Featured company: China Youthology

There’s something about the energy of this company that really has a lot of youth, energy, and passion that is quite inspiring to me.

China Youthology is a market research and ethnography firm that asks the question: how are young people in China thinking in living their day to day lives, such that organizations, businesses, and other institutions can better serve their needs today?

2013-04-26 16:13:03的屏幕截图

The feel of this site is so energetic!

While I’m not an ethnographer by background, I’d so be down for working for this company someday. According to their website, their clients range from Google, Loreal, Intel, Nokia, Kraft, BMW and Lays Chips. Their goal: empower youth culture by doing market research that reflects the power of feeling young, passionate, and wanting to change the world.

In case anybody wants to work with them, here’s a career brochure:

CY Career Brochure from Lisa Li


Facebook vs other forms of social media


I’m still an active user of social media: I use YouTube, Quora, LinkedIn, as well as this blog; using these avenues allows me to explore and produce key content that is both meaningful and has a great level of depth.

Note: I’ve been extremely addicted to quora as I’ve found some amazing answers about life, ranging from life advice, traveling, higher education, to questions about technology, working for companies, and even China!

I’ve still have a hard time accepting the interface and a lot of the habits associated with it, meaning:

  • Add a lot of friends, as easily as possible
  • Liking a post / picture, but not really interacting with the person
  • Status updates that are so short that it makes socializing lazy (we only know people really from a surface level)

You see, real relationships take work from both ends. I feel that the technology age has only added on to our instincts as human beings: “More is good! We need more friends to feel connected! We need to know and be connected 24/7, and know as much about our friends in the most easy, efficient manner as possible.”

But, at the crux of true relationships is that it takes effort from both sides in order to sustain it and to create a quality relationship. It might seem scary, stressful  and time consuming, but its worth the effort and you will be able to maintain quality friends.

The question I really want to raise is:

Are we merely justifying FaceBook because it helps us socialize in our busy lives, but in reality, we are avoiding the bigger issue: our lives are getting busier and busier because we have been putting ambitions, money, career, over other things such as health, family, and true relationships? 

For me, social media: YouTube, LinkedIn, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. is a great way to get our name across, connect to other people across the world, start conversations, and create strong relationships.

The amount of work, however, compared to Facebook, to put your name out there, takes time and effort. For me, YouTube requires the creation of video content, which takes time, video editing, story writing, etc. Writing a blog post takes an hour or two for me.

I don’t want to say social media is bad; it isn’t because I’ve learned so much . However, my argument is that we should be aware of our actions in social media: are we merely taking shortcuts to maintaining a relationship? Are we actively trying to maintain or make a relationship among our friends, family, and peers better, and making the time and effort to do so?

While there is a wide spectrum of answers for this, I’m trying to push for more awareness. For some people, Facebook is a way to maintain relationships . But for me, it was a time sucker and didn’t allow me (or had proper avenues for me to express my thoughts, like WordPress or YouTube). I’m a big supporter of good content and depth, but Facebook doesn’t offer that for me.

Re-evaluating my language learning appraoch


I think I’ve reached a language learning plateau when it comes to learning Chinese; since I want to work on speaking, I do not plan to take a Chinese language class next year as I want to focus on more personalized, study so that I can focus on my needs.

My biggest need right now is focusing on speaking and interacting with native speakers at a comfortable level. I like to diversify the amount of sentence patterns I use when I’m speaking, as well as my vocabulary.

For example, there are some sentence patterns that I see in the television that I would have a hard time replicating them unless I make a concerted effort to do so. 

So, here are some major steps I will be taking to:

  • Focus more on language exchanges, but avoid speaking English (skype!)
  • Put more of an emphasis on identifying sentence patterns you want to practice from input; write a list down that you can actively practice. In other words, strengthen the connection between input and output: the feedback loop! 

I realized that it is much easier to do this when I am in a foreign country where I’m forced to speak Mandarin than living in the United States because this feedback loop is much more stronger.

Before I head off to Taiwan, I plan to work on this feedback loop and strengthen it while I’m at home and have access to lots of resources.

