Moving schools are tough. Imagine moving countries. Moving your life.
I’ve been living out of 2 suitcases as far as I can remember, dating back to since I was 11; when my dad came home one day and announced that we were moving our lives to Miri, Sarawak. I had no idea what life in Sarawak was gonna be. The only images in my mind were trees, and animals. I was 11, what did I know?
So we packed. We wrapped up furniture, donated clothes, and gave away my storybooks (I cried at the lost of my treasures). And we moved.
Settling in a town 10 times smaller than Kuala Lumpur, I was not used to the quiet (no one honks!) and clean air (the beach was 5 minutes away). I was not used to the idea that there were more than 3 races! I was bewildered when I saw many students in my school who didn’t look chinese or indian but did not attend Agama Islam classes with me. (However I was used to being a minority despite being Malay Muslim because I was in a Chinese medium school, but thats a story for another day)
The thing about migrating and being a foreigner is that you unofficially become an ambassador. In my case, I’m automatically an ambassador for the “Malaya” people (what Sarawakians call people who originates from West Malaysia). This is a great time to educate yourself, and others. What with all the racial tension in the country, and while I was there, there was talk about about Sarawak seceding the country; but I am in no place to comment about that. 🙂
Fast forward 7 and a half years later, when I was 17; dad came home and dropped another bombshell on the family. “Pack up guys, we’re moving to Saudi Arabia!”
My first thought was “Holy shit Saudi?!?!”
My second thought was “Holy shit tak payah SPM siut!”
Admittedly, I was falling behind in my studies a little, and was more interested in my extra curricular activities, specifically tennis.
Our lives were turned upside down. I had no idea what life in a country where women can’t work, can’t drive, can’t dress the way want, speak the way they want and how my education was going to be.
But we adapt. Whether you make the choice to study abroad in a foreign country, or didn’t have a choice and still had to be starting a life in a new environment, you have to make changes. You need to learn to shake off the notion of “I’ll never be one of them”. They key to transitioning to a different country is open mindedness. You’d be surprised at the wonders you’ll find in a culture you thought would be hostile one.
Again, a few months before my 20th birthday, I packed all my belongings, gave away some books, donated more clothes; and took a couple more long flights to where I am now, United States to finish my degree.
I have no idea where I’ll be when I’m done here.
I have no idea exactly when I’m done here.
But I will transition. As I have done before. I will embrace my two constant companions, the two suitcases.