A letter to the Singaporean who wants to move abroad

This National Day, Singaporean Diviya Raveentheran lays bare her experience of living in New York in 2021.  

By R Diviya | 29 July 2022

For many living abroad, balancing the desire to explore the world with that of being close to loved ones at home is a constant struggle. This National Day, Singaporean Diviya Raveentheran lays bare her experience of living in New York.  

Dear Friend,

I know you have dreamt of living abroad for some time. The idea of leaving your past behind seems daunting but your life will change as you discover a new way of living.  

Missing your family will be inevitable. But this will only make you more grateful of the aroma of your mother’s home-cooked food, the tunes of your dad’s favorite songs and the simple annoyances of your siblings.  

And don’t you worry; you will find new ‘family’: friends you consider a second home. Being the new person from a different place might even make you the star of the party. You can join a book club, go for lunch get-togethers and arrange meetups with other Singaporeans, especially on days that you miss home a little more. There are so many ways to embrace your new life while staying connected with Singapore. 

Attended the OGP’s meetup with SGN in New York City and met up with Singaporeans based there.
Your siblings get to enjoy the perks of visiting a new country too! Brought my siblings to Hoboken, New Jersey when they came to visit me.

Your parents might discourage you from moving as they worry about your safety. My dad always says, “No place is as safe as Singapore.” While that might be true to some extent, learning to thrive outside of your comfort zone will help you grow.  

You will learn to find ways to familiarise yourself with the city – speaking to locals about areas to avoid, and which neighbourhoods are the friendliest with the best safety index. The question I always ask myself is, “Would I feel comfortable walking around on my own?” Do your research and find a place as close to Singapore’s standard of safety as you can – a tall order of course, so you may have to adjust your expectations. 

I chose to live in a safe and vibrant town – Montclair, New Jersey. My husband and I attended their first ever Montclair Pride Festival!

If you have always dreamt of gaining overseas work experience, seize the day! Living abroad can transform your career, whether it is to restart, jumpstart or switch to a completely different career. Don’t ever think you’re not good enough. Many countries are seeking for skilled immigrants. Plus, the Singapore population is one of the best educated populations and hence, globally mobile. It’s not going to be easy but you will have to put yourself out there.  

To get started, make your intentions known by speaking to your current company. Ask if they have an office overseas, or explore opportunities externally by reaching out to friends working overseas. This is what I did – I shared my intention with all my managers and directors. I reached out to friends who were living in the US. I proactively followed up with ‘leads’ they provided and I eventually managed to secure some interviews. The general tip is to start speaking to anyone and everyone. You never know who they know and how that can help you. With international experience, you will find that if and when you do decide to go back home, it will be an additional perspective and always well-regarded! It’s a win-win.  

Don’t worry about missing Singaporean food – you can always develop your culinary skills to recreate the food (with tips from mum, of course)! Or you can find instant mixes such as Prima Taste Singapore from Asian stores. It will surprise you how excited you become seeing Singapore brands stocked in the supermarkets.  

If cooking is not for you, put together a list of Singaporean/Asian restaurants to check out. But remember that you will also try new food that could shakeup your taste buds such as Ethiopian and Cuban food. 

I found a Briyani place in Manhattan (left) and learnt how to make egg tarts (right) because I had a major craving!

Moving abroad, you learn to face your fears and build up courage. You will become adaptable and no longer as afraid to embrace change. You will be giddy from the excitement of exploring new places.  

Most importantly, you will become acutely aware of what home means to you. For me, Singapore is always home. It is where family is and it will always be there when I return.  

I hope that I have convinced you at least a little to live abroad. Whether it is for a month or a whole year, it is a priceless opportunity. Go embrace your dream! 

Love, Diviya

About Diviya

Diviya Raveentheran is an alumna of National University of Singapore and currently works as a Consultant at IPSOS based in NYC. Back in Singapore, she worked at Accenture, solving complex public sector challenges ranging from healthcare to law enforcement. She hopes to help other Singaporeans who wish to move abroad.

Connect with her here

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