Growing Up Abroad Aged 7: When a New Country Becomes My Country Too
Visakhan Vythilingam on growing up abroad, outside of his home country of Malaysia, learning balance, and the long-term positive impact it has had on him. He is a Consultant for KPMG, living in Sydney, Australia.
Vis holds a perspective that is different from the other global citizens I have presented thus far. He left home at a much earlier age – having migrated from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Sydney, Australia at the age of seven – and growing up abroad has had a profound impact on him.
Living in Australia taught him balance, which he has brought into his day-to-day life philosophy. Take a look below to know more.
Introducing Global Citizen… Visakhan Vythilingam
- What do you do? I am a Risk Technology and Cyber Consultant at KPMG Australia, based in Sydney. I recently graduated from university where I studied Actuarial Studies/Applied Finance.
- Years Abroad: I spent 7 years abroad, the first seven of my life, in Malaysia.
- Home? I am from Malaysia, however my roots are Sri Lankan. I currently live in Sydney, Australia.
- Languages: English is my primary language! However, I can also converse in Malay and French (learnt in high school). I also want to learn more of my mother tongue: Tamil.
- Where will you be five years from now? I would really like to experience living abroad, as I haven’t really lived outside home since leaving Malaysia. Not sure where yet though!
Dear Global Citizen…
At the age of seven, my family and I migrated to Australia from Malaysia: the most formative and life changing experience of my life. Malaysians tend to be quite adaptable, one of the great benefits of living in a multicultural country, even more so as we were part of an ethnic minority. One of the most interesting things was that life in Australia seemed much more ‘balanced’. It was not all about study. I was not very sporty initially, but the outdoor lifestyle caught my attention, and it has shaped me in a way that I might not have discovered in Malaysia. This balanced approach I have developed by growing up abroad in Australia has served me well years later.
More than ever, we need empathy and problem solving; two critical skills that would go a long way to reducing conflicts in our world. Global citizens should also have a strong sense of enacting social change where possible. Not necessarily as a leader. It is also possible to lead by our actions.
…Global citizens have the power to help others better understand cross-cultural collaboration – even by simply explaining where they come from.
What do I want to do going forward? Personally, I would like to immerse myself in the climate change and sustainability space. I believe environmental consulting will take off in the next decade as concerns for our planet grow. I would like to be at the forefront of this space, working for a think tank or doing modeling to help people and governments make decisions. Ultimately, this would be a fantastic way to make a living while positively contributing as a global citizen.
To me, a global citizen is someone who brings together their values to enrich their life and that of others.
It does not necessarily mean they have been to many countries or can speak many different languages. They don’t need to have the experience of growing up abroad. Global citizens are adaptable and can share common ground with all, by learning from theirs and others’ experiences.
Now, as an Australian citizen, it always comes as a surprise to me that people can’t guess where I’m from. Usually, they guess India or Sri Lanka. When I say I am from Malaysia it can lead to some puzzled looks!
Where our Global Citizen has called home
I think global citizens have the power to help others better understand cross-cultural collaboration – even by simply explaining where they come from.