“Where are you from?”, that’s the usual question I would always get when I decided to move to Australia 9 months ago. It is a remarkable journey and living a thousand miles away from home taught me so much about life, love, and the things I am capable of that I never knew before. Mainly, the reason why I left was because I wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable situation where I will be pushed to be the best of what I can be. For many of us, living abroad is a huge leap of faith and courage and yes, I absolutely agree. It takes a lot of courage, most especially if you decide to move to another country all by yourself. It would change you in so many levels.
A lot of people would think that living abroad is a luxury, as you get to make money of bigger currency than your own. A lot would think that life would be easier because you wouldn’t have to deal with the countless predicaments happening in your homeland. But, tell you what. Here are some of the things that are bound to happen when you decide to leave your home behind and it’s nothing like a fairy-tale like what you’ve been imagining:
1. REBUILDING EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH AND ADJUSTING TO LONELINESS
It’s not just about settling in a whole new environment and living in a new house and a new country. It’s also about figuring out how to perform your daily activities like learning your ABCs when you were still a child. It’s basically trying to discover how to literally start from zero. When I first came here, I had to familiarize myself with the new currency until I just got used to it. I had to learn how to catch the bus and educate myself with the railway system. I relied on maps (I still do until now), and it’s always about getting lost and finding your way back. Going to the supermarket, eating out and sitting on a table for one, listening to music with your headphones plugged in for hours while spending time alone, these are the kinds of things that are BOUND to happen.
It is an exciting feeling at first, but as time passes by, it’s also that feeling that would make you question why you are doing this. You would constantly start talking to yourself, asking yourself questions and answering those questions yourself. You will be left alone with nothing but your own thoughts. At the end of the day, you have yourself only. The feeling of loneliness would always linger. Even though you are with your new found friends, it’s always a different feeling when you are talking to someone from home.
2. YOU WILL GET REJECTED AT SOME POINT
The moment I stepped foot in Sydney, my first priority was to find a job that would sustain my expenses here. Sydney, as a matter of fact, is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Of course, I had to find a job that is somehow parallel to the unbelievably high cost of living. I thought it would be easy, as I am an experienced chef technologist back home with a Bachelor’s Degree and all that comes in between. But apparently, that’s not always what would make you “QUALIFIED”. Your level of education would not make you the best candidate for the role. It’s not your nationality, it’s not your gender, nor your age. In my industry, it’s always your skill that is the most relevant. They wouldn’t care if you have a Masters Degree, a PhD, a PRC License, or whatever. I have been rejected several times and I constantly asked myself why until I figured it out. I also experienced getting fired in the sales industry. It might be a little embarrassing to say, but let us all admit. Not everyone of us has the ability to do sales.
It might not just be career-wise, but also in other aspects of living abroad. Struggles like finding a house to live in, trying to get medicare, and finding the right person to tell your frustrations is a never-ending ordeal.
3. THE STRUGGLE OF FITTING IN
The thing is, when you decide to move in a country outside your own, you will always have that destitution of trying to fit in. Cultural difference is often a set-back and language barriers would always draw you to the ground. Questions like “How do I say this nicely and without being rude in their language?” or “Would they accept me even if I’m not originally from here?”
It is something that I have fully accepted when I decided to move to Australia. No matter what I do, I am still a citizen from another country. I have no roots here, therefore I would never fit in 100 percent. This is not my home, but I would be forever grateful that Australia has allowed me to call it my second home. Somehow, I receive some of the benefits of living in a first-world country and I am being treated fairly. I receive good education and my instructors and colleagues would treat me like I am their own. That is good enough for me perhaps. If there’s one thing that I have learned here, it’s to never isolate yourself from the people that you would meet along the way. Keep an open-mind and be welcoming of others’ opinions and backgrounds.
4. MAKING LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS WORK
One of the hardest parts of living abroad on your own is the fact that you live further away from the people you love. Idealistically , it’s easier with technology nowadays because we now have Viber, Skype, Facebook, and all other social media platforms that would allow us to keep in touch with our loved ones. However, there would always be a down fall. It’s a niche, communication is the most essential part in a long-distance relationship. For the people back home, it tends to be easier because somehow they are in their comfort zone, living with their families and having their own sets of friends around them. But, for the person living abroad it’s a whole new struggle. The worries of miscommunication, fear of being left out, and the sense of belonging would tear you apart. It is a relentless battle with time most especially if there is a time difference.
Questions and phrases like “Are they OK?” , “I wonder what they’re doing back home”, “It’s meal time there, I wonder if they’ve already eaten.”, “What are they having for lunch/dinner?”, “I wonder where they are at the moment.”, “Are they thinking about me?” You are constantly missing them. No matter how hard you try, there will always be a part of you that is longing for them.
Even if you are not a clingy type of person, the feeling of wanting to belong in their daily lives even if you’re far apart would make you cling even more. It is heartbreaking that some of them would never understand you and what you are going through while you are far away from home.
5. FEELING GUILTY ALL THE TIME
Admit it, deciding to live abroad is factually a selfish choice. Yes, it takes guts and extraordinary amount of motivation. You would think of it is an adventure and it is actually good that you are doing what you want to do and going to where your dreams are taking you. However, it is DEVASTATING to your parents and loved ones. No matter how hard they try to keep it from you, they are sad that you left.
I am blessed to have a Mom who supports me all the way, but I know that in exchange of my thrilling quest to find myself is her grief. This is the first time that I have been separated from my Mom over a long period. In my entire years of existence, I have been beside my Mom. From doing the groceries, shopping clothes, walking our dog, I do everything with Mom. When I left for Sydney, my Mom did an impressive job of hiding her tears from me. She was holding it in. The fear of having her precious daughter miles away from her, living in a country where cultural views are far from what we were used to is always there. My Mom showed me how to be brave, and for that I am forever thankful.
Making the decision of moving abroad is a massive step. It simply allows you to explore the world and open opportunities. It teaches you so much about independence. It is definitely a challenge. At the very end it is still worth it because nothing worthy comes easy. 🙂
“There is a palpable fear to living in a new country, and though it is more acute in the first months, even year, of your stay, it never completely evaporates as time goes on. It simply changes. The anxiousness that was once concentrated on how you’re going to make new friends, adjust, and master the nuances of the language has become the repeated question “What am I missing?” As you settle into your new life and country, as time passes and becomes less a question of how long you’ve been here and more one of how long you’ve been gone, you realize that life back home has gone on without you.” – Chelsea Fagan