5 things I wish I knew (Or someone told me) when I arrived in America
Moving to a new country is one of the biggest decisions that an individual can make in their life.Imagine leaving behind everything that is familiar to you – Family,friends and culture.I previously wrote here about my journey to america and how excited I was for this new chapter in my life.The new country becomes a part of you – a second home and how well you adjust determines if you succeed or pack your bags and return back home.
As much as I thought I was prepared for the opportunities ahead of me, I was not fully prepared for the challenges.I made lots of mistakes as most people do when they move to a new country.
However,I am grateful for all the lessons that the mistakes taught me.I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for all the numerous mistakes that I made.Don’t be afraid to make them.
Here are 5 things I wish I knew (Or someone told me) before I moved to America.
1.Network and find a mentor-Most people who immigrate to a new country are drawn to those they can easily relate to.This tends to be mostly people from their own country,continent or those who share some similarities.
While there is nothing wrong with that and makes you comfortable,it doesn’t mean that these groups are best for you and you should be spending tremendous time with them.Get out of your comfort zone and socialize while networking with people from different ethnicities, groups or countries.Be open minded, tolerant and appreciate others who might not look or act like you.You will grow as a person and it will make you a better well rounded individual.
The U.S is a big melting point of individuals from all over the world.Your personal and professional life will be enhanced by the relationships you form with diverse people.
2.Save and invest money – Life in the U.S moves fast.You have bills to pay,multiple obligations which need your attention and it seems that money is never enough.However there is no substitute to saving and investing your money.(no matter how little).
Emergencies are almost guaranteed in our lives and a safety cushion will protect you during these tough times.You might need to pay for your education,buy a house or start a business.It is easier to do these things with money you have saved than get into debt.
I wish I had started to save and invest little amounts of money as soon as I got here but nobody advised me.Although it is never too late to start,the power of compounding interest works in your favor when you start early.To illustrate the difference in accumulating wealth when you start to invest earlier check out this Business insider graph
3.Don’t drop out of school – Many immigrants dream of going to college either to earn their undergraduate,graduate or doctorate degrees.They recognize that education plays a part in their career success.The biggest barrier to attaining education in America is the cost.International students can expect to pay sometimes upto ten times what native citizens pay in tuition.
With many other obligations this becomes an uphill task for many immigrants.Most are not allowed to apply for grants,scholarships or student loans.Many start and drop out of college never to return ,while others take a break in order to save money for tuition.
I found out that it becomes extremely tough to get back and focus on your studies once you take a break.Not to forget that tuition also keeps rising as you wait.My personal opinion is that immigrants form groups and pool their resources together to help those who want to go to school.Once they graduate and find employment ,they should repay the money for the next group of student borrowers and also offer their expertise where needed.
4.Don’t neglect your family-We can choose our friends,but we can’t choose our family.Family will always be there for you through good and bad.Although some families are dysfunctional,you can not completely disassociate yourself from them. (Maybe fake your own death?)
Make sure to stay in touch and if you are lucky to have them near you,take time to spend time with them. In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,studies have shown that the number one regret of people on their deathbed is not spending enough time with their loved ones.Don’t let work or other obligations take most of your time while neglecting those close to you.
5.Be yourself– This might seem like an obvious statement in life but I found it to be useful after several years living in the U.S.When I came here,I was young and naive and had never lived on my own nor made major decisions for myself.
I came from a culture and country that believes in conformity and communal relationships for the greater good.I am not saying there is anything wrong with being part of a community who shares the sames values and traditions with you – the only problem is neglecting your individualism.
I had friends who only imitated what the majority were doing e.g in a career,where to live or how to live.I spent so much of my time listening and following other people’s opinions that I lost my authenticity and essence of who I truly was.It took me a few years to get tired of living other people’s expectations.
Nowadays,I stay true to myself and it has brought me far more joy than before.Life is too short to live to other people’s expectations and as the saying goes “if you follow in others footsteps,you will never leave your behind”.Make your own way and leave your own footsteps.
Have you moved to a new country?What are some challenges or things you wished you knew before moving?