Sharing the lessons I learned when I was abroad

Moving abroad is not easy. It challenges you in so many ways you’ve never been before. Every day was full uncertainty, loneliness, and unhappiness.

At least that’s how I felt.

As some of you know, I moved from Vancouver, a beautiful city I’ve called home for the last 12 years to halfway across the world, Bali. Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s gorgeous there. The beach, the daily sunshine, the people. All that is true. And, I was also moving back to the country where I was born and raised in. My parents couldn’t be happier.

I was happy to go on this exciting new endeavour too but little did I realize it’s not all fun and games.

On March 23, 2017, I was invited to speak to a group of students who are thinking of moving abroad to advance their career. I had a hard time thinking about what I should say. Do I sugarcoat everything, or tell the truth even if it might discourage them? 

I decided to go with the latter but focus mostly on the lessons learned. Here’s what I shared:

First and foremost, you have to know and embrace the fact that you will be uncomfortable for awhile. But have a goal in mind and set your mini milestones to get you through. Then,

  • Be open minded and be willing to learn new things
  • Observe, listen, speak their language. Not just the verbal language, but the implicit.
  • Have allies – build trust, spend time to get to know them and they will let you into their world
  • Find a club or association to be a part of

All these take time. There will be many lonely nights where you question yourself why you made the decision to move. When those nights come, remember what you’ve achieved. Zoom out, don’t get caught in the small details, but appreciate every little thing you’ve done.

Also, make sure you have a support system. I am lucky to have amazing friends who were always ready to cheer me on and some even came to visit! 

During the panel session, one of the students asked what self development books or podcast do we recommend. My fellow speakers, Gordon Ching and Jared Lim, both have great recommendations. As for me, I let the students in to one of my coveted life secrets. YOLO. You Only Live Once. So go out there and experiment (but be safe please). I’m an experiential type of person, no book can really convince me to do this or that. I have to learn it myself, either the fun way or the hard way. The latter happens more.

Thank you AIESEC UBC and GradusOne for hosting this event and the kind invitation to let me share my story.


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