers; I don’t think I’ll be able to get a replacement one any time soon.

 

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Okay, so onto uni now. 5 days a week is going to prove to be quite challenging, especially since my weekend is booked with activities and commitments as well. Doesn’t seem to be too bad, as long as I commit to doing my readings and my homework I should pull through this semester alright. There were a few notable things that happened this week, which should make for an interesting, yet annoying, semester. For starters, all my lecturers are foreign to the point where understanding their English becomes a challenge of its own. Both my Actuarial Studies lecturers have really appalling English and I find myself wondering how these people were even selected by the uni to be lecturers. Even if they are intelligent and such, if you can’t communicate what you know to your students, you’re worthless.

 

Our first Actuarial Studies lecture ended an hour early. The lecture was meant to last a full 3 hours (yes, 3 hours, no breaks, except for about 10 mins every hour or so). The lecturer just packed up his stuff and left, even though there was a whole hour left AND he hadn’t finished teaching the first week’s stuff. That was pretty bad. The second lecturer just couldn’t speak English full stop. At the moment one course requires a huge Actuarial Mathematics textbook, which was quite big and heavy, but only worth $120. The other course requires special course notes from the Institute of Actuarial Studies Australia, which go on sale for $150 for just the notes only, and $230 including a questions and answers booklet. Quite an outrageous price to pay for simple pieces of paper, it’s not even a textbook and they’re making us buy that sort of crap. Luckily our students have our ways to counteract that…

 

As for my two math courses, again both are foreign but their English is much more understandable than my Actuarial Studies ones. One of them was French with a fairly heavy French accent. In the first lecture he put up his contact number on the screen and told us to “call [him] if you want to hear [his] voice…” very nice! Although he seemed like a funny man, I was mistaken today when he sent one of my friends out halfway through a two-hour lecture for resting his head on the table. My friend tried to talk his way into staying, at the same time not realising that our lecturer was asking him to leave, due to his poor choice of English words. The lecturer later explained to us that he sent him out because he was not shown respect, and then mumbled some other stuff. Honestly, we’ve shown respect to all our lecturers by PAYING for them to teach us something we supposedly need in the future. And not only so, we’ve paid our respects by actually SHOWING up to the lecture; paying for our cost is a “sunk cost” already.

 

And the last math lecturer? He’s the crazy scientist-like guy who was my tutor was one of my courses two semesters ago. His accent is quick thick though so it’s a bit hard to understand him but he is quite intelligent. I call him crazy scientist-like because that’s what he looks like, not to mention the way he “wields” a piece of chalk and crazily writes a bunch of math equations of the blackboard quickly, and messily. I don’t hate him, he’s just really enthusiastic about teaching maths, which I guess is a good thing for us students who want to learn. Neither of my math courses require a textbook – well for one I do, but it was the same as a textbook I already have for an Actuarial course I did last semester; what a coincidence!

 

So all in all university doesn’t seem too big a thing this semester; although I speak pre-maturely about that since I haven’t even considered the homework, some of which I already have, which I haven’t done yet haha. The five days is going to hurt me I reckon, but I’ve done it before already so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

 

Moving on, I am once again leading a Bible Study group this semester for CBS. Instead of leading with MC Ding this semester, my co-leader will be super tall Ms Chung (code names will have to do, sorry people). My group so far is quite big, at least 9 other people apart from the leaders. But the thing that’s a bit daunting is the fact that they’re all 3rd years and older; I haven’t met most of the older students. My group only have 2 people that are younger than me and Ms Chung, so hopefully we’ll be able to cater well for them and look after them this semester. Other than that Bible Study leading should be alright. We’re having leaders’ meetings on Monday afternoons, though I suspect each week there is going to be problems with trying to finish on time; you can only do so many things in a 1-hour meeting, so having a long agenda really isn’t helpful. We will have to see how this organising structure goes.

 

I guess the last thing I might mention is youth group. Things picked up over the last few weeks, because my co-leader went off to do her own things so I was left to follow people up and get admin stuff done by myself. But now most of it has been taken care of for this school term. Hopefully I’ll be able to see some fruit from this term that will let me know that I’m doing the right thing; most of that will probably be seen through our Bring a Friend Day evangelistic thing; have a talk to prepare for that day too. It feels awkward now, doing talks, because I haven’t done a proper one since Soul Purpose back in year 12. As such it is probably up to me (and God) to become more articulate in the coming days and weeks.

 

Until next time, I guess I’m going to get back into studying or procrastinating.

