This month on Alumni in the Spotlight, we spoke to Joy who now have been in Singapore for 7 months on how she got here, what is she doing now, why did she choose Singapore, and what are some of the challenges of moving to a completely new country.
For those young in their career and also looking to make a move either to Singapore or to a new country anytime soon, Joy's tips will truly help you in looking ahead and what's to expect!
M: How long are you out of school now and what were you doing before you got to Singapore?
J: I graduated from McGill back in December 2014 so it's been roughly 3 years out of school! It feels like it was just yesterday when I was still hanging around Cybertheque and Trottier, cramming away at exams. Before Singapore, I moved back to my hometown Vancouver and worked at a corporate insurance company for about 2 years doing online marketing and acquisition for consumer marketing. Before that, I worked in Montreal for a bit and backpacked around Europe for a little while as well.
M: Everyone's favourite question, what made you decide to come to Singapore?
J: I get asked this all the time being an expat! Well, I knew I wasn't going to stay in Vancouver long after I moved back, I knew I wanted to work elsewhere, either in the states or in Asia. I chose 3 cities I wanted to live in - New York, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and started to look for jobs in those cities. To be honest, it was a bit difficult for me to get visa sponsorship to work in the states but to my surprise, a great opportunity actually came up in Singapore and I just couldn't say no. I realized that moving to Asia for a couple of years to work wouldn't be so bad in my career right now so I took the chance and went for it!
I've been to Singapore just once for a week while backpacking around South East Asia but it never left a huge impression on me. I did like how it was the perfect middle-ground between Asia, North America, and Europe, and a lot of companies had their regional headquarters here. Not to mention, it's a great hub for travelling around the area!
M: What were some of the biggest challenges before and after arriving in Singapore?
J: WEATHER, everyone warned me before I left but I wasn't too scared about it. When I arrived at Changi, I got lucky because it was one of those more colder, breezier days. Little did I know what I was in for a week later when it became unbearably hot and humid. Another one of my biggest concern was definitely setting up banking. My company helped in whatever they can but nothing could be done before arriving. After arriving, it was even worse! The local banks here are very strict about what you provide to them to open accounts so I had to go back to the same bank 3 times just to get a debit card. I could get into details but that would make me livid. I ended up getting the OCBC 360 current account. Getting a credit card was a lot easier but you had to wait for maybe 3 months or so before you can get one (that you really want), to show that you have proof of income from payslips. I ended up with the Citi Premier Miles one, which is great for travelling! Another huge worry was probably the anxiety of not loving the job you moved across the world for. I think this has to do with an even more heightened expectation of what it could be rather than what it should be, and sometimes you just need to make sure your expectations are managed to avoid being disappointed.
Career aside, another challenge/worry I had was not being able to make friends. To be honest, once I found some expats to hang out with, every time I hang out with them, I always meet someone new! There is a huge but also small expat community here from North America, so it's really easy to find the right crowd and make long-lasting friendships. I do find that Singapore is a very transient country so people move around a lot and go away for travelling quite a bit. It is sometimes a challenge for friendships to blossom because people are always away so much.
M: What are you up to now and how do you like it so far?
J: I'm now doing new business, growth, and marketing for a media & advertising agency. I'm enjoying the work I'm doing and the company itself is global and has great potential ahead. And I have to say, when I first moved here, I wasn't really feeling it. I think it had a lot to do with my living situation. The first month was provided as a part of my relocation package but after that, I had to move into my own place. I choose a huge 2-storey condo with 7 bedrooms, BAD IDEA! This meant most of the time, the housemates were short-term and we all just kept to ourselves. I really didn't feel at home when I went home and this perpetuated the negativity I had with moving over. But November came and one of my good friends from University also decided to move to Singapore, we then decided to house together and now I live in a 3-br with her and another mutual friend. The people you live with matters so much and I'm super grateful to have them as roommates, they make me feel much more at home now!
M: What has been your favourite part of Singapore so far, how do you spend your free time?
J: I truly believe Singapore has a lot to offer, you just have to find it and explore outside of where you live. Singapore is small but everyone just huddles around the central areas so it's easy to become complacent. Singapore tries really hard to have cultural events around town like Pop Up Cinemas, Night Light Shows, Festivals, etc.. there are so many going on every week, so just going on Facebook and searching for events around your area will get you many results. It helps that the weather is mostly good everyday here. Having local friends also help as they will take you to local delicacies and areas you've never thought of going to. I also spend my free time getting away as often as I can, this was also what I did back in Vancouver. I try to either get away for weekend trips or tack on more leave days onto public holidays. I just got back from a week in Phuket and Chiang Rai, Thailand for Chinese New Year holiday!
M: Awesome! Wrapping up this chat, what are some tips you would give to people who are looking to move to a new country?
J: If you want to move, try to make sure you have a job in the country you want to move to as it will make things a whole lot easier. Because your health insurance at your new job might not have kicked in yet, try to get travel insurance before you leave your home country so you're at least covered for some time before your local insurance kicks in. Lastly, do your research on areas to live and how housing contracts work in the country you're moving to so you're prepared and won't get ripped off by agents. Don't stress out too much and have fun while you're going through the whole process, it will be scary but it will be a great decision because you chose to make it!
Hope all of these were helpful in helping you decide where you want to go next!