Living between countries while building strong bridges


Growing up in Malaysia, you were immersed in a melting pot of cultures. As a kid, it didn’t matter if you were Chinese, Malay, Indian, or a combination of races. We all got along in the classroom, on the oval and eating lunch with an assortment of food from different cultures all around us – carefree and young. Friendships were formed.

As I grew older, I had always wanted to travel and live abroad. And thankfully, my parents were supportive and had the means to turn that dream into a reality. My ticket overseas was to study in Australia, towards the end of the ’90s. As an international student living on campus, it gave me the opportunity to experience different cultures and the unique perspectives of individuals from around the globe. Studying abroad was a fantastic experience, with more friendships made once again.

I caught the “living abroad” itch and as I entered my mid-20s, I decided to start my working career in the country I graduated from. Was it easy being a migrant? No… And making friends wasn’t easy any longer.

I was alone in a country without my family or close friends – my support system was gone. But I was lucky to have had some existing connections that provided friendship and support while I navigated the different environment living in a foreign country, a different value system and seeking a professional job. Soon, new connections and friendships were made but at the same time, I had to certainly muster courage and resilience to push through obstacles and challenges that came my way. However, having my small circle of cheerleaders behind me, did help make things a little easier despite it being hard.

I’ve now built a family of my own and held leadership positions in corporate Australia which I’m proud of achieving. Getting to this point, wasn’t a bed of roses, but I’m grateful for the friendships built over the years with people from different ethnicities and all walks of life. They’ve each played a part, in where I am and what I am today.

They’ve shaped my character, my thinking, offered different perspectives and at times a reality check… but by far, they’ve enriched my life with diversity. Although, I’ve lived between countries, my life has been richer with the strong bridges built.

To those who have been part of my journey so far, thank you. In a world where we’re constantly asked to want more, have more, be more than the person next to you – let’s not forget the true essence of being human. That is to have compassion, humility, empathy and foster more solidarity and understanding despite our differences.

We rise by lifting each other.

By Joanne Barrow, PMW