The Woes and Wonders of Moving Abroad

The Woes and Wonders of Moving Abroad

Three young adults on leaving, landing, living



This time, two or three years from now, I’ll be writing from elsewhere. At least that’s the plan.


I write, some of my friends take photographs, others crunch numbers and analyze social patterns. Our skill sets are diverse and the breadcrumb trails we leave in pursuit of our ambitions look nothing alike. But in my social circles, no matter the trade, no matter the age, it seems a common denominator runs across the board: the dream of making it abroad.


My sister move to Toronto close to a year ago and since then it’s become apparent that our timelines move at different paces. In the span of 12 months, she migrated to a different continent, completed the first portion of her degree, started an internship, got married, longed for home. In that time, I quit my job, got a new one, attended four concerts. Different places, different paces––but both sides of the coin have their woes and their wonders.


Curious, I took to my circles and got in touch with friends who have built a life outside their home countries. Read ahead for three stories of leaving and living.


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Liz D.

Liz Dumdum


Liz is currently based in New York City. Prior to migrating to the United States, she was based in Manila, where she moved from Cebu at the age of 14.


What caused you to make the move?

I made the decision for my own personal and professional growth. I wanted to pursue my Master’s degree abroad. It was more of a realization that I cannot just settle with a Bachelor’s degree if I really wanted to excel in my field of international relations.


What was it like to pick up your life and move elsewhere?

Before the plane landed, I was actually in tears from all the anxiety I was feeling. There were days when loneliness crept in so badly. I had to remind myself again and again that this was what I had been praying for almost all my life. I had to be grateful and seize every opportunity I get in order for my stay to be a fruitful one.


How does the place you live in now differ from your hometown?

One of the reasons why I love New York is because you can walk from Point A to Point B without any hassle, or just use the train and get to your destination way faster than riding a car. Even if New York’s subway system is not the best in the world, it is still better than our own MRT/LRT. Haha!


What do you love about where you currently are?

Images via @lizdumdum


My favorite thing about New York is their amazing rooftops and lovely brunches (with bottomless mimosas!).


I have learned that no matter how cruel the world can be, there are still kind, generous people you get to encounter even on the streets—and that makes me realize I should treat others even kinder as well. There are definitely positive changes in me since moving. Cliché as it sounds, I have definitely learned how to appreciate my family and friends back home more. Also, my self-awareness is healthier now: I’m more at peace with who I am and I can already proactively manage my thoughts, emotions and behavior.


“I had to remind myself again and again

that this was what I had been praying for

almost all my life.”


On the flipside, are there difficulties that you still encounter?

My day-to-day challenge is clearly cooking for myself, or should I say, maintaining a healthy diet. [But] I already know how to cook rice, haha! I don’t have much time in the morning so I end up just eating cereal or toasted bread before heading off to school. With that, I obviously miss home-cooked meals!


Do you plan to stay?

I’ve been telling people that New York is best for living in your 20s. Yes, it is a stepping stone for my career since almost all relevant institutions and international organizations are based here. I have always envisioned myself settling down somewhere in Europe and maybe, just maybe, going back to the Philippines and taking the Foreign Service Exam in the Department of Affairs.


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Anusha M.


Anusha is a 20-year-old graphic design student from Dhaka, Bangladesh, a country bordering India and Myanmar. She and her family migrated to the United States in December 2012.


What caused you to make the move?

The decision wasn't done in the spur of the moment. Actually, it took us 12 years. Thats the average amount of time that takes a person to complete naturalization (the process of becoming an immigrant in the US); sometimes it even takes more than that.


What was it like, picking your life up and moving elsewhere?

The first day I stepped foot on American soil; I don’t think I will ever forget how it felt. It takes about 2 days on plane and we arrived in the evening. I remember it was raining and it was cold. My family and I had moved into my Aunt's place, which was in an upscale area in New York. Right now I’m in Pennsylvania; I’ve finished 4 years of highschool and a year of college so far! People here are a lot nicer and I think this is really where I found myself.


“I feel the most homesick when

it rains in the summer, or when exotic

birds sing every now and then.”


How does the place you live now differ from your hometown?

