An Expat’s First Time Away for Christmas...

Published 2019-12-13 11:38

In this feature we interview a first time expat, Mary Christianne who recently made a big move from Manila, Philippines to Pennsylvania, United States. In our interview with her, she talks about how it is spending the holidays alone for the first time in her twenty plus years in life, her plans for the holidays and how she will cope with being away from home this Christmas.

Can you tell us a bit of a background about yourself as an expat?

I was born in Manila, Philippines but grew up in Cavite. I am 26 years old and currently working as a physical therapist in Pennsylvania, USA. 

What made you move to another country for work?

Even before I graduated college, I had envisioned myself working in

another country as a physical therapist. The most influencing factor why I considered working abroad is because of the healthcare practice in the Philippines. Healthcare professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, are overworked and underpaid. Our profession is not highly appreciated and often misunderstood as massage therapists. That is why after acquiring my Philippine license to practice, I immediately fixed the requirements for United States Physical Therapy state boards.

Why did you choose your host country as a place to work? 

I chose to work here in US because of two reasons: My brother is working here for more than 10 years now and it has always been a trend that Filipino physical therapists work here because of the demand for PT.

Is this your first Christmas as an expat? 

Yes, this is my first Christmas as an expat. 

What will you miss most about home this Christmas?

 I miss my family the most, especially seeing them first thing in the morning of Christmas day. I also miss seasonal foods such as puto bumbong and bibingka. Unlike here in US, the Philippines has this long celebration and preparation for Christmas as early as September. You will see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas jingles everywhere. 

What are your family traditions for Christmas? 

We do not have yearly traditions for Christmas given that all of my siblings are living in different countries. But if given the opportunity that my sisters or brothers will spend Christmas holidays in the Philippines, my family makes sure that we eat and spend a meal together. 

How will you spend Christmas away from home for the first time?

I will travel to Illinois on the weekend before Christmas and will stay there until Christmas day. I will have a quick visit to my brother and nephews. Unfortunately, I have to fly back here in Pennsylvania on the Christmas day itself because I have to work the day after.

How will you connect with family this Christmas while you are away?

Thanks to technology, it is easier to reconnect with families and loved ones around the world. Video calls enable me to talk to my loved ones and see their faces at the same time.

Do you get homesick?

I do, especially now that it is the season for Christmas and New Year. It is also snow season now, which results to gloomy and depressing vibe. 

What makes you homesick the most?

I miss everything about my home country. I miss the simplicity of life where I managed to see my friends at the end of working week. I also miss the food and the random food trips with my parents and partner. I miss expressing myself and telling stories without being conscious about the cultural background and language of the person I am conversing with. It is just different when you get to speak in your native tongue. 

What are the favorite things you miss from home?

To be honest, I love buffet so much. In the Philippines, you can find affordable world class buffets everywhere. I also miss the exotic street foods and the conversations that I share with my partner while eating. Despite of the hardships in life, Filipinos always find a reason to smile and bring out positivity in whatever situation they are in. I miss seeing that kind of culture and mindset among people. 

When are you going home next?

I will go home in January 2020 and will stay for only seven days. I know I will not be able to do much in that one week but I will still be the happiest just by seeing my loved ones again. 

What are your tips for young and new expats like you?

Expand your horizon and never settle for mediocrity. Always go beyond what you can do. We will never be forever young so do and achieve as much as you can while in our younger years. You will congratulate yourself later on for following your dreams and conquering your fears.

How do you battle homesickness?

Since I spend most of my days working, I try to squeeze in grocery time in my schedule. I find it de-stressing to do grocery. I also prefer to stay at home and watch movies just to divert myself from homesickness. Aside from that, I do have my journal where I get to share my everyday life stories.

What are the rewards of being an expat?

You get a different sense of fulfillment especially when you are able to conquer your greatest fears. During my stay here, I was able to know myself more and the things I am capable of doing independently. I learned to fight and win my battles alone. Being an expat made me discover my strongest side I never knew I had.