Advice for aspiring urban studies undergraduates

Wurster Hall, CED

Now that I’m graduating from CED, with a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies, I’d like to give some few tips of advice (very urban studies specific) for those who are going to come to Cal.

1) Don’t focus too much on networking with as many people as you can, but focus on creating strong relationships with people you can click well with as well as people that will help you grow. 

I think people get really tempted to want to meet as many people as you can. However, the most interesting experiences I’ve had have been through establishing strong mentors that have helped me grew for several years as I went through my undergraduate studies at Cal.

How to determine if you have a right mentor? Can you relate to the person you are communicating with? Can they empathize with you as a student? Do they have a lot of years of experience and have great insight in a particular industry? Do they also know a lot of other people that can help you in the future? Can you develop long conversations about them professionally, academically, and (sometimes) personally?

One way to find mentors is to attend networking events, and then strike some conversations, light talk with several people. Get their business cards, then identify one or two people you want to have coffee with. Then, you can get a sense of their personality; do you feel comfortable with them? Is there anything you can learn from them?

Also, don’t get too stressed about this process. It’s not that scary as it seems. Employers know that you guys are just students and are just learning about the profession.

2) Do not specialize too early (i.e. I’m going to be a housing guy, versus I’m going to be a transportation guy), and take a variety of classes in different specializations, as well as do internships to get a sense of how you feel about specializations. After working at least several internships (in the real world) then you can start narrowing down what makes most sense to you.

For example, I once enjoyed transportation planning, but after talking to some professionals and friends, dabbling into some internships, taking and practicing drawing courses, that I prefer urban design. However, I need to work for several years to decide further.

3) Get comfortable, drawing, sketching, as soon as you can. 

Regardless of if you do urban design (or not), you are planning for places people live, work, and play. You need to know how to communicate your ideas visually to a larger audience, or different stakeholders. You don’t have to be artistically inclinations like these guys, but be comfortable sketching your ideas.

4) Do not feel pressured to get into graduate school immediately.

Life is better if you take your time and really make your decisions based on your experiences in the real world.

5) Don’t also feel compelled to immediately get into a really kick-ass position early; this takes a lot of time. 

6) Study abroad as early as you can, preferably your sophomore year. Do an entire year.

Go outside your university study abroad office as you will get a better variety of choices. See this article on Americans and why we don’t travel enough for more details

7) If you are interested in international urban planning, start studying a language ASAP. 

This is especially true if you want an overseas position in urban planning; fluency in a foreign language as well as internship experiences in your home country will be key in securing a job after graduation.

8) Make friends with your fellow urban studies majors! They are awesome, cool, chill, and really kind. 

What I really enjoy about my program is that you meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds. The smallness of our program makes it really easy to know everybody closely. Develop strong relationships with them; in the long run, they’ll be great people to lean on when times are tough, or you need advice, or you just want to hang out with, or maybe potential job offers.

Why do young Americans do so little long-term travelling?

I really miss buying boba in Taipei
I really miss buying boba in Taipei, speaking Mandarin, and eating so much food!

This question popped up on Quora, and I was stuck reading some of the quotes for about 15 minutes.

For me, a response that hit closely to me was:

Expected Career Progression – In the US, people feel that they need to explain “gaps” on their resumes and that they will be penalized for not showing that they worked hard consistently at work and at school.

Face it: America is a work heavy culture that strives to use education, grades, career titles, ambition, as a definition of your identity. If I told you that I traveled a lot, you’d have a very difficult time relating to me as my experiences and values have shifted and become different as a result of overseas experience.

In addition, my friends & family have felt worried I would get robbed in a foreign culture, taken advantage of, or will not have good career growth overseas versus living in the US because of its perception of the United States being the best (which I don’t believe it is in every aspect)

Now that I’ve traveled, I’m thinking about making trips to Malaysia, Philippines  and Indonesia while working in Asia because I want to focus on personal growth. I believe personal growth will help be become a better male. This also means letting go of my own personal expectations about myself and career growth (and trying to put less emphasis on the monetary incentives of life).

