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Why leaving home made me a better person

Carene Chong

Fri Mar 21 2014

leaving home

LEAVING everything you know and love behind for a better future in a foreign land can be tough, but Carene Chong knows better than most that the story can have a happy ending. 

Let’s get off on the right foot. I don’t have any family issues or problems with my home country, Malaysia. Au contraire, my family means the world to me, as does my hometown, which made my decision to leave home that much tougher.

Like so many other 19 or 20 year olds, I was in search of a better future and education. So I packed my bags, bid my family a teary farewell, hopped on a plane and began my brand new adventure in the Land Down Under.

Fast forward seven years and I’m still in Melbourne, but no longer as a student who relies on fast food to survive. I’m employed full-time and paying off my own apartment.

These past years haven’t been easy, but I’m convinced leaving home is one of the best decisions a person can make. Trust me.

You become more grateful

No matter how much we love our parents, there is a point in our young lives when we wish we could break away from them. The constant nagging, curfews, rules and expectations take their toll sometimes.

Living under the same roof makes you lose appreciation for what they do for you. Cooking your meals becomes a standard expectation that if, one day it doesn’t happen, your world turns upside down.

I remember when I left home, I was sadder than anything else but at the same time, I felt a pinch of excitement at my soon-to-be-unearthed freedom.The first few weeks were thrilling. No curfews. I was eating whatever I wanted, going anywhere I wished to go. I felt unstoppable.

Then homesickness kicked in. I started missing everything from my mum’s home-cooked food to pats on the back, laughs and casual chats with my loved ones and just simply lying on my comfy couch channel surfing. The flood gates would open every time I heard ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘family’ or ‘home’. I had never felt so much love and appreciation for my family.

The same applies vice versa. Without the privilege of three-month-long school holidays, I only visit my parents once a year. When I touch down at the airport and see my favorite faces in the world, there’s no mistaking the joy as we embrace in warm, tight hugs.

The amount of times I have hugged and kissed my parents in the past few years far surpasses the amount of times I embraced them in the first 18 years of my life.

You grow up. Big time.

I had no idea how to fry an egg before I came to Australia.

While there is an endless range of fantastic food in Melbourne, there’s no way you can rely on fast food every day especially when you have a tight budget to stick to. Extreme times call for extreme measures, so you do the next best thing. Get into the kitchen and whip up a meal.

I now love experimenting with different ingredients, cuisines and whenever I come up with a great meal, I feel incredibly satisfied. I can’t guarantee the same experience for everyone, but at the end of the day, you can at the very least say you’ve learnt to make a dish or two for yourself.

I’m not just talking about cooking, but doing general chores like setting up a bank account, paying bills, doing laundry and going everywhere without anyone holding your hand.

I used to be so dependent that even the thought of talking to strangers made me sweat. Now, talking to strangers is an everyday task for me as a journalist. You’d be truly surprised at how much a year or two can change you.

You see the world in a whole different light

see world differently

Meeting new people and learning about different cultures is just part of the experience. Photo: FLEECIRCUS via Flickr

Wherever you decide to reside in the world, you’re bound to come across different cultures. At first, you might experience culture shock. I did when I descended upon Australia.I found people were chattier, friendlier and a bit wilder. Random strangers would throw me a casual, “hello”, which never happens back home.

Passengers next to me on the train would strike up conversations and at first I didn’t know how to respond. I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable speaking to a stranger, but I didn’t want to be rude so I tried to respond the best I could. It was awkward, but I was glad I tried. I’ve found that now I’m more open to chatting with anyone and everyone. This is coming from a girl who used to freak out over contact with a stranger.

You develop appreciation and pride for your own culture. I’ve shared my experiences growing up in Malaysia with my local friends or colleagues and they’ve expressed awe at the Malaysians’ ability to understand and speak an array of languages. You start to think all those years you slaved away at school back home were totally worth it.

If you have been thinking of living away from home, stop dreaming and start packing!

For those of you who have already taken the giant step, don’t panic. It’s understandably tough at first, but it’ll all work out well in the end. Hang in there as the best phase of your life is just around the corner!

Do you think moving away from home has changed your life? Share below.