Life is hard. It doesn’t matter what country you’re living in; life is bound to be hard.
As a nation, we always have this notion that somehow, life is better when you’re not in the Philippines. While there’s some truth to it (because who wouldn’t want to get rid of the increasing mundanity of our lives as Filipinos, right?), there’s one thing that Filipinos almost always seem to forget—that is life not always better on the greener side of things.
It might be hard to believe that, when most people who are living abroad look like they now lead better lives than what they had in the Philippines. But it’s not always the case, as most Filipinos actually have to work long and hard hours just to get to where they are now.
Now, suppose you’ve finally decided that you want to move abroad to start a new life and a new you. However, you feel lost and unsure of what to prepare for, and what to expect. Well, take it from me–I, a person who’s been living abroad for almost 2 years now, am here to take you through what you need to do or settle first before actually going through the whole living abroad, romanticizing life (not really) thing. May or may not include a virtual slap in the face.
TAKE A GOOD, HARD LOOK at your reason(s) why you want to leave for another country
Quick–is this something you’ve planned for for a very long time already? Or is this a plan that can be downgraded to an Eat Pray Love type of long travel? Are you actually sold on moving yourself–like, all of you: mind, body, and spirit–to another country? Are you ready to live your life outside of your comfort zone?
Moving to a new place, more so another country, is literally a life-changing decision so make sure it’s really what you want to do. Answering these base questions should narrow down your next steps.
RESEARCH about the program you want to enter in and what you’re going to expect from it
This step is actually very crucial, which is why it’s the first one on my list of advice about moving overseas. The first thing that you have to do is do a lot of research. Why? There are so many different programs out there and not everything is a “one-size fits all” kind of situation.
There are many tailor-made programs for younger people, students, professionals, blue-collar workers, etc. You just need to do a lot of research on what’s going to fit your needs, lifestyle, and possible career choices. Case in point: in the video below, an immigration consultant shares why becoming an international student might not be the best path for permanent residency in Canada.
Also take note of all the deadlines for each of these programs’ application periods.
GATHER opinions about the different programs you’re considering
This is related to step 1 because websites and brochures will only get you so far and will not be enough for you to decide on what program to pursue or consider. You’ll have to get opinions from a number of people—may it be friends or family that are already in the country of your choice, strangers on the Internet who have done the same thing, and people who have been doing it for years. You’re also going to have to get opinions from professionals from those programs and to weigh out all the pros and cons of everything you’re thinking of pursuing.
GATHER all the documents needed and secure all the necessary appointments with all government offices ASAP
You can do this while you’re researching and asking for opinions. Get your passport and NBI clearance renewed, request for your transcript of records from your school/university, your bank statements (possibly your parents’ too, if you’re young), submit your application forms, get your ID and passport picture taken, get all of your official documents apostilled at the DFA, and all those seemingly intimidating things to do.
Double-check, or even triple-check all of the documents you already have and make multiple copies of them, so you won’t be in a state of panic in the future. Take note that you also need to get your documents translated by an official translator if the country you’re applying a visa for requires it to be translated into their language.
PREPARE for any type of situation that may arise
This helps a lot, especially if you’re a very anxious person (like me) and wants to make sure that you have everything you need before your visa appointment. Also, be sure to keep your options ready and to make as many plans (A, B, C, D…there’s a reason why there are 26 letters in the alphabet) as possible, because life always throws curve balls at us.
LET GO of any over-romanticized thoughts about life abroad
So you’ve done everything needed to be able to move abroad—your visa application has finally been approved, you have your money, your clothes packed, had some despedida parties, said goodbyes, among other things. Now there’s just one more thing to do.
And that is to not have any over-romanticized thoughts about your future life abroad. Yes, it’s okay to romanticize, we all love romanticizing life and we’re all here for it, but in this case, you will need to wake up.
You’re not going to be living your dream life in just an instant—you’re not going to be instantaneously living in a spacious apartment decorated the way you like, you’re not going to be regularly eating at every popular restaurant and doing coffee shop hopping almost every day, you won’t always get to bask under the “foreign” sun wearing your prettiest outfits.
No, life abroad isn’t always so rose-colored—you’re going to deal with house-hunting, job-hunting (if you haven’t done that in the first place–most especially if you’re under a student visa), doing adult things you’ve probably have no experience for (again, if you’re a student), and meeting fellow Filipinos who have been living abroad for some years, and even decades who may just be the people who will actually bring you down because that’s what being a Filipino abroad is like. It’s not all good in every Filipino community that you see abroad, some unfortunately just bring their toxic traits abroad.
Life abroad may prove to be hard, in contrast to whatever is trending on TikTok about immigrant life in, let’s say, Canada. You’re not going to be handed every single thing you want on a silver platter. The truth is, you’re going to have to work for everything you want—clothes, food, other non-essential things, and even traveling, and sometimes be denied of basic things. In fact, you can even be denied permanent residency, such as in the case of this woman:
You can even be decades into your life in another country and then suddenly, boom–you’re homeless, such as in the case of this man:
So in conclusion: Please make smart decisions and don’t just decide on a whim. Moving abroad is a big step one can make in their lives no matter what their age is.
Good luck, and we sincerely hope you make it wherever life takes you.
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