Homesickness, Burn-Out and When to say When

*Disclaimer , this post was written a few weeks ago, doing, mostly, better now. *

Last week I hit a wall. Instead of realizing I had hit a wall and taking a personal day I ended up crying in front of my manager in the office. So yeh, that sucked.

My manager was very understanding and supportive and sent me home to take some time. I had worked 12 hour days for two weeks straight and, oh yeh, am living in a foreign country without family or any close friends for support. A few days away from work were helpful but I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t realize earlier that I needed time off. I have never cried in front of anyone at work before ( always privately , in the bathroom , like a good engineer) so this was an extra big personal fail.

Why did I have a mini meltdown?

  • >12 hours of work for two weeks straight = not enough sleep= weepy
  • “Home” sickness- also known as , man I miss hanging out with people who actually know me.

Home sickness is a weird concept for me , considering I haven’t lived anywhere longer than 5 years and have lived in three countries in the past year alone. But lately Ive just missed having people.  People who know me and are like me. Let me be clear, by “like me” I don’t mean American , I mean nerdy , introverted and just a bit weird. In all of my many moves growing up, I go through the same pattern. First , some cool kids “adopt” you because you are new and exciting. Second, said cool kids realize you are an introverted weirdo and abandon you. Third , eventually your fellow weirdos find you and you form a tiny, weird, community. Same thing in Oregon, same thing in Pennsylvania, same damn thing in Karatsu, Japan.

I’m a grown up now , so the first two steps may or may not apply, depending on the situation but I’m still waiting for step three to kick in. It takes a while, it always takes a while. Logically I know this, I know that this is a phase and that it will pass but somehow knowing that doesn’t make me feel much better.

I’ve met lots of cool people and done lots of cool things since arriving in Singapore. I really like it here, but its just not home yet and it wont be for a while. I just need to hang in there , resist the urge to constantly hide in my room and keep putting myself out there ( which as an introvert, takes a hell of a lot of energy).

Like the little fishy says- Just keep swimming. And next time, take a day off work.

Also- there is a movie called “Finding Dory” coming out in June, I for one am excited.







Review- Etihad Airlines

Flight: Singapore- Europe

Class: Economy

Aircraft: Boeing 787 ( believe me , this makes a difference)

Rating: 4/5

Highlights :

  1. Child Friendly: Etihad seems to focus especially on people traveling with children. Though I’m not a parent, from what I saw I would highly recommend this airline for people flying with young children. The flight attendants hand out several goodie bags to kids before and during flights and the kid meals come in colorful packaging with a pop-up lion.
  2. New Airplanes: This makes all the difference. The Singapore- Europe route seems to be serviced almost exclusively bu 787s . Much quieter than normal airplanes , the humidity level in 787s is also usually higher so that you don’t dry out your skin as much.
  3. Great Service: The flight attendants were very nice, the boarding was orderly and the bathrooms were clean even after 7 hours of flight- all things that are commendable.

(Small) Critiques:

  1. Time between food service and clean up. In general the time between food service and clean up was a little long.
  2. Leg room (maybe?) I’m very short, so I never have an issue with leg room , but it is maybe a bit tighter than some other airlines… not sure.. tall people who have flown Etihad , please comment.
  3. Bus rides in Abu Dhabi. On my transfer to Europe I had to load and unload from my plane to a bus. This isn’t the greatest. I am writing this from Terminal 1 in Abu Dhabi which is very nice, but my departure connection was in a different terminal which reminded me a lot of Chicago. Not in a good way. This is a very minor thing, especially since the airport seems to be updating, but something to keep in mind.

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Recently I needed to book a last minute flight to Europe. Since I was booking ~7 days in advance I didn’t have a whole lot of options. I chose a reasonably priced flight with Etihad Airlines , with a stop over in Abu Dhabi.

I was scarred  awhile ago by a terrible United flight from Chicago- Singapore so I was a bit nervous flying on a new airline , and the reviews I found weren’t very positive. But the flight was cheap , so I booked and hoped for the best. I was very pleasantly surprised.

My flight out of Singapore was about 1 hr delayed – which is especially annoying in Singapore because the waiting area for flights each have individual security. Basically Changi Airport is awesome, but once you go to your gate you are kind of stuck there. This is where the Etihad service started to show. The flight attendants came out into the waiting area and passed out water. For the kids in the waiting area , the flight attendants passed out some toys , including, to the amusement of everyone in the waiting area, little paper crowns.  Soon our flight was boarding and three or four toddlers boarded looking very proud.

All of my flights were on Boeing 787’s which are awesome for a couple of reasons. One of the biggest is they pressurize the cabin at a higher pressure- this means you feel a lot better after a long flight. The food was all very decent ( I ordered the vegetarian-  my usual travel hack to get healthier meals and get served first 🙂 ) and they came around often with water and other drinks. Entertainment was also good , with lots of new releases. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with a few small critiques listed above. I cant speak for any other routes or experiences but from my experience,  I will definitely fly Etihad in the future.








