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5 Millennial Pinays Share The Struggles Of Working Abroad

It's hardly a life of luxury.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Courtesy of Gem Roxas, (RIGHT) Courtesy of Pauline Calanog

Admit it: At some point, you’ve probably dreamt of living and working abroad, even if it’s just for a little bit. You have ~grand~ dreams about moving to a foreign country, traveling everywhere, and earning enough to support your family. But OFWs will tell you—it’s never that simple; life abroad is actually full of sacrifices, struggles, and setbacks. Take it from these Pinays.

Name: Gemicah

Age: 24

Occupation: Nurse

Based in: London, United Kingdom

Monthly income range: £2,000 – £2,500 (P125,000 – P160,000)

Why did you decide to work abroad?
As the eldest child, the primary reason why I decided to work abroad was so I could earn more for my family. I wanted to provide. Another reason is that I've always wanted to “see the world,” to know what lies beyond the horizon.


How long are you planning on staying there for?
I have a three-year contract with my hospital, so I have to stay here until that ends. I want to stay here for as long as I can because I love living in London.

Tell us about some of your struggles.
The greatest struggle of working abroad is the fact that I’m away from my family. I had to learn to do things on my own. I cook my own food and do my own laundry even when I’m exhausted because no one will do it for me. I try my best to stay healthy to avoid getting sick. I’ve also made peace with the fact that, sometimes, I have to spend holidays alone.

What are the perks?
I get to travel a lot. I’ve only been here for a year, and I've already been to four countries; and I have more trips lined up this year. Other countries are so accessible. Plus, I get to buy the things that I need and want and still have enough to send back home. I can now buy things that I wasn't able afford while I was working in the Philippines.

What do you think about when you feel like giving up?
I just think about how blessed I am to actually be here. I always remind myself that there are a lot of people who would do everything to get to where I am so I need to be thankful that I am here. I also remind myself, that nothing in life comes easy. If we want to achieve great things we all have to go through challenges and we all have to make great sacrifices. Thinking about my mom also gives me strength; she worked abroad, too. So whenever I feel tired, I think about how she’s been through the same thing and how she gave me a great life. That’s why I’m staying strong—I owe her that.

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Name: Camille

Age: 25

Occupation: Project Officer

Based in: Seoul, South Korea

Monthly income range: Undisclosed

Why did you decide to work abroad?
I had the chance to study in Korea for graduate school for a year. It was a great experience because I was able to meet new friends and travel. Afterwards, I flew back to the Philippines to finish my thesis. While I loved spending time with my family and friends, I missed Korea, terribly. After graduating, I went back to Korea, pursued an internship and searched for a full-time job. Thankfully, after my internship, I was offered a job at the same company.



How long are you planning on staying there for?
I don’t see myself leaving the country soon. If I can work here for two or more years, I would love to. I enjoy Korea’s safe environment and convenience.

Tell us about some of your struggles.
I know many Filipinos in other countries struggle with discrimination. I am thankful that I’ve never experienced that here. But because I’m not fluent in Korean, some things are still hard for me, especially at work. And, of course, I still get homesick from time to time. Independence isn’t easy—and I’m still trying to get used to being in charge of all my bills.

What are the perks?
I am grateful that my job gives me the chance to dabble in my interests, and while independence is hard, I love the freedom!

What do you think about when you feel like giving up?
When things are not going well, I always think about the past. I read my old planners or blog entries and browse through my photos. They serve as a reminder of how much has changed and how much more I can conquer in the future.

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Name: Micah

Age: 26

Occupation: Cabin Crew

Based in: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Monthly income range: 9,000 AED (around P120,000)

Why did you decide to work abroad?
I really wanted to work for Emirates because it’s the ~perfect~ airline and because it is based in Dubai. It’s my second home.



How long are you planning on staying there for?
I’m staying as long as my body can keep up with the workload. I’m having the best time!

Continue reading below ↓

Tell us about some of your struggles.
Not everyone can handle this job. It requires a unique set of skills. Being away from my family and my boyfriend is the greatest struggle. Luckily, we fly to Manila often.

What are the perks?
I travel around the world for free, and I’m getting paid to do it! I’m in awe of how much beauty there is in the world. Plus, my family gets to reap the benefits of my job as well.

What do you think about when you feel like giving up?
My motto is, "She believed she could, so she did." Some days, I have no idea how I’m going to it, but somehow, it gets done.

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Name: Zana

Age: 24

Occupation: Surgical Nurse

Based in: United Kingdom

Monthly income range: £1,800 – £2,800 (P115,000 – P180,000)

Why did you decide to work abroad?
I’m focused on my career. Going abroad has always been my goal—even when I was in college. At first, I thought I'd be heading to Saudi where my mom is also working as a nurse, but after graduation, there was a massive recession in the Middle East and landing a job there was very difficult. I hopped from one job to another, which were all unrelated to my degree. I served as a volunteer for years in a provincial hospital, but I was working hard without pay. So when UK finally opened its doors to Filipino nurses, I immediately grabbed the opportunity. I also have a son. And the UK offers a vast number of benefits—free healthcare, free education, and bursaries for college-level students.



How long are you planning on staying there for?
10 years. I’m still [hoping] for the American dream, though.

Tell us about some of your struggles.
In this order:

1. The accent
2. The cold weather
3. The taxes
4. The homesickness

What are the perks?
I think if you are an NHS (National Health Service) employee, getting a visa or going through immigration is much, much easier. We also get discounts in some restaurants and from mobile providers. Additionally, hospitalization in the UK is free of charge in NHS hospitals—although I haven't been hospitalized here yet.

What do you think about when you feel like giving up?
I think about my family, my little one, and my partner. They inspire me and they are the reason I am here.

Continue reading below ↓

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Name: Pauline

Age: 25

Occupation: Financial Reporting Analyst

Based in: London, United Kingdom

Monthly income range: Undisclosed

Why did you decide to work abroad?
My company sent me to work here on a short-term assignment.



How long are you planning on staying there for?
I'll be staying for five months.

Tell us about some of your struggles.
Knowing that a family member is sick back home, and you can't do anything but pray for them was the hardest thing I had to deal with.

What are the perks?
I was able to get out of my comfort zone. I travel and discover new places; I meet people and build new relationships. They make the struggles worth it.

What do you think about when you feel like giving up?
My manager always tells us that there are opportunities in challenges. So when the times are hard, I try to use it to my advantage. I want to make my family and my teammates proud.

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