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An Immigrant Story: Manila to California

Immigration has been one of the most controversial ongoing topics in the modern world. Every year, millions of immigrants move to a new country for various reasons. The most common reason is continuous search for a better life abroad which makes immigration a poor man’s escape. Some are forced to move because of war and hostility in their home country while other attempt to achieve the American dream. The American Dream was coined by a famous writer James Truslow Adams. In his book, The Epic of America, he defined the American dream as ‘that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”(1). The American dream has been the driving force of every immigrants that have set destination to the United States. The idea has been passed down from generation to generation and has modified and evolved according to current expectations. The ideology started as a simple notion of getting ahead and attaining the goal and aspirations that their parents couldn’t get. Where I’m from, moving to the United States has been a dream for most people. However, despite all, moving to the United States was not all glitters and gold. Living abroad can be frightening for someone who is a stranger to a land of different culture and traditions. Because of the differences in culture, an immigrant also faces issues of discrimination on race, religion or any cultural construction. Throughout my experience, the overwhelming transition took a toll on my determination however I held out hope for a better experience that would match my imagination of a beautiful America.

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Like many others before us, we came to this country looking for a better life. For most Filipino immigrants, they leave their own country because they are discouraged by their country’s government system. Many of the country’s government officials are corrupt and there only limited benefits and opportunities the government can provide. In our case, we flew with a few suitcases of clothes, spare cash from my mother’s saving and an eagerness to cash out black checks of our imaginations. For my mother, it was a promise of unlimited opportunities for her two sons. On the other hand, my idea of America was medley of Hollywood movies, luxurious cars and glamorous lifestyle but that was not the case. Life in America was extreme difficult.

Before moving to America, I was born and raised in a very conservative country of the Philippines. In comparison to the United States, life was simpler. There was no access to opportunities which lowers the expectations of how someone should live their life. In addition, American lifestyle tend to be very fast pace and busy. Even kids have busy schedules with sports and lessons of various kinds. In contrast to the United States, everything seems to be moving slowly in the Philippines, including cashiers and any business transactions. Most business and government systems and processes are not streamlined and are not concerned with time. Filipinos are very patient and would wait for hours as opposed to Americans. Furthermore, being a traditionalist and religious country, everyone lives by theocratic rules which is one of the biggest culture shock I had encountered in the United States. American culture tends to be more individualistic and liberated. As a gay man, the LGBT community in the Philippines were merely tolerated in contrast to being fully accepted in California. Gay marriage, abortion and divorce to name a few are some examples that are not legal in the Philippines but are in the United States.

Although I did see opportunities of growth and development in the United States, adjusting was not a piece of cake. Aside from the culture shock, homesickness took a toll on me. Homesickness is often covered in expatriate literature within the framework of culture shock, a connected but different psychosocial reality linked to displacement. Research shows that homesickness is a big stressor which can cause ill-health in the people affected like depression, deficiencies in the immune system and even diabetes (Weissman and Paykel, 1973). As immigrants, we leave home in search of a future losing the past. During my first few months, I did not have anyone to talk to. It was a struggle communicating with my relatives and friends back home due to the time zone differences. At some point, I gave up and came to a conclusion that coping with a new culture, I would need to expand my social circle and build relationships that breathes and lives the American culture. As immigrants, you would think that one would find other immigrants in the foreign land given the fact that California had the largest number of Filipino immigrants(2). Personally, I distant myself from Filipinos since it bore an extreme sadness and nostalgia of my life in the Philippines. But as time past, I was able to cope with the homesickness. From time to time, I connect with my peers back at home through social media applications like Skype, Facetime and Facebook. In an article from the Guardian, author Gary Younge stated “Migrants, almost by definition, move with the future in mind. But their journeys inevitably involve excising part of their past”. Immigration is never an easy option. Leaving places and people behind always comes with a painful price.

Aside from the extreme homesickness, part of the culture adjustment was the language barrier. Language is one of the most common barriers immigrants face. Being able to communicate generally affects every aspect of life in which we have to interact with others. Learning a native language is essential from applying to jobs, schools or even finding your way around and buying food. Language barriers can affect access to education, communication with children’s school personnel, range of job opportunities or job advancement possibilities, and access to healthcare services (Partida, 2007). In my experience, having a Chinese father and Filipino mother, English has been the third language for me. Although I did have grasp of the language since it is widely used in the Philippines, my brain can only have so much space for vocabulary. It normally took time for me to fully process an information and organized a thought before I can properly respond which affected building relationships and communication. Despite the language issue, California specifically, has ESL programs and classes which harnessed non-native speaking immigrants which gave me an opportunity to improve and develop my English literacy.

