Living away from home

by Benjamin Aritao (Philippines)

The prospect of living and studying in another country seems to be a universally exciting thing. The idea of ‘going away’ is so uplifting when we are planning our vacations Fresh experiences and new perspectives are in the horizon when one is about to travel. And after travelling, I’ve never heard anyone say they wished they did not do so or did not meet people from other countries. Nor have I heard anyone say that it was a waste of either time or money. Practically everyone loves to travel.

If we take that excitement and sprinkle some of the sobering thoughts of practical day to day existence, we have a nice mix of fear and adventure. That is what I carried ever since I knew my wife and I could come to Seattle for our respective Master’s in Law. With such a wonderful opportunity ahead, I wanted to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. Then eventually I had to deal with practical matters. We had to arrange for other attorney’s to take care of our client’s on-going concerns. We had to sell our half-paid for car. We had to deal with the almost infinite little details that involve the universally unpleasant event of moving.

A Master’s Degree is a great professional achievement and fits nicely into a resume. It is the primary reason for transplanting our lives. Yet, I get a sneaky feeling that an equal amount of or even more long-lasting lessons will be learned simply by being away from home for an extended period. Seeing how other people live, work and play gives an immediate and almost unavoidable opportunity for learning.

A practically automatic comparison seems to happen for me on a daily basis. When I’m thinking actively I compare traffic regulations, security policies and the apparent allocation of resources. Passively, I compare the price of a big-mac, parking or gasoline. The comparisons are endless and so are the lessons learned.

One of the things I noticed quickly is how bus transportation can actually be pleasant and preferred. This is extremely apparent to me as I’m from a country with a public transportation system that is insufficient to meet the needs of the population. The experience is so distressing and intolerable that almost everyone will prefer private transportation even though it is significantly more expensive. The result is traffic jams, pollution and excessive dependence on foreign oil.

It didn’t take too long to find some cool similarities between Metro Manila and Seattle. The beer is excellent and folks love to drink it. I am fully convinced that great life lessons will come from things that seem as ordinary as a bottle of beer or even while simply enjoying some with new friends.

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