It was the one goal I have in mind after getting a degree, scoring a professional Architecture license, and getting at least a year of practical experience – to seek job opportunity abroad and to be able to provide a better life for my family with the relatively higher income in another country.
But the dream is not unique to me. Especially when you come from a third world country where even a professional license can only buy you basic necessities, it’s no surprise that people are choosing to leave their countries in search for better opportunities.
So in 2015, I set out on a job-hunting journey in one of the most accessible countries from the Philippines: Singapore – along with a friend, a 50k PhP pocket money, a design portfolio, and a lot of courage & determination.
It’s 2017 and yes, amidst all the struggles and challenges, I managed to get a decent job in the Lion City. You might laugh at me for writing this list and barely having a 2-year experience. But as they said, “It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years”.
I still have a long way to go. For now, I’ll share with you the 10 important things I have learned while working abroad – so far:
1. People Back Home Will Judge You
Working abroad will generally make you a hero back home. But not everyone will treat you the same. Especially when you got your degree from a State University and earned a professional license, or in some cases, have children back home – people have fixed their expectations of you.
When your decisions do not meet their expectations, that’s when they judge you.
“What will be your job there? JUST a Draftsman? People will call you ‘Ma’am’ or Architect here.”
“The country needs professionals like you. You should serve your country first.”
“How can you leave your family just like that?”
“You will never be happy there.”
These are just some of the things I’ve heard. I admit they hurt at first. But overtime, I learned to remind myself that I cannot please everybody.
Concentrate on the people who believe in your dreams instead. After all, if they love you, they will put their wholehearted faith in you.
2. You Will Learn to be Independent
You will learn to make your grocery list and to cook your own meal, to open up multiple savings accounts, to make plans for your day off, to pay monthly bills and rent, to travel or commute on your own, to learn few local words, to interact with the locals, to treat your own wounds – physically and emotionally.
In short, you will learn to be an adult all on your own. You will make a few mistakes along the way, but you will develop an independent mindset that improves your decision-making skills and that which makes you a stronger person.
3. You Will Learn How to Ask for Help
You will learn to be independent but this does not necessarily mean you will never ask for help. Independence also means asking and accepting another person’s help.
Be it asking for directions or asking a colleague to help you understand a task, you will understand and appreciate another person’s help because you want to be a better person.
You understand that while there are some things that you can figure out on your own, in some cases, it will be more efficient if you ask for someone’s help and so as to show that you also value and respect their knowledge or experience, especially in a country you cannot call your own.
4. You Learn to Be Alone but Not Lonely
Solitary does not necessarily mean being lonely. Being away from your loved ones is a sad thing. But as you mature, you learn that you do not need someone’s presence in order to be truly happy.
You will learn that despite the distance, the people who love you and those you love are always there to care, even without their physical presence. This affirmation is enough for you. You do not need someone’s validation in order to prove your worth.
5. You Will Embrace Cultural Diversity
You will learn that you are unique and so is everybody else. You embrace different cultures as you learn about their traditions. You may find something odd at first, for example – their food – but overtime, you will learn to accept and respect their customs as they learn to accept yours.
In a world where everyone expects you to conform to uniformity, you will find that diversity is what makes it beautiful.
6. Not Everything Will Go Your Way
Be it work-related decisions, the bad weather for a well-planned, long awaited day-off, or the wrong-timing for your grand alumni homecoming, you will learn that not everything will be under your control.
You will learn to let go and let things be, and you will learn that every thing happens for a reason.
7. You Will Cry Sometimes
…and It’s Okay.
It’s okay to be sad, to be mad, to be too emotional. Sometimes, you just need to let it all out. Then once you remember the reason why you are here, you get back up and at it again.
You will, in short, learn to be stronger, by accepting your frailties and knowing you are not perfect.
8. You Will Miss Everyone in and Everything about Your Country
You will miss speaking in your vernacular language. You will miss the food. You will miss the TV shows. The politics and the government. That alley. Your dog. Your friends. The way your room smells. The sound of brooms sweeping the street every morning. The streets. The public transportation. Your family.
You will miss everything of these but you will learn to control yourself. You will learn that working abroad is a sacrifice and you will learn that those things you often take for granted before, those simple things – are the ones that matter.
You will learn to appreciate the small things that most people take for granted – even if it’s just a short Skype call with your loved ones.
9. Yet You Also Develop a Wanderlust Soul…A Never-Ending Longing to Explore More…
You’ll miss everything back home.
But seeing another country other than your own makes you want to explore more.
With the independence and freedom you gained, you want to see more of the world, to experience a different culture, to try new food, to meet new people, to make brand new memories…
You will learn that this eagerness is not selfishness. And you will learn that the people who truly love you will support you in your dreams, adventures and endeavors.
You will learn to want more simply because you want to give more.
10. Home is Where You Want It to Be
You will learn that a home can be a place, a person, or a feeling. You will learn that through all the hardships, the judgments, the feelings of emptiness…
you have one special ability that few are able to possess –
to be able to build a home –
wherever, whoever, however you want it to be…
They say working abroad is a sacrifice. I say it is a sacrifice and a blessing in disguise.
You are the Architect of your life. Build it wherever and however, and own it.