I learned that balance is what I have wanted in life all along

When someone asks,

"Why did you decide to study master’s in South Korea?

To be honest, I would say I have different version of answers to that question.

First, the ambitious version:

Since I have started learning Korean language for several years and have obtained a TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) score, how about moving one step further and see how far I can go? It would be a waste of my Korean language skill if I don’t use it professionally. To achieve that, then I have to choose South Korea to obtain a master’s degree, and then have some work experience after graduation and living experience there so that I can keep using and improving my Korean skill. It has been my goal to combine both my educational background and Korean skill professionally.

Second, the formal university admission version:

(Honestly I forgot what I actually wrote on my admission essay but I think this is the gist of it)

During my undergraduate study, I took courses X and Y, became a teaching assistant for the subject X, and had intern experience as A (say it’s a job title that’s related to subject X). I used methodology Z during my internship period and for graduate research project. Through the master’s program, I want to study about method Z in-depth so that I can sharpen my professional skill as an A.

Third, the light version:

I want to immerse myself in my hobby. So I can see my favorite Korean idols’ concerts easily. Therefore, studying there should be a nice option to fulfill my (expensive) hobby.

So, which answer was the closest to my real self? Well, I would say all versions are my true self. People may see that those points contrast each other. For example, it can be seen unlikely if you invest so much time into fangirling you would rank 1st in the entire school or win a nationwide/international competition (unless you’re a genius I think. Which I definitely aren’t). Well that’s true, I have never experienced any of that throughout my life as a student. But I want to look back on the three reasons above and compare them with the reality.

  1. It has been my goal to combine both my educational background and Korean skill professionally: Currently, I’m working in a Korean company (startup) as a UX Researcher. Actually it’s an English-friendly company so it’s possible that the environment is not as "Korean" as how working in Korean company is like. But of course, being able to communicate in Korean would be advantageous. I still talk to my colleagues in Korean too. To be honest, I also still struggle in communicating fully in Korean, especially in work setting. But overall I enjoy having global exposure in professional world!
  2. I want to improve my professional skills: I learned a lot throughout my master’s program. Studying in KAIST is one of my life decisions I would never regret and always feel grateful for. Despite the amount of assignments, sleepless nights, and numerous critics from my advisor, I survived it. I may be just an average student there, and was not as ambitious to publish a research paper, but I gained a lot of knowledge and I am satisfied with my own standard. I have got to apply my critical thinking skills, analytical thinking skills, and technologies that I learned there to what I am doing right now.
  3. I want to fulfill my (expensive) hobby: I know it’s a big lie if I say I’m not happy about this. In 2019 alone, I went to five BTS concerts and SHINee members’ individual events four times. But (thankfully) I always stick to my principle when it comes to fangirling: not to buy tickets at a lot higher price, just let them go if you can’t afford them. Of course there were a lot of events in that year that I have missed for not being able to afford nor win for. But I’m always grateful for every opportunities that come to me.

Overall, I did gain a lot of things. But I missed a lot of things, too.

Having a balance has kept me sane

I think you are familiar with this line: "Sesuatu yang berlebihan itu tidak baik" (Never take things too extreme). In other word: Balance is the key. I have observed my surroundings and heard stories of the drawbacks of taking things too far. My life experience adds up to it too. That’s why I start to really believe that balance is a key. In fact, that line has become what’s keeping me sane. Thanks to that line, I’ve got to learn acceptance. I learn to accept that things don’t always work out as I want it to be. I learn to accept defeat. I learn to accept failure. Also, I learn to let things go and move forward. That line reminds me not to take things too far, in terms of both my emotions and my actions.

Because of the balance I’m maintaining in the three aspects I mentioned above, I never consider myself the best in any of them. I know that to become the best in any of them, I will have to give up the rest. But honestly I don’t want to, at least for now.

Balance? Isn’t it more like Ambition?

Those three points can be referred as balance in life, but maybe to some others they can be referred as just my ambitions. It depends on how you see them. For me, I see them as both balance and ambitions. It’s rewarding to have balance in career and hobby, but it can be stressful to succeed in all of them because they are.. ambitions.

Trying to succeed in all of them does make it seem like I don’t set my priority clearly. Well, that could be true. That’s why sometimes I consider myself professionally improve a bit slower. It’s a trade-off of having multiple ambitions. It’s fine, though. I should just set my own pace and set my own standards of moving forward, of self-satisfaction, and of happiness without being extreme. Until now, having balance in my professional life and my hobby has become what I have wanted in life.

In other words..

I realize that having succeeded in both my career and my hobby is what I call as ideal and it is my own definition of work-life-balance. However, the two things on both realm can be problematic if taken too far. The amount of work you do and the amount of time you spend for your hobby should complement each other, instead of destroying your identity as a person. Hence, balance is needed. Since I used a term ‘succeed’ for my hobby, it may only be applicable to my context. Succeeding in both career and hobby could be seen as ambition. I see it extremely difficult to be at the top in any unless you give up another. For now, I am not giving up any of them. Instead, I set my own pace and set my own standards of moving forward, of self-satisfaction, and of happiness without being extreme. Last but not least, learn acceptance: try to accept that things don’t always work out the way you want it to be, try to accept that there are ups and downs in life, try to accept your abilities and flaws, try to accept yourself as you are.

Disclaimer: I am still learning self-acceptance myself.

UX Researcher. Korean speaker. An Indonesian who currently lives in South Korea.