It’s Day 710 since I left Singapore to move to a different country. That’s 710 days of kimchi with almost every meal, 710 days of experiencing four seasons of weather (a good three quarters of which are cold and dry) and 710 days of bowing as I greet people, “Anyeonghaseyo.”
Yup, you guessed it -- I left Singapore close to two years ago to move to Seoul, Korea. Alone.
I didn’t receive an amazing overseas job offer. I didn’t even receive a government scholarship to continue my studies at a Korean university.
And no, I didn’t land myself a Korean boyfriend to justify moving to a different country.
So what was it that was so compelling then, for me to make a decision to move to a completely foreign country, completely on my own?
1. Now or never
Time was running out. Time is always running out. I have always been cautious and careful, every single move I made a calculated risk with guaranteed returns.
That formula somehow grew tiresome, and I had always harboured the idea of simply doing something just for the sake of it. I got bored with my life in Singapore and the idea of moving to a different environment sounded crazy enough to consider at the time.
So, I researched my options, drew out a timeline and planned my exit (nope, I can’t get rid of that cautious/ careful impulse habit). And I booked a one-way ticket to Seoul. It was indeed, now or never -- I knew that this crazy idea would never come to fruition if I put it on hold even for a little while.
The options and timeline I mentioned helped find me some direction in my quest of leaving Singapore. I enrolled myself into language school (Yonsei University Korean Language Institution) and applied for a global MBA programme at Sungkyunkwan University.
Pursuing further education options in Singapore was a perfectly viable option, but I had already spent a little more than fifteen years gaining basic education there. I figured I needed to spice my resume up with a little variety.
So far, so good -- I’m in the middle of my MBA course at the moment, due to graduate February next year.
3. Getting out of my comfort zone
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Being in Singapore is extremely convenient -- (mostly) efficient public transport system, great employment opportunities, safe streets, yada yada.
We all know what happens when everything gets too easy. Complacency. I needed new challenges; something to ignite my spirit again.
You see, I was, like everyone else, spending my weekdays at work and resting my weekends away without any idea what I was really doing. Everything was working like clockwork – so safe, so stable, so comfortable. I needed to shake things up a little (okay, a lot) and rid myself of some the meaningless routines in my life.
4. Enough is enough
There is an unspoken rule that by a certain age, after achieving education of a certain level, one should be living off a huge fat paycheck with an upcoming promotion, a HDB flat on the waiting list, and a family scheduled very soon.
Wedding dinners became frequent events, and peers use them to compare notes to see who’s “winning” at life. I had none of those grand plans in the pipeline, and people just kept asking why.
I was getting stifled left, right and centre. I needed to get away from it all -- that mindless competition for ideal states that I had no desire for.
5. Discover. Explore. Experience. Learn.
I don’t know where I got the idea from, but as soon as I settled in to my new adopted home, I decided to consciously put into action that mantra -- to discover, explore, experience and learn as much as I can during my time here.
I was always envious of friends who got to travel to faraway lands every time the June and December school holidays came around, secretly wishing that one day, I will be able to see for myself what the world out there was (really) like.
So, here’s the opportunity -- sure, I’m always busy with school, but when I do get some time off, I try to get out of the city and travel all around Korea. It’s just one country, but hey, small baby steps first.
Some days, I look at the calendar and marvel at how fast time seems to fly. I have been in Korea for 710 days now, no way! Other days, I find myself trying hard to remind myself of those reasons above, of why I left Singapore for Korea, on my own. It’s definitely not easy being in a foreign country on my own, but I wouldn’t trade my decision for the world. I’ve gained so much from my experience so far, and that wouldn’t have happened had I stayed in Singapore, being someone everyone else expected me to be.
Sometimes I miss my hometown, but then all I have to do is ask a friend coming over for a holiday to get me a Prima Taste Laksa LaMian pack, and voila -- problem solved. Just add kimchi.
This is the author's follow-up article:
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