Another statement:

I went on a one-month trip to Europe after graduating from college in the US.  I’d met all of the goals instilled by my childhood community:  finishing near the top of my high school class, graduating from a private four-year college, landing a stable post-University job.

One of my first realizations was that my European, South American, and Australian counterparts found this boring and scary.  “You’re starting a career at 22?  Are you nuts?  There’s so much life to live!”

The American culture I know rewards hard work, accomplishment, and societal advancement; diversity of experience isn’t at the top of this list.  Achievement is far more valued than exploration.  We view starting a career at 22 as an ideal.

In some ways, other countries such as those in Europe view traveling as a form of personal growth, which is very important. I think it’s also important to distinguish explicitly the difference between personal growth and career growth; I personally value personal growth much more than career growth, and am perfectly fine with really focusing on career growth when I’m much older (i.e. age 30 or 40) and maturer in life. Career growth can take its time and slow down.

In some ways, I’m glad I’m graduating college soon as I will be focusing more on personal growth first.

And finally, this is the kicker:

Helicopter parenting. American parents are very actively involved in their childrens lives through their mid-20’s. This includes managing their children’s time and regulating the activities in which their children participate. A lot of parents do not see the value in letting their children aimlessly wander around the world in an unstructured environment. Sometimes this is because of a perceived safety concern. US parents are more likely to let their children enroll in relatively rigid study abroad programs, which are different from hostel based backpacking.


Contrary to what people think, going by yourself in an unstructured environment teaches you more about life than a 4 year degree in college will ever will. You’re not just passively absorbing information, but you are actively making decisions in an unfamiliar environment, taking lots of risks, and making lots of mistakes as you go a long.

Because you travel long term, you are constantly practicing making these decisions, and in the long run, you are training your brain, your mind, your dicipline to be able to handle a variety of different cultural contexts and people: cultural sensitivity. You learn how to establish trust, empathize with other people(and adjusting those factors to what extent).

In any work place, communication, team work, and leadership among a variety of people is a key in getting something done, or working on projects /causes you believe in.

Now that I’m graduating, I highly encourage high school grads, or college graduates to consider doing gap years before entering higher education or any professional career, as traveling will help synthesize and hone your direction in life about what matters to you, what career paths you want to take, where you want to live in the future, etc.

Why? You are in the process of physically experiencing a new environment, separate from parents and family, and you have to make decisions on your own, away from the INFLUENCE from your peers. You are your true self when you are travelling. Don’t underestimate the value of traveling.

To end, Haruki Murakami once said in his book, “What I talk about when I Talk about Running” that only when you have physically challenged yourself (in his case, running) and went through all the stresses and struggles of what you are doing that you have truly learned something.

Hong Kong Street Market Symphony

Like to take a break from my Taiwan blog posts to show a bit of my Cantonese side.

By the way, I really wish I could visit Hong Kong for a week on vacation. I went to HK in 2006 to take the airport to head back to California, as most of my relatives in China live in Guangzhou.

Attention, everyone: prepare yourself for a close encounter as your iconic street market lamps have landed at Olympian City, turning the shopping mall into a land of red lamps.

Brought to you by Olympian City, Sino Art and local designer brand G.O.D., “The Street Market Symphony” presents the familiar local street market in a fresh perspective, celebrating the street market culture being a valuable part of our cultural heritage.

The art exhibition plays with our normal perception and tickles with our senses, using multimedia installations housed in large red lamps to challenge us to revisit a familiar setting in the most unique experience. We will see you under the red lamps this autumn—Bring Your Own Bag optional.

As I do a bit more illustration and drawing like work in my free time, I’m beginning to raise the possibility of trying to add illustration/art as a possible career path.

What I really love about this video is that it attempts to create cultural bridges (see Peggy Liu’s TEDx Talk); to be honest, I’m not somebody who has that much ambition in life, as much as I used to; however, just the thought of creating connections between different people using art, food, and cultural events is really exciting to me!

I love food, night market, street market lifestyle! It’s a great way to understand the local lifestyle, just hang out and chill, get to know people in a low-stress environment. In some ways, I really can see myself building cultural bridges through art; the question becomes: how?