My parents are immigrants. My dad left the Philippines back in 1999, seeking for a better life to support my mum. In 2005, my mother and 5-year-old me followed my dad to Singapore. I’m 17 this year and I have spent a vast majority of my life here in Singapore, but I still do have very fond memories of my childhood back home. I did start my education back in the Philippines, but managed to continue on pace here in Singapore without getting held back by a year.
We visit home annually, and it became the only time I get to see my relatives and friends. Over the course of a few years living abroad, my friends have started to drift away from me. I wasn’t too upset by it as I made a lot of friends here, but it did made me feel sad that I barely even remember my neighbour who I used to be best friends with. Every year I visit, I’d have lesser and lesser friends I kept in contact. My friends in Singapore compensated for that loss though, as most of them are the same as I am— children of immigrants and have also spent the vast majority of their lives living in in this country. It feels great to have someone close to you to be able to understand exactly how you feel— moving to a whole new country, starting anew with friends and getting used to the system of how things worked.
The frustrating aspect of living abroad is that you will definitely miss a lot of family gatherings like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals and births of new cousins. You’ll also miss out on family vacations, where they spend the holidays together at a resort in just each others’ companies. School holidays here in Singapore doesn’t really sync up with the school holidays in the Philippines, so whenever we visit, my relatives may still be too busy with work and school to have a proper bonding session together.
Every time I return home, I do get slightly culture-shocked. The differences between the country I live in and the country I came from is quite stark, but it is a good, refreshing change of scenery. The little things that I enjoy seeing at home that I generally do not see in Singapore are:
- the stars literring the clear, dark skies at night
- driving on the road where the sea is right beside you
- looking out the windows and seeing a farm instead of a shopping mall
- being in the company of people who show immense love and care for you
Studying and living abroad can get pretty lonely, especially when things start getting more stressful and tough. It’s those times where you just want to be surrounded by the people who care about you and want to lean on them all for support and motivation to continue what you’re doing. I do, however, fully appreciate all of what my parents have done and sacrificed for my brother and I. My dad left my mum to work abroad for a better job to provide for her and soon-to-arrive me. He worked hard to bring my mum and I there just so that I get a shot at a better education, and even more opportunitied to excel. My mum also continued to work even after my dad went to Singapore for the beneficiary of the family, leaving me in the care of my uncle and grandfather. Life is fast here in Singapore, and I barely see my parents because of that. Going home serves as a way to escape that city life and just lead a slow-paced, relaxed lifestyle, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks every year.
There are definitely days when homesickness will hit you hard, and those days things will just seem unbearable. When you just want to embrace your favourite aunt and talk out all of your problems, but can’t because you’re thousands of kilometers away. Craving for a simple gesture such as a hug can drive you insane, because sometimes all you want is to be in the company of your family. There is really no feeling that can compare to the ones you get when you’re going home. The hardest part is not the homesickness you feel throughout the year as you live your life abroad, but when you’re leaving home. It feels like someone is ripping out a part of me, leaving me feeling emptier and hollower than usually.
I’ve lived abroad for about 12 years now, and it honestly gets harder and harder to cope with living away from your family. However, I also use them as motivation to always continue to try and excel in my education. I always want to make sure they’re proud of me, even if they’re on a whole other island away. Homesickness is hard to cope with, but it can be slightly neutralised with regular calls and messages to your family. It may not be the same as real-life interaction, but it’s a good substitute to it. As I grow up, I’ve felt a more deeper appreciation for my family. Embrace your family extra tight, because you never know when you’re going to see them again. I’m lucky that I am fortunate enough to see them yearly, but I never take that priviledge for granted.
If you live away from your family, give them a call or drop them a message. Nothing will warm you than being able to catch up with them on recent family events.