The overwhelming transition had a significant impact on my psychologically, socially and emotionally however the learnings I got were rewarding. The trick to adjusting after moving to a new country is to embrace the changes. Moving to new country is scary yet exhilarating. One of the best parts of moving to a new country is getting to immerse yourself in an entirely different world than you are used to. As soon as I got settled in, I made a point to discover everything to acclimate myself to the new environment. I kept an open mind and explored various landmarks and attractions, eating local delicacies and creating a familiar and comforting space. In fact, I got my first job through a walk in interview as a retail associate in Japanese company while I was browsing malls in the area. Within a few months, I was able to build relationships and network with people through my job. I was able to embrace another culture through my job and adjust to a professional setting. While working, I also started looking for volunteer opportunities. Volunteering in a new country is a great way to meet people and learn more about issues that matter in the community. Working and volunteering gave me a sense of worth since I felt that I was part of the community. From then, I was able to save enough money to purchase a vehicle and used it to travel different cities and go out and socialize. As I get more comfortable with my environment, I developed an urge to constantly break out of my comfort zone and try new things. I, then left my job to pursue a new career as Human Resource for a Chinese company that teaches English to children in Beijing. While working full time, I decided to go back to school and pursue an Accounting degree. It was easy for me to attend college since my hometown was surrounded by several universities, however I decided to embrace discomfort and opt to move to a new environment in San Jose. Coming to the new city, I was able to used everything I learned moving abroad. I joined the Akbayan organization which promotes and embraces Filipino culture in the university. Aside from embracing new culture, there is value in joining expat communities in your own country. It creates a sense of belonging surrounding yourself with people that share the same culture as you. Aside from that, I am currently working as an Orientation Leader at San Jose State University assisting incoming freshmen, transfer students and their families in their transition and adjustment to the university. Given the struggles I had transitioning living abroad, I wanted to share everything I learned from my experience and make it easier for people to embrace change since it is part of life. To learn something new starts with taking a step out of your comfort zone and having an open mind.

Moreover, a successful life in a new country is most often the result of consistent execution of good habits; however, immigrants use destructive habits that are not suitable in the new country. These old habits recur and jeopardize you from accomplishing your goals. Accustomed to these habits, some immigrants refuse to adopt American lifestyles in their homes and control the culturalization of their children. Today, children of immigrants are struggling to adapt to the new environment which then results to losing their sense of individuality and inability to cope with various challenges. Moving to a new environment comes with removing yourself with old habits and being open to new ones that suits the new environment

Moving to a new environment is definitely an act of courage. Living abroad in particular can be daunting because of the barriers and potential issues of unemployment, not getting support from the government, mainly because of being seen as part of a minority group. Immigration in the United States in particular, has been the subject of most political issues especially since the election of President Donald Trump who is expressed his disapproval of immigrants in the United States. Luckily, I was blessed to move in a state where immigrants are protected, and diversity thrives. I was able to interact with different people from various cultures and see the world in non-traditional perspective.

Migrating to a different county is quite an experience, be it moving in search of a greener pastures, feeling from political unrest or even for the sake of adventure. It will always be accompanied by change. One must have an open mind to change to adapt and new cultures and environment in order to get the most out of your experience. My overwhelming transition definitely took a toll on my determination however taught me valuable lesson and held out hope for a better experience that matched my imagination of a beautiful America.


  1. Adams, J, The Epic of America, Boston : Little, Brown, and Co., 1931.
  2. Stoney S, and Batalova J. Filipino Immigrants in the United States, Commission on Filipino Overseas. Retrieved from https://www.cfo.gov.ph/news/from-overseas-filipinos/588-filipino-immigrants-in-the-united-states2.html
  3. Hack-Polay, D. When Home Isn’t Home – A Study of Homesickness and Coping Strategies among Migrant Workers and Expatriates. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272804990_When_Home_Isn’t_Home_-_A_Study_of_Homesickness_and_Coping_Strategies_among_Migrant_Workers_and_Expatriates . 347-349
  4. Weissman, M. M., & Paykel, E. S. (1973). Moving and depression in women. New York: Basic Books
  5. Younge, G (2015) “As migrants we leave home in search of a future, but we lose the past”, The Guardian. Retreived from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/24/migrants-leave-home-future-past-borders
  6. Partida, Y. (2007). Addressing Language Barriers: Building Response Capacity for a Changing Nation; Hablamos Juntos II – Language Policy and Practice in Healthcare. Society of General Internal Medicine, 22, (PDF)
  7. Mueller, L. (2018) Getting Adjusted After Moving to a New Country. Retreived from https://www.moving.com/tips/getting-adjusted-after-moving-new-country/

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An Immigrant Story: Manila to California
Immigration has been one of the most controversial ongoing topics in the modern world. Every year, millions of immigrants move to a new country for various reasons. The most common reason is continuous search for a better life abroad which makes immigration a poor man’s escape. Some are forced to move because of war and hostility in their home country while other attempt to achieve the American dream. The American Dream was coined by a famous writer James Truslow Adams. In his book, The Epic o
2021-10-25 05:01:10
An Immigrant Story: Manila to California
$ 13.900 2018-12-31
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