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Taking A Step In The Right Direction

Living abroad for years on end can be challenging for some, but It doesn’t have to be, and quite frankly, it shouldn’t. The challenges can be seemingly endless, isolating, and life-changing at times.

As I mentioned in my previous article, “Not taking anything for granted” I came to a point where worry and fear became all-consuming, touching all aspects of my life. The first few steps I took to break through that cover of helplessness was to

Take a step back, breathe and slow down.

Throughout my time in the PNW, I came to appreciate a handful of lessons from friends and people around me.

Here is a list of the ones that stood out to me the most:

  • If you never ask, you never know

  • It takes a village.

  • Keep moving forward and take a step in the right direction.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was finding a job throughout the last few terms of my Master’s program. To say that it was exhausting would be an understatement. As an international student in the US, I had to meet specific requirements to stay within the regulations of so many institutions, programs, and sponsors, not to forget that it was at the start of the pandemic!

I thought having a few degrees (a BA, MA & TESOL certification), publishing in the field, being bilingual, winning and completing three full-ride scholarships, among other achievements, both academic and personal, would’ve made me a strong candidate. However, as an international student, all that hard work comes to a halt when you have to answer two of the most challenging questions on a job application.

  • Are you authorized to work in the US?

  • Will you now or in the future require a visa sponsorship?

With what I knew back then, I realized that my application wasn’t even being looked at by a human being, let alone looking at my resume. I was getting automatic rejections almost instantaneously.

Sitting down for hours and hours writing cover letters, updating my resume, and working on my Master’s degree all at the same time, was stressful and seemingly unproductive, and I had to change my strategy.

To a degree, part of what makes me who I am today is knowing some of my strengths, weaknesses, and limits. Asking for help when I need it isn’t something that I am shy about, and that’s primarily thanks to Kim Brown, one of the most influential people in my life. She always said,

If you never ask, you never know.”

That could be asking the right person or the right question, but the takeaway here is to ask!. I realized that people want to help, and they enjoy being part of one’s journey of upward mobility.

It’s as simple as that.

Another life lesson that I learned from Kim was that change is a collective effort. We don’t live in a bubble; the world is a small village.

The pandemic uncovered that to the world, demonstrating the truth of our interconnectedness through clear evidence; for example, the supply chain disturbance, food, and medical supply shortages, to name a few things. On so many levels, we are all connected, both directly and indirectly.

She Always reminded us that,

“It takes a village.”

It certainly does. Understanding that it takes a village is another lesson that kept proving its value over time, through evidence and life events. I came to love and try to live by that mindset.

Sure, everyone has to put in their efforts to engage in the change they want to see and be. But again, we don’t live in a vacuum, and I doubt that we ever will anytime soon.

Change comes from challenges, and one form of change is adaptability. It comes in numerous shapes, sizes, and degrees. However, one thing that adaptability isn’t is stagnation.

I used to see challenges as locked doors or walls that I must climb over. Challenges were things I had to navigate around and overcome. Though this view is not wrong, it’s not an efficient one either because I tried to bite more than I could chew at that moment.

Change requires action. It doesn’t have to be grand, and sometimes, a step is more than enough.

Evan Balbier was and still is one of the people I learned a lot from about many things in my personal and professional life. The one lesson that stuck with me was that no matter what the challenges are,

“Keep moving forward and take a step towards the right direction.”

Photograph by Abe Alkhamees

The last thing you want to do is take a step back. Instead, move forward and, most importantly, know why you need to keep moving forward.

All the hours I spent applying for jobs I thought I was a strong candidate for were met with either rejection emails or not even hearing back from employers. I know that’s normal; however, it can get discouraging very quickly.

“I keep getting rejection emails, and I’m not sure what to do about this,” I said.
“keep moving forward” he said.

And that’s what I did.

Many of the lingering feelings I used to get after applying for any position slowly dwindled, one application after another. It’s not that I stopped caring or lost interest in the process. Instead, I stopped allowing myself to be stuck or hung up over any position I applied for.

When I kept moving forward, I gained so much time back by not worrying about what was and focusing on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.

The lesson behind moving forward is understanding that you’ve done what you are supposed to do. Now you have to move forward to the next step, whether that’s filling out another application, writing your next cover letter, or even something much bigger than that.

Having a positive and curious mindset can make any road you’re walking take you to where you need to be.

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