My Journey to Amsterdam

This entry is an excerpt from my interview with the CA design magazine, in which I touch on my transition from Seoul to Amsterdam, from junior to senior designer, and from UX to a wider design role.

I had been planning on moving abroad for a long time. I wrote a diary entry in the summer of 2018 outlining my action plan and all of the steps I needed to go about in order to even begin sending in resumes. Some of the milestones included learning to program, creating personal projects to compensate for the areas that I lacked experience in, translating all of my work, localising it, and porting them onto a website. It was an overwhelming plan, especially as I had to do it while working full time. But I knew the market was competitive, and in order to be granted a working visa I had to be exceptional, so I dived in nevertheless and ticked off the items one by one — slowly but steadily.

Exactly a year later, I received a notification for that same diary entry. I had pulled yet another all-nighter the day before, in an attempt to grasp that dream that still seemed so far away. Thus, it was with great pleasure that I discovered I had actually crossed off every single step on that list and was exactly where I wanted to be when I wrote that article a year back.

Feeling tired yet accomplished, I proceeded to write another diary entry that same day.

“In exactly a year from now, I am going to be somewhere else. I am going to look at this sky from the other side of the globe. I know this goal seems so much simpler than last year, but it may be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to achieve up to date.”

And here I am, spring of 2020. Looking up at that sky I’d never thought I’d see in a sunny park in Amsterdam.

As exciting as moving abroad may seem, the whole process was a lot more messier than I would have liked it to be; nor was it easy. I still shiver when I think back on those long nights in which I worked to gain ground by sticking to the plan I had set up for myself, without ever knowing if it would actually work.

And as if that wasn’t already a handful, I also remember pondering day and night “why” I wanted to make this move so badly, “whether” it was worth all this effort, and what that said about “how” I wanted to live. I did not even have a set country or company I wanted to go to, so there were days when I would literally close my eyes, blindly pick a spot on the world map, and look up opportunities in that area. I remember having never felt so delightfully free and lost at the same time.

In the end, before I could even begin sending out resumes, one of my personal projects went viral and I began to receive interview offers from companies from all around the world. Amongst these opportunities I found a company that challenged me professionally, had exciting projects, and a great pool of talent. Much sooner than I had originally envisioned, I packed up my bags and crossed the pond. I am now happily enjoying everything my new life has to offer.

For those who only know the last part of journey, my story may seem like one of those generic success stories in which a designer happened to upload a project and was therefore scouted by a well known company. But that is only the tip of the iceberg; there was much ground work that had been done prior to that. That is why I view my story as one of sheer determination; perseverance that outran all of the confusion, loneliness, and day to day struggles.

Looking back on this experience, I am left with a feeling of gratitude for soldiering on and having lived to tell the tale. I have never been so confident in my life, and hope to use this newfound energy for an even bigger purpose. I am thankful for all of the experiences and people that have taught me that consistency outwins greatness, that standing back up outwins falling down, and that the direction your heart is headed in outwins any other opinion.

Throughout the past 2 years, I saw the future I had imagined for myself become a reality, and learned that your reality is only limited by what you can imagine. If you currently have a vision of any sort in your head, I believe it means that you are already moving into the next phase of your life. Trust that feeling, trust that you can make it happen, and before you know it, it will have become your next chapter.

My Journey to Amsterdam was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.