I think the biggest difference from my home country is the open-mindedness of people. I can explain to people why I wear the hijab and everyone accepts it; that's something very surprising for us when we are used to seeing people ridicule whatever is foreign back in Bangladesh. Another thing would be how people do the little kind things in their day-to-day lives: smiling at strangers, holding the doors for others. I know this is just basic etiquette but this does not exist in Bangladesh. Although I would like to add that times are changing for the better, we still have a long way to go.

Life here is fast but there is a clear view of where I am going. Had I stayed in Bangladesh, I wouldn't have been able to choose art as a career path. There, only the top 10 in classes can look forward to a future with a nice job with a good amount of pay. I hated everything about it.


What do you love about where you currently are?

I love having this opportunity to pursue my dream. I live in a nice house and we don't have to watch what we buy––a luxury we couldn't afford until just a few years ago. I’ve learned how to deal with unkind people and love the differences I have with everyone. I am really thankful for the way everything has turned out.


On the flipside, are there still difficulties you encounter?

I wouldn't really say there are any major difficulties. There is however, this invisible, everlasting pressure to become something worth becoming. There’s that fear: what if I as an artist end up being nothing? Will my parents’ efforts really be worth it, especially since my grandparents were extremely against moving to America and thought that we would “forget our culture and religion”? Thoughts like that come to me when my brother laughs about how he forgot to read Bangla, along with many other cases. I worry about these things a lot, this pressure to keep a hold of the past and moving with it into the future.


I get homesick because I miss my childhood. Everything about my childhood is in Bangladesh. I feel the most homesick when it rains in the summer, or when exotic birds sing every now and then. That was a part of my childhood and sometimes I really want to revisit everything.


“Life here is fast but there is

a clear view of where I am going.”


Do you plan to stay?

I think where I am is where I will stay. Although, we can never really be sure, can we? I feel like I am constantly moving from one place to the other mentally. I can't really say if I like where I am better than Bangladesh and I don’t think I ever will find a place that fits me completely. Even in Bangladesh, my family used to stick out. So really, home exists only in my mind, not a physical country or location. The conditions I’ve lived in helped build it.


John Kevin G.

John Kevin Go


Kevin was raised in Davao City and has been based in Singapore since November 2014.


What caused you to make the move?

I always had the desire of studying and working overseas. After two years of working in Davao, I got bored and decided to go to Manila to take my master's degree. While preparing for my admission application, I also submitted my CV to multiple companies in Singapore. Luckily, some companies got in touch with me and scheduled me for interviews. To my surprise, I got job offers; then I decided to postpone the intention of pursuing postgraduate studies.


What was it like, picking your life up and moving elsewhere?

When I accepted the offer, I was thrilled at the thought of working overseas. At first, I just thought that I’d just be working elsewhere. And yet after my first two weeks in Singapore, things finally sank in that I am all alone in a foreign country with no one else to depend on. I needed to start a new life in a foreign land, where everything had to be started from scratch. From doing house chores to going to the groceries, everything is done all by myself.


How does the place you live now differ from your hometown?

Geographically speaking, Singapore is a country that is three times smaller than Davao City. Given the city-state’s size and scarce resources, Singaporeans tend to be fast and competitive. At first, it wasn’t that easy for me to adopt the fast pace of Singapore, yet slowly I was able to adjust myself. On the other hand, it wasn’t that difficult to fit in with the lifestyle of the locals, as I grew up in a Chinese family where the culture, language, and food are kind of similar to what Singapore has to offer.


“I didn’t just experience career growth but

also personal and spiritual growth.”


What do you love about where you currently are?

What I really love about Singapore is the diversity. People of different cultures, languages and religions respect each other. Since I moved here, I didn’t just experience career growth but also personal and spiritual growth. I actually learned a lot of things since I moved, from being more street smart to gaining professional knowledge and skills.


On the flipside, are there still difficulties you encounter?

Even though I have been independent for almost 4 years, it’s still quite difficult for me to do house chores. Sometimes it makes me homesick when I video chat with my parents and they show me the food they eat or send me pictures of events that I missed. Family is the thing that I miss the most while living overseas. Even with the convenience of the Internet, bonding with them physically is not replaceable by the convenience of technology.


Do you plan to stay?

So far, I don’t envision myself going elsewhere. I always ask myself if I am already satisfied where I am now and the answer is always yes.


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Art Alexandra Lara.


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