MY EXPAT STORY | THROUGH IT ALL

 
o-15.png
Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. Rather, we should actually be glad for them. God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to our Savior
— Edmund Clowney

On today’s blog, I will share the hardships I have been through as an expat. During these past few months, I faced a lot of challenges since I moved to a foreign country. I was unemployed, broke, and I got no friends.

At the age of 23 years old, I saw myself as a failure and unfulfilled with life. It’s hard to believe that this was once my life before. I know I have been through a lot, but this was one of the hardest season for me. It was so difficult because I don’t know what God’s purpose for me, but I have to cast my fears aside and believe in his works.

How did I come to this?

I was born in a family where my Dad works abroad for 9 months and I only get to see him for only 3 months. There are a lot of family gatherings which my Dad missed because he wanted for us to have a brighter future. Working abroad means that the number of days you get to spend time with your family are limited.

Ever since when I was a child, I have never dreamt of working abroad because I knew the amount of sacrifice my dad did and I don’t want to suffer the same thing. Despite all that, my mom encouraged me to work abroad. My mom requested for me to assist and help my brother because of my nephew’s medical case. Being a good daughter, i followed my mom’s advice and took up the remaining small amount of strength and courage I have, then flew 4354 miles away from home. I didn’t want to work abroad, but most of all, I need to do this for myself. I have to step outside of my comfort zone and explore all the possibilities even though it is hard to leave my family and friends.

The Flight, Fear and Failure

I remember the time when I was waiting to get interviewed by the immigration officer. I was scared and nervous. I told myself “If I get offload then it is not meant for me” and so here I am a couple months later a certified Overseas Filipino Worker living in the UAE. I am a beginner blogger, college graduate, interior designer dropout, ex-wellness coach and ex-entrepreneur. You may have wondered why “ex” because it didn’t turn out well. I tried a lot of things in which I successfully failed at. I wish I could say everything is good and everything in my life is working perfectly fine, but I would be lying if I say so.

I thought that life would get easier after I got my college degree and once I live abroad. I was wrong. I felt that I was a total failure because I was broke and unemployed. There are a lot of times where I questioned myself if I am even worth to anything. I was holding on to my last money which was 100 dirhams. Unfortunately, it was torn apart and I had to google how to put it back together. I found myself just laughing on how ridiculous I look like trying to salvage my last money, just so I could buy things that I want.

I know money can’t buy us happiness, but I was unfulfilled and desperate to get validation from tangible things. I don’t want to ask money from my brother because I know they have a lot of bills to pay and they already paid for my visa and other expenses.

The reality hits me that I need to find a job as soon as possible.

Training Ground

My nephew was in the NICU (extensive care unit for babies). We were in and out of the hospital for several months. I lost count of the number of days we visited my nephew and during those months I didn't have a lot of success in job hunting.

If you think looking for work abroad is an easy thing to do, then think again. The economy was down when I got here in the UAE. There weren’t a lot of job opportunities that I find suitable for me and my time was limited.

Desperate to find a job, I was willing to accept the advice of my auntie. She told me that “Being a cashier at a supermarket is not that bad.” I have nothing against it. I think we all need to start somewhere in life, but I have studied in an exclusive all-girls college not to end up as a cashier. My heart (ego) couldn’t take it, so I set aside my auntie’s advice and continued on to find a suitable job.

The picture below was when I had my first interview ever. I was full of hope and dreams, but it turns out the job wasn't meant for me. After that I went on to another interview for internship only. I received an email. They informed me that I passed the interview and I will start right away. The internship period went along without having my nephew hospitalised. I thank GOD for it. It was really a blessing.

My internship lasted for only two months because they can’t issue me a visa which I needed to be legalised working here in the UAE, so I didn't renew the internship contract and went on to find another job. It took me about three months to find a job. It was that long. Imagine my frustration and desperation. I couldn't look in the mirror because all I see is a woman who failed in life.

 
 
IMG_2787.JPG
 
 

God’s Perfect Timing

During these three months, Pope Francis visited the UAE and my nephew had another successful surgery. Blessings after blessings came pouring in. I was so blessed to witness the holy presence of Pope Francis and grateful for my nephew’s fast recovery. I didn't think that it was coincidence that Pope Francis came here. It was our destiny to have him blessed us with his holiness. My nephew had a close encounter with him. Pope Francis kissed my nephew and it was the most beautiful thing in the world.

I was happy and blessed although I still didn’t have a job and money. I felt this light hearted feeling inside me that everything will be okay. I felt God’s presence in the eyes of my nephew and his holiness Pope Francis.

I looked at my nephew. He was smiling at me with those beautiful eyes. I couldn't help myself, but to confessed all of my worries and problems. Tears began pouring out of my eyes. I told him that “I will no longer be worried which job I should take or how I will earn money. I will let it go and offer it all to God Almighty. I believe in God’s work. He loves me. He has a greater plans for me” then all of a sudden I completely broke down in front of my nephew. I was ugly crying, but I felt that I was free and loved.

My heart was once filled with doubts and fear, but now it is filled with love and hope. When I start to let go and offer what troubles my heart to God, things begin to change. My perspective on life has changed. I have learned to mature in the midst of hard times. I have learned how to be grateful and content with nothing. I have learned how to be grateful when nothing is working out. I have learned how to be patient and kind. I have learned how important it is to depend on the holy spirit.

I have learned that God is all I need. I don’t need a job, relationship and money to be satisfied. All these challenges were a training ground for me. God told me to leave everything that is comfortable and by faith he will show me what’s my purpose. These were all a test for me. He let me suffer, so I can grow and develop.