Resolutions for Monkey Year

Singapore just finished celebrating the lunar new year holiday last week. For those of you who don’t know ‘Lunar New Year’ or Chinese New year is  two week holiday  celebrate in China, Taiwan ,Singapore and other countries with a large ethnically-Chinese population. In Singapore there is a 2 day public holiday to honor the CNY. 2015 was the year of the Sheep, and this new year is the year of the Monkey. According to my coworker , since I am a Sheep it is a good thing that I moved around a lot last year( three countries, one year!) – it means that bad luck cant find me.

I celebrated the January 1st new year this year in Wisconsin with family . I made resolutions , I fell asleep early. Im ringing in the Monkey year in Singapore- in a new office, with new (ish) coworkers and a new ( ish) job. I thought it would be a good idea to use this as a chance to reflect on what I want to the coming year and from my time in Singapore.

  1. Taking time to enjoy Singapore.

I work a lot, and that’s OK but I don’t want to look back on this year , or this time in Singapore and think “man I should have taken better advantage of being in Singapore”. Warts, caveats ,and  addendums in-all- I live on a tropical island. A tropical island that is also a large and diverse city with a rich (if short) history.

2.  Meet people.

(outside of work) And yes, Im an introvert, so this takes effort.

3. Develop work life balance.

I’m at the beginning of my career so now is the time to set the tone and find a balance that works for me. I like my job, sometimes I even love it;  but it cant be my life. Been there , done that.

 So far- I can honestly say I really love living in Singapore. I’ve found a home ( yay!) and settled into a routine. There’s always something to do on the weekends, a new restaurant to try or place to visit, even though Singapore is small , if feels big after living in so many small towns. Sometimes it seemed like no mater where in the world I lived it was always going to be a small town. I seem to have broken the curse by moving to a country that is also a large city.

I think if I can stick to the resolutions above the year of the Monkey might be my first where I stay in one place for a while 🙂


Not related to the Monkey year- but a cool picture of some art in Singapore. 


“You don’t look like an engineer”

I can guarantee most female engineers, and often POC who are engineers have heard this phrase at least once.  Generally people mean it as a compliment (at least with women). But it stinks in the same way that “don’t get so emotional” stinks when its been said by a male colleague after you’ve proven your point. I’ve never once heard these phrases directed at a man.

What is wrong with “You don’t look like an engineer”? : 

  1. Yes. I do. I am an engineer, therefore, I look exactly like an engineer.
  2. Would you ever say ” You don’t look smart”? If the answer is no, then don’t say “you don’t look like an engineer”. It means exactly the same thing. If you would tell a girl “you don’t look smart” then please, exit the internet.
  3. If you have an idea in your head that people in STEM all like Amy or Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, that is your problem. Nerdiness knows no color or gender boundaries.
  4. If you want to tell me I’m pretty ( which I think is often the intention?) then please, just say that.

I went into engineering because I love knowing how things work. I love looking at a complex system , like a power plant , or a chemical reactor and knowing that with equations and some time I can build it from the ground up.

I get to build , really, really cool things. This is why I do my job. Its as simple as that. But somehow this is hard for people to believe.

As I’m writing the above I’m starting to get a bit emotional, which is a little surprising. I’m not a very emotional person. I’m analytical and introverted like a lot of other engineers. I have a pretty thick skin, and in general, am treated as an equal by colleagues. But every time I hear ” you don’t look like an engineer”, “don’t get so emotional”, “we need someone more experienced“, “can we talk to the lead engineer?”  I see the capital T Truth.

The Truth is, that no matter how good I am at my job I will always need to work a little bit harder to be seen as good. I will always need to be extra careful to prove a point in a way that doesn’t offend my male , senior colleague. I must be careful to not get too excited or enthusiastic because then my argument will mean less , because I am “emotional”. And even when I do all of these things, I will still probably never rise very high in my current company. Because that is just the way the world works, and sometimes it makes me sad.

If you don’t believe this. Your eyes are not open.

I still love my job. If I cant have the impact I hope to at my current company than I will find somewhere I can. Because things are getting better. For every guy who says “you don’t look like an engineer” There are three guys who were in my study group, who know that I look exactly like an engineer. The kind of engineer who still remembers the day she learned how to use the Schrodinger equation to explain hydrogen’s existence as a diatomic as one of the coolest moments of her life.

And no matter how many things about my job suck. At the end of the day. I built something and no one can take that away from me.


Below is a link to an amazing ted talk about women in engineering, bias and how we can all help to increase diversity in STEM: