Top 5 Pros of Living Abroad (No Cons Here)

During my summer internship in Jakarta, a former colleague from Unilever, Dorothy, asked me if she was “missing out” because she wasn’t living abroad. She then asked me to be more specific, “Can you give me the top five points?”

While I was reading her message on Viber, I was inside a car travelling from Sentul city to central Jakarta. I had just met with an INSEAD adjunct professor and participated as a teaching assistant in her EMBA session with SVPs from one of the biggest banks in Indonesia.

I was in a reflective and positive mood at how life was so random. So, I decided to just respond as unfiltered and as quickly as possible. Before I list these down for you, let me do a quick recap on my journey.

My pre-INSEAD experience was not very international.

My name is Drew Copuyoc, a proud and optimistic Filipino. I was born, raised and worked in the Philippines. Unlike a lot of my INSEAD classmates, I had spent the first 28 years of my life living and working in my country. I did, however, spend six months living and working in Hong Kong, right before INSEAD. 

sunrise

At the time of my conversation with Dorothy, I had lived in Fontainebleau, France for four months (P1 & P2 at INSEAD), lived in Singapore for two months (P3) and lived in Jakarta for two months (summer internship). To me, this was just a part of the typical INSEAD rollercoaster experience. But I digressed.(of course to promote this awesome B-school). 

So, here goes, my top five pros of living abroad: 

  1. Getting out of comfort zone: Moving into a new home by myself, adjusting to a new living situation, commuting to work, facing the daunting challenge of making new friends at work and outside work.
  2. Seeing how things are done, businesses are run and how people live in other countries. Realising and appreciating how similar and different they are to the Filipino way of life.
  3. There’s this satisfying feeling of walking around in a new neighbourhood knowing that I'm alone and anonymous in a sea full of strangers. And for me, that was my choice and a big plus since I get to recharge as an introvert. When I get to go home, I expel my extroverted side as I go out and have catch-ups with various small groups of friends.
  4. Feeling that each day is not wasted. Even if I’m just at home in Jakarta, wasting my weekend, watching Star Trek Discovery or re-watching Marvel movies on Netflix, at least, I’m doing it in a different place. 
  5. Pragmatically-speaking, I think it’s a big positive for my career. This is extra applicable for Southeast Asians in general where multinationals give an extra premium for international experience.

Dorothy then asked, “Are those reasons really true or do you have a biased outlook?”

Here’s my response, “Well, these are good things for sure, but not necessarily better than staying and living in the Philippines. At least I get to judge which I like better: living in my home country or living outside my comfort zone. It’s experiencing for the sake of experience.” 

Honestly, I don’t know where I’ll end up after my graduation in December 2019. It could be in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, back home in Manila, or even all the way in Europe.

For a Southeast Asian like me, I’m overflowing with optimism and joy that this MBA experience has broadened my options. Equally as important, the experience has also made me appreciate my home country, my roots and my Filipino-ness even more. And that’s amazing if you ask me.

INSEAD friends

A couple of INSEADers enjoying Kareoke at Central Jakarta