Everyday is a constant battle of overcoming my fears and worries. Life abroad is hard. I live far away from my family and friends. I feel homesick sometimes. This is not my comfort zone. There is no job security. There is no telling when you will lose your job. A natural disaster could happen at any moment.

If I keep thinking of the bad things that could happen, I will always be fearful and stuck inside my little bubble. In life we need to grow, flourish and become the better version of ourselves. There will be times that you will have to choose between stepping out of your comfort zone or staying inside your bubble, I hope you choose to walk with faith and not by sight.

I hope you don’t let your fears stop you from achieving your goals. I pray that you don’t settle for a job that God didn’t want you to take. Remember everything is according to God’s plan even the problems you are facing. Learn to let it go and offer it all to God. I promise he will take care of it.

If you are looking for a job, talk to God. If you are facing a dilemma, pray to God. If you are discontent with life, talk to God. If you are depressed and lonely, talk to God. He will lift up all your problems if you just open up your heart to him.

I hope that you get enlightened with this post. If you did, it would be amazing if you share this to your friend.

P.S I have a job now and I’m grateful for it. Before I used to wear the same shirt when I go to church and malls, but now I could afford to buy the things that I want without asking anyone to lend me money. I am truly grateful for God’s love and plan.

Look at my baby nephew, he is so adorable. Thank God he is recovering well from the surgery. The other photos are from my work and internship. I met a lot of amazing people at work. Some of them became my friends and I love them. When Pope Francis visited the UAE, everyone wanted to go, but not everyone can go. The tickets were only limited. Luckily, my sister-in-law talked to a priest and gave us tickets. It was the biggest event of the year and I’m thankful that I get to experience it.

 
 
Let your life reflect the faith you have in God. Fear nothing and pray about everything. Be strong, trust God’s word, and trust the process.
— Germany Kent
 

ADVENTURES OF AN EXPAT | GO TRAVEL

 
o-14.png
If you can’t adapt, then you won’t survive. And if you can’t survive then there is no room to thrive. The experience will change you and you have to embrace the change and grow with it.
— Aneesa

Living abroad gives you a wonderful and challenging experience. You will go through a lot of things, but these things will change you. It maybe a good or bad experience, but at least you are constantly moving, growing and changing. Living abroad requires you to be open minded, adaptable and flexible. As an expat, you get to see different places, experience different culture and meet new people. These will be a learning curve for you, so don’t fear change. Learn to embrace it.

Meet Aneesa, a full time Grade 1 teacher and certified adventurer. Get inspired by her story as she takes on a journey being an expat.

Name: Aneesa 

Instagram: @expatpanda

Age: 29

Work/ Passion: Full time grade 1  teacher

Countries you’ve visited: There is around 46… too many to mention!

Country of origin: South Africa


1.    What is the reason why you want to live abroad?

 I grew up in a very conservative and religious community which made me think that there must be so much more to the world than what I was surrounded by. Realistically speaking, I knew I could not travel much from South Africa considering the geographical location and cost of living. So when I got the opportunity to move abroad after I graduated from university, I did and have since lived in South Korea, Kuwait and now, the United Arab Emirates. I never planned to travel a lot, I just wanted to experience a different lifestyle and culture. I always thought I would go for a year or two and then move back to SA. But I realized that traveling didn’t have to be expensive and there were so many opportunities to do so when I lived abroad that I once I started, I never stopped! Now I don’t ever see myself returning to live in South Africa!

2.    What does it feel like living in another country?

For the most part, its very challenging and satisfying at the same time. Its challenging because you never fully understand the local culture, customs and language so sometimes things get frustrating (like when people make false promises and say ‘Inshallah’). Yet, its also satisfying because there are so many unique experiences to be had in different countries and I like to take advantage of festivals, events, trips and opportunities that I know I wouldn’t be able to have in my home country. At the core of it, you are always conflicted because when you are in another country, you want to be home. But when you are home, you realize that you have changed and that you don’t fit in anymore so you long for your adopted home!

3.    What is the funniest/ scariest thing ever happened to you being an Expat?

I haven’t had anything scary happen to me but the funny thing is when people try to guess where I am from based on my appearance and accent. They almost NEVER guess correctly and I have heard everything from Mexican to Trinidadian! People have preconceived notions have what they think South Africans are supposed to look and sound like so its funny when I shatter them!

IMG_7676.jpg

4.   What are some of the life lessons you’ve learned during your stay in another country?

The main life lesson that I have learnt is that being adaptable is key to expat life. If you can’t adapt, then you won’t survive. And if you can’t survive then there is no room to thrive. The experience will change you and you have to embrace the change and grow with it. Old ideas don’t always translate to new places and if you want to be an expat, you will have to adapt to new ways of thinking!

5.    What are some of the advice you can give to people who aspire to live abroad?

The best advice I can give is to JUST DO IT. I know that sounds like a cliché but I have seen so many people do all the hard work and then pull out because they aren’t sure or let others’ doubts pull them down. If this something you really want- no matter whether the experience may be good or bad- then go ahead and do what you feel is right. Trust your instincts, do the research and take the plunge! At the end of the day, 2 people could live in the same country, next door to each other, but have TOTALLY different experiences. So don’t listen to what anyone else says, grab the opportunities and remember that the experience is what you make of it!

cheap eats baku.JPG
 
 

Bonus question: What’s your favorite place and food in the whole wide world?

My favourite food is probably Thai cuisine but I also love Indian food! Its hard to pick a favourite place but my top 3 countries would be Oman, Seychelles and Iran!