“Being an ITE graduate in the 90s was like an outcast of society. A lack of prospects and job opportunities were the main factors I left Singapore. I did not want to let an educational certificate determine my future of working as a secretary or in administrative work forever.”
Transitioning, a website founded by socio-political activist Gilbert Goh that offers support for the unemployed, interviewed a feisty young lady who managed to make a new life for herself in the United States.
Jess, who is now married with 2 kids, left for the US when she was 24 years old to be with her then-boyfriend.
Tossed out on the street when the relationship soured, she managed to adapt and thrive.
This is Transitioning’s interview with Jess:
“Each year, about 10,000 Singaporeans study and work abroad and many never want to return to a pressure-cooker environment whereby transport is a hassle with frequent break-down and more damagingly the ultra-expensive cost of living coupled with our super-low corporate wages.
Meet Jess who went to the US at the age of 24 armed only with a ITE (its-the-end) certificate and never look back.
After living in the US for more than 10 years (green-carded), married now with two kids and having a thriving career, she still yearns for the day to return home when her kids grow up.
Transitioning: Describe abit about yourself e.g. personal particulars, educational qualification, work experience.
Jess: ‘I once was lost but now am found’ – This phrase sums up who I am. I am in my early 40s. I work in a fairly new industry as a Scheduler/Recruiter in an all American company based in Georgia specializing in market surveys (mystery shopping).
I can say that I am a very adaptive person and dare to be different. I branched out into a new industry which is relatively unheard off in Asia and has only been around for about 25 years in the US. I am good with people and I scheduled hundreds of people off to work in mystery shopping monthly.
My educational qualification I would say is not fancy. The only business related education I got was from ITE Bishan. I graduated with a Certificate in Business Studies (Secretarial Practice). While in the US, I completed a Christian Counselling associated degree with Liberty University at Lynchburg, VA.
Transitioning: Where are you living now and why do you choose that location?
Jess: I live in Pennsylvania and I stumbled upon where I live now by chance (destiny).
Transitioning: Did you face any adjustment problem initially when you make the move? Any regrets so far?
Jess: I arrived with only $500 in my pocket, initially hoping that by following an ex-boyfriend to US when he got posted back, that I would be living a happily-ever-after life with him but it did not turn out as I hoped. We broke up and he threw me out on the street with my belongings about a month after I arrived.
As determined that I was, I made up my mind that I am not returning to Singapore in this state of despair and be a laughing stock so I stayed. I met a Christian family who took me in and let me stay for free in their house for about 6 months so that I can get started. I adapted and made many adjustments, being bilingual was a great asset for me and I landed a job with a Chinese manufacturing company which hired me and went on to sponsor a US permanent residency (greencard) for me. I worked with them for about 12 years. I have no regrets leaving Singapore and eventually have a family in US. However, my packing up and left with a boyfriend was not the best example to follow (haha..)
Transitioning: How is the family coping currently? Are they happy or do they want to move back to Singapore?
Jess: I was 24 and single when I arrived in the US so my family did not come with me when I arrived. In fact, I got married and formed my family here. Currently, I am happily married with two children a boy and a girl age 12 and 8 years old respectively. They are happy to visit their grandparents in Singapore but unwilling to move back for now. I will leave them to decide for themselves when they get older.
Transitioning: What precious lessons did you learn from living abroad? Will you do it again if given the choice?
Jess: The precious lessons I learn while living abroad is no job is too below me as long as it is an honest living. I learnt to be humble, accepting of imperfections and that I must love what I do in order to enjoy work. The dollar amount is insignificant.
Transitioning: Was it difficult to get jobs while staying abroad? Describe your job search experience and how different it is from Singapore.
Jess: My job search was easy because there were many church people helping me get started and referring me to suitable jobs. I was able to get a job relatively fast because I was effectively bilingual. To this I give the Singapore education system great credit for providing me with such a good bilingual (English/Chinese) language education.
To this day, my language skill is still being utilized even in an all American company where they will have client projects translation for me to work on.
Transitioning: Do you want to return to Singapore eventually or prefer to settle down in your new place permanently?
Jess: I hope to return one day, when the children are grown.
Transitioning: What are your main reasons for wanting to move overseas?
Jess: Being an ITE graduate in the 90s was like an outcast of society. A lack of prospects and job opportunities were the main factors I left Singapore. I did not want to let an educational certificate determine my future of working as a secretary or in administrative work forever. I was very determined to leave. Young and wild.”