 

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Edit 1:

Knew I forgot something. Wanted to also talk about how this week reminded me just how horrible our public transport system is. Not having used it during the summer break has eased a lot of stress from me. It really has been frustrating nearly every day this week just having to put up with the annoyances of public transport. As usual, trains run late but it hasn’t been that bad this week. It’s the buses that have been the most annoying this week. Simply put, the buses DON’T COME, AT ALL. On a few of my days this week, I got to the bus stop in time for 11am and 12pm and there were more than a hundred students waiting in line for the bus. Rarely anyone starts uni this late, and rarely do that many number of students wait for the bus, ever.

 

So I really have to hand it to the bus company, for knowing how to be inefficient. During peak hours, around the 9am to 10am mark, there are heaps more buses, which is good. The problem is that none of them are full; and this is when most students want to get to uni. The buses simply don’t wait and leave once the bus is half full, even though there are students waiting. I’ve even come across an EMPTY bus, that’s right; a bus that didn’t pick a SINGLE student up. I don’t why it was empty, but if it was going to the university (to take students back from uni), it could’ve at least picked up some students (even 1 would’ve been good) rather than be a complete waste of space on the road – seriously, a giant vehicle carrying only 1 person, the driver.

 

Buses from uni are just as bad; they also don’t come, leaving hundreds of students waiting, and missing their desired train. Not only so, but during O-Week, the express buses weren’t even stopping at the right place. They were stopping before the traffic lights, which isn’t where they stop, and they totally missed the normal bus stop, which is right after the traffic lights. And to add insult to injury (for those who were waiting at the right place), those buses were only half full as well. How’s that for complete *face palm*?

 

Today on the train back home, a man with a Middle-Eastern accent was shouting over the intercom; yes, shouting. It was hard to make out what he said, and all I really heard was “Attention passengers”. But what he said after that sounded along the lines of: “We have hijacked this train and will kill one hostage every 10 minutes until our demands are met. Do not try to resist.” Don’t you just LOVE this city?

Daydream Syndrome

The title doesn’t really relate much to what I want to write here, by I like this song:

 

 

Anyway, thought I’d make one last update before uni starts again. I guess me whole holidays have been like a daydream; in a blink those 4 months have gone by and most of us are now back to the fast-paced lifestyle that is our tertiary education. It’s not a bad thing; it gives us something to work towards yet again, our so-called “future”. Like many others, I wished the holidays continued endlessly. I did a lot of stuff these holidays; I was productive in some sense. But again I hunger for more breaks, but that’s probably because these holidays were quite busy for me. That again is a good thing, because it keeps me from being completely idle; it is much better to be working than to be sitting still doing nothing and rotting away.

 

This semester is going to be more challenging than the last, yet again. 5 days a week is not a pretty thing. I haven’t faced such a cruel timetable since my very first semester back in first year. It really doesn’t help when you don’t have a day to rest: five days of uni, one day of work, and another day of church. I don’t really wonder how much I’ll suffer this semester; I know it’s going to be stressful most of the time, but it won’t be something that I won’t be able to manage, that’s for sure. My textbook costs have been limited to an odd $120 for this semester, just a single Actuarial Studies textbook. I had imagined this course to be more cost-demanding in the later years but it appears the staff are fairly light on costs. Oh, there is this $150-230 course pack for another course which I can obtain online, so I’m not going to buy that one.

 

I haven’t gotten enough sleep these past few weeks. Since the week of the Commerce Retreat, I’ve been trying to recover my energy but that hasn’t worked out so well. Having to double your efforts to cover for other people has really stunted my recovery. As such I’m not looking forward to uni tomorrow, apart from to see faces that I haven’t seen for weeks or months. Don’t really know why I’ve been so tired these days, but hopefully the start of uni will give me a change of pace that’ll be helpful, rather than make me more tired than I already am.

 

The last thing on my mind before I retire to bed is just my priorities in life now, uni life that is. In the past few months, having picked up so many commitments to Christian-related activities (“ministries” if you will), it feels like these commitment now rank higher than my university studies. Well at the moment I don’t see it actually happening but I get the feeling that once uni starts, I’ll do what I can to stay on top of my studies by any spare time I get on top of that will immediately be spent on my ministries. I mean, it’s a good feeling, being to put God first, even above my studies, but at the same time it feels like I may have crossed the boundaries for optimally dividing time between my duties and my Christian duties; even as Christians we can’t just entirely neglect our studies. I know I’m not going to do that, but having thought about it, I seem to be prepared to sacrifice my studies for emergencies relating to my ministries if the situation ever arises. I hope that never happens.

 

But until then, let’s see how this first week plays out. So many 21st birthday parties coming up; suddenly, money is no longer the only cost we incur to go to these once-off events, time becomes an issue too.