Pursuing Dreams

Dedicated to all who live abroad, lost someone while being away from family back home or the ‘second home’ happened to be their last.

Motivated by personal experience being an expatriate, this documentary study examines expatriate’s life through 22 intimate portraits of men and women between 25 and 57 years old from different nationalities, narrating their decisions to leave home countries and settle abroad. A digital magazine is also available here.

Irene Amayoni, Kenya

3 years and 2 months in the UAE

"What urged me to leave my family is my dream to see my daughter go to one of the best schools that she is right now. I have been away so that she receives all the support she needs, and the country here gives me peace of mind and sense of safety to do so.

I focus mostly on work whenever I feel I miss my family, knowing that I am here especially for my daughter. After work I have a long conversation every day, which reassures me that all is well." 

Ross Swaby, South Africa

7 years in the UAE

"What drove me away was that I was going to be more independent, not living with my family anymore, and my willingness and ambition to succeed. And for the conditions in South Africa, this was a decision I had to make and I had to leave the family.

Being so far from them you lose so much time that is very precious, so I try to visit them at least once a year. But at the end of the day, we all need to survive and succeed in life."

Moe Thant, Myanmar

7 years in the UAE

"I moved here because I got a good opportunity for my career growth and because I really love new challenges. UAE is a good country for hospitality and safety.

I feel very sad about being away from family. I love my parents so much, I wish I could stay with them. Burma is a developing country and the reason I am here is that I have the opportunity to have a good life and learn as much as I can and share my knowledge and experience in my country one day." 

Trang Nguyen, Vietnam

Around 4 years in the UAE

"I chose to move abroad because I wanted to experience life that I can be independent from my family’s choice. 

Vietnam is a place where people are still very conservative, parents control the life of their children. If I stayed in my country, my family would make the decisions for me. I visit them every year during my vacation. And I can follow my dream of travelling everywhere because it is very easy to travel from UAE to Europe, which is my dream destination." 

Taufik Ghafour, Palestine

10 years in the UAE

"What influenced my decision was career and safety. I chose UAE because  I could not go to Europe at that time, so this was the second best option.

I miss my family a lot. Being away deprives you from the gatherings and the moments you spent with your family. Here you become more systematic, robotic person and more independent. It makes me a stronger. You are not living in your dream, you are living a real life."

Meenu Subba, Bhutan

3 years and 3 months in the UAE

"Bhutan is a very small country and almost 90% of us are educated, which is why there are very limited options for studies and employment. I had a very good friend of mine living here, so that was like an emotional support for me. 

But the whole point of me moving towards the West was my foster mother who lives in the US, so I wanted to move closer to her. I have lived in hostels since a very young age and I have always been on my own."

Ammar Helal, United States of America

9 years in the UAE

"I came here because this country gives you the opportunity that is not available in many other already developed places in the world. And the projects always come with a career growth. Also, discovering new things and the reputation of the UAE.

When I first arrived, I was still young and had lots of hops and dreams, I had to go through some tough times. I have been away from my family for so long. I always miss them. It was a bit hard in the beginning, but I get used to it."

Zouhaina Sahel, France

5 years in the UAE

"I chose UAE because I just followed my husband, but since I was a teenager this was my dream destination.

Being away from my family affects me in a way that you always need your mother or your parents, somebody with you if you are sick, or just to go out. You need your family to be around you because they give you support. The fact that I do not see them has really affected me in my daily life. You want to spend time with your family and you cannot."

Sanjay Sah, Nepal

Around 7 years in the UAE

"We have a big problem with unemployment and a good working environment in my country. Therefore, I had to leave and seek better opportunities to support my family. UAE is very convenient, near to my country and less costly. The employment procedures are very flexible, transparent and quick.

For us to be apart is a huge deal actually. It’s tough to be separated and be away from them, but in order to give them a better life, I had to make some sacrifices."

Belenda Pangasian, Philippines

34 years in the UAE

"I chose the UAE because it is the safest place I have been to. As a musician is easy for me to come here, my heart is here. UAE is my second home. I was very young when I moved abroad for the love of my parents.

My father passed away in 1992 and my mother in 2011, and I was the one supporting them all the way for over 26 years. Actually, I do not like to go home because it reminds me that my parents are no longer there, and if I call I will expect to hear my mum."

Hemant Yadav, India

Around 1 year in the UAE

"I have dreamed to be a Food and Beverage Manager and to support my family. UAE gave me the opportunity to achieve that.

It is difficult when you have been attached to your family. When I talk to my son who is five and a half now, and he says ‘dad, I miss you’ that is very emotional for me but I cannot show it to him. It is the saddest part for me. I talk to them every morning and evening for 10 minutes and that takes all my tensions away, it makes me feel happy."

