Diana is from Egypt but moved to the USA in 2016. She has been living there ever since.
This is her expat story.
Tell us about your expat move.
I’m from Egypt. I had the opportunity to move to the United States a few years ago and although this was a very promising opportunity, it was also a very challenging step to take. Moving to a new country on my own meant leaving all my comfort zones behind and stepping into the unknown.
It took me some time to be able to make that decision; I started by identifying my fears, my convictions, weighing the costs and benefits and I discussed them with people that I trust. Then I decided to move!
What did you find were the best ways of making friends as an expat abroad?
I found the best ways of making new friends was through identifying what you care about most, finding your hobbies and interests, and then looking for events where you meet people with the same interests.
What have been some of the biggest highlights from your expat journey so far?
A lot of events have happened the last 4 years, both good and bad.
The biggest highlights for me are:
- I got to know who I really am. Through the hard times, I learnt how to pick myself up and motivate myself. Through the good times, I learnt how to celebrate the wins and remind myself of them later on because that fed my hope in the tough days.
- My faith was strengthened. It has been my true anchor.
- My views and how I perceive the World have changed dramatically.
- My job has allowed me to learn and grow so much. I’ve learnt so much about the North America market, which is very different than the Middle East market in terms of its needs and how it is evolving. My skills have developed as well and I’m very thankful for all the challenges that I’ve faced in my job that have allowed me to challenge myself, acquire new skills, learn and improve.
What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
Missing home is the biggest challenge for me. Trying to create a new support system is also challenging. Accepting the change that is happening around you, engaging with the new culture and meeting new people are also a few of the challenges.
What do you miss about your home country?
My friends and family and the delicious Egyptian Food; Molokhya, Koshary, Fetir and Mahshy. I crave them all the time!
How much do you enjoy your role in Cigna?
I love it! Meeting with clients and brokers is something that I enjoy very much. Learning about their business needs and consulting with them on how we can help them achieve their goals is very rewarding.
Also, it’s amazing to work for a company that truly cares about its employees, clients and customers. Everyone at Cigna speaks the same language: “Caring”. That is a beautiful culture to be a part of. I’m thankful for my mentor, Mechelle Young. I’ve learned a lot from her and she’s been a great support. The trust and encouragement from management at Cigna really goes a long way.
What advice would you give to those who are considering making an expat move?
It’s important to create a new support system that will help you deal with the change. Find time for your hobbies and your interests! This way you’ll be creating “a new home and a sense of familiarity” in the new country.
Every year, write down your wins, how you’ve grown; the things that you thought you wouldn’t be able to do, but did and your achievements and read that list whenever you need to. It will help!
Be your own motivator. Encourage yourself and be proud of the journey that you’re on. Help others and give back to the community. This is the most rewarding thing that you can do!
We mostly move to a new country for a job opportunity which is great and valuable but that shouldn’t be the only thing we’re centred on. Back home, we had our circles that we gave into like our friends and family. When we move, it’s different and so it’s important to create those circles, because our true purpose and joy comes from giving others.
What would be the one piece of advice you wish you’d known before moving?
I think having a better understanding of how the system works in the new country would have saved me a lot of effort and difficult situations. Things like how healthcare and rent works for example.
Finally, how would you describe your expat journey in 10 words or less?
The most difficult yet the richest life changing experience.