What they don’t tell you about being young OFW

Do not teach anyone how to fly if you will not let him/her soar — that’s the thing that I always tell to myself. Undoubtedly, I grew up full of enthusiasm of “what could be” in life. When you’re young (I still am haha), you think you’re invincible. The world is for you to conquer.

Few months after I graduated in college last year, I pushed through what I have always wanted to do — get out of the country with the hope of making it to the world in my own hard work.

And I did. I went to Dubai in August 2016 to fulfill that goal. But little did I know, it wasn’t the same with the image I was forming in my head. You’ll probably relate to any of the following:

You knew it would be hard but you didn’t know it would be THAT HARD.

Yes, that totally makes sense!

You probably have family, relatives, and friends who are OFWs. Each of them may have had shared to you all the things that they have gone through and probably still go through while working abroad. And you, again, as young as you are, you may think that they’re just not handling the situation quite well. You think that they should have known already even before they signed up for that life.

And then you get your fair share of hardships. You then realize that it was exactly the situation that they have been trying to describe.

You CRIED MORE within limited amount of time you spent abroad than you did your whole entire life back home.

You know that feeling when you’re lying on your bed or just sitting inside the bathroom, and then tears just roll down your face uncontrollably. Your head may be empty, and you do not know what exactly you’re crying about but you continue to cry anyway. Cry in the most silent way you could possibly do — just so your housemates wouldn’t know about it.

When things do not go the way you want them to be, and you have nothing to do but deal with it: cry. When you get extremely exhausted of basically just everything that comprises the life you’re having as young OFW: cry. When existing does not seem to make sense anymore: cry. Or even when just little things like not having much choice when it comes to your meals: cry.

Crying has basically become part of your (almost) every day routine. You do it often that it becomes like a workout haha.

More applications = More chances of winning.. is how you go when applying for work.

You know those jobs you don’t imagine yourself to take but still apply for it for as long as they’re decent. You just can’t be choosy when in abroad. The goal is to get a company to take care of your working / residence visa before your tourist / visit visa expires.

“Ang bata mo pa. Ba’t ka nandito?” 

At 22, there I was trying my luck in a big city. Some people have a preset image of what an OFW should likely be, and that includes his/her age. It’s rare to see someone who just got off from college.

“Di ka man lang nag enjoy muna sa Pinas.”

“Wala ka naman siguro pinapa-aral.”

“Ang tapang ha. Bata bata pa, nag abroad na.”

And the list continues to expand.

You fall into extreme pressure and embarrassment when you’re still unemployed because people think you’re wasting time and resources abroad.

You probably have received countless of “I told you..” lines when you’re still unemployed abroad. Every now and then, people ask you how you’re doing, and all you can do is to go incognito as much as possible.

When a message pops out, you don’t bother opening it, and just choose to delete it right away. It’s the only way you could spare yourself from further pressure and embarrassment.

During this stage, you start to see yourself as a failure. It’s not like you can’t really make it but the words you get just start to get into you.

Ginusto mo ‘to. Panindigan mo ‘to.

You’re already there. There’s no other way but move forward. A lot of things have already been sacrificed, and you can’t afford to step backward. The focus is to prove people you can actually make it.

The competition is extremely tight.

Every job post online is like sweets; just minutes exposed and the ants flock automatically. Each job post you see online gets at least a hundred applicants. Wondering if you’d get in? Do the math.

You may get a job and may be earning another currency but your status remains BROKE FOREVER.

Almost every thing is jut insanely expensive especially in big countries, and I am not even exaggerating. Bed space? That costs an average of 10,000 PHP when converted. And oh, don’t get me started with other expenses / bills that you have to address every single month. You may be able to save some; the feeling remains like it’s just break even.

You pretty have no time for other activities. It’s all work work work.

Lucky you are if you enjoy two days off in a week. Consider yourself like you hit the jackpot if that’s the case. Because in reality, a lot of OFWs only have ONE day off.

What happens during the day off? You sleep until almost lunch, attend to your laundry and organize your things in the afternoon. Before you know it, the day is about to end. And you basically do the same things every single week. Yourself could hardly even breathe.

Holidays are precious not because you could go on vacation, but just because you could have rest.

Again, you’re broke. Vacation just does not exist in your dictionary. Holidays only mean you finally have extra time to at least get that much needed rest.

People think you’re living a lavish life but in reality just living a poor expat life.

Again and again, you’re broke. Even sleep is considered a luxurious thing when you’re an OFW.

You are your own nurse in abroad.

Lucky you are if you live with family and/or relatives while in abroad just like my case because at least there would other people who could look after you when you’re sick. But any in case, master how to be your own nurse as those people you live with also have their own lives to attend to, and you can’t be another baggage.


My close friends and people who follow my pages know that I have settled back in my hometown, and have cut my OFW life short. I was lucky to have been able to turn my then-full-time work into freelance. I still do the same work but just outside of a formal office setting. Right now, I am in Graduate School pursuing a Master degree while taking a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Even just for less than a year, I could say I have had my fair share of ups and downs while in abroad. My huge respect for everyone in the OFW community. I hope people in the Philippines give so much value to them.

Life outside the country isn’t always glamorous. Blood, sweat, and tears are what comprise the support they send back home to their families.

I am not dismissing the idea of going out again in the future. Like what I said, “Don’t teach anyone how to fly if you do not want him/her to soar.”

I was taught how to fly. And one day, hopefully I will soar up high. The world is indeed ours to conquer.

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