Demeiter Vaubell, Australia

9 years in the UAE

"I came to the UAE because I have been living in Asia for many years, so I was looking for a change. It is a very safe country to live in, especially as a single female.

I was brought up in a family that lived internationally for most of my life. I miss my family, but never thought I would move back. Now I am thinking more about moving back because I miss them. But life sometimes takes more than being at home. You move with the motion and go with the flow."

Raed Olwan, Jordan

5 years in the UAE

"UAE was my first opportunity after graduation. At that time was planning to stay only for two years and seems that I will not leave. There is a secret in this country, it will grab you. From my perspective, it was the right decision for me.

In the beginning was very difficult to be away from my family because we were very close and I was not used to that. The first few months I was deciding I have to leave. But this is life and you cannot stick in one place."

Sevindzh Mustafaeva, Russia

6 years in the UAE

"My salary back home was not enough to pay for the housing and that influenced me to look for a job. I wanted to come to the UAE for a long time because of the hospitality. That is what I studied and supposed to be part of the experience and became part of my life for 6 years. 

My university was quite far and away from the family, so I got used to being separated from them. When we are together during vacations, we enjoy thoroughly from the heart."

Gabriele Ferola, Italy

9 months in the UAE

"Leaving home is about new experiences and developing yourself in a challenging environment. Also leaving something you feel you do not fit to. In the south part of Italy where I am coming from, I was not happy how the hotel business was managed.

I lost my parents and there was not really a link to my homeland, so decided to move. UAE gives you freedom. I am 57 that means I have created my independent life and I can afford to be away from my family."

Aziza Ergeshova, Kyrgyzstan

5 years and a half in the UAE

"I decided to move out because it was hard for me to stay in my country. In 2012 I lost my husband and left with two kids. I was broken and alone. I had a friend who was working here, so she was my influence. Although I studied in Turkey  and speak the language I wanted to experience something new. 

Emotionally, it is so hard to be away from my family, but thanks to my job I can see my kids every month for a few days. I am a strong woman, I keep going."

Ludovic Garnier, France

10 years in the UAE

"It was my dream to go to Dubai. You can find jobs in France, but I wanted to travel, to experience different food and spices. What I cook here I will never do in France. As a Chef I travel a lot to learn. Also, the type and amount of hotels here you will not find in Europe.

I miss my kids, my parents, and those special moments like Christmas and birthdays, which you cannot enjoy if you are away from home. But I see them once a year when I go on vacation."

Ivy Van der Berg, South Africa

Around 11 years in the UAE

"I left South Africa when I was 19 purely to find a job because that is not very easy in my country; and if you do, the monthly salary is very little so you cannot do a lot with it. I chose the UAE because it is very safe, coming from South Africa, which is definitely not a very safe country.

The worst part about living abroad is the fact that you miss your family so much. You miss simple things like Sunday lunch when you sort of remember what is like being there for that Sunday lunch."

Kasper Wigen, Denmark

Around 9 years in the UAE

"My parents lived abroad for a while so I always wanted to move out and have something different than Denmark. I was transferred here from a hotel I was working in Denmark.

I was very young when I moved here, and it used to a lot easier to be away from family. But as you get older, it gets more difficult because there are a lot of moments you want to share with them and do not have that nearness and    day-to-day interaction with your family."

Majdouline Sahel, Morocco

6 months in the UAE

"I decided to leave my country to build a strong career and UAE is a suitable market for this. My sister lives here so she is one of the reasons behind my decision. She is the person that really motivated me to move and come to the UAE. I am not alone and I have the ability to meet a lot of people from different countries. It is a good mix of cultures and nations.

It is my first time away from my family and it is hard being away, but it is worth it."

Fatuma Akida, Tanzania

10 years in the UAE

"I did not have the plan leaving my country, I liked where I was in Tanzania. But when my husband got a job in the UAE, I had to follow him.

At first was really difficult. I remember the first two months I was crying every day. I was missing my mum, brothers and sisters, friends and people I grew up with. But with time I am actually enjoying it. And I have my two sons here and I get to go home every year so it is good. What is missing here is the sense of community."

Ivanka Zagorska, Bulgaria

17 years in the UAE

"Employment was a huge struggle. And if you work, you cannot be sure you will get paid. The stories of a girl who used to be in Dubai inspired me to look for a job. I wanted to have my own home and not depend on anyone.

My life has changed entirely since my arrival. Amongst many travel opportunities, I also lost my mum. I wished I could spend more with her. Family togetherness is what I had to sacrifice. But when you are young, you pursue your dreams."


If you are an expatriate living in the United Arab Emirates and you are interested to be part of this project and
tell your story of what made you move abroad, feel free to get in touch.

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