2020 Review: My First Year Away

Like everyone else, my year was pretty wild. After going through this review process though, I realised that my 2020 wasn’t actually terrible.

Looking at the big picture view of my year, it seemed pretty bleak —

  • I’ve tried (and failed) to look for work in a new country in the middle of a pandemic. This basically delayed (cancelled) all my plans for the year, including getting a credit card and building credit to buy a car, buying anything frivolous, and everything money-related (which is most everything).
  • My exams to qualify as a solicitor (as well as the results) were delayed, further delaying the possibility of finding a job in my field and therefore the rest of my life plans.

Quick rant: I did try to get part-time or temp jobs in supermarkets or cafes, but I didn’t hear back from them either. Apparently, it’s because I don’t have experience doing those kinds of jobs and I’m competing with a lot of other people who do. This is the same for jobs in the legal industry – I don’t have the necessary qualifications and experience in Scotland, I’m competing with so many people who do, and we’re competing for a lot fewer places than normal. Companies and firms won’t hire me for paralegal or legal secretary jobs because they know I’m qualifying as a solicitor so I won’t be staying in that position for long. Being from the Philippines (a non-Commonwealth country) I’m a risky hire in the legal sector. What am I meant to do?

NEVERTHELESS, I’ve been binge watching Michelle Barnes (MuchelleB), one of my absolute favourite YouTubers, and she goes through these year-end review prompts every year:

  1. What were your wins?
  2. How did your goals go, and what did you learn from how it went? What worked, what didn’t work, what can I do differently to make it more likely that I achieve my goals?
  3. What do you want to focus on this year?

After going through this exercise, I realised that my year was pretty amazing.

Black and white photo of wedding couple dancing with musicians at the back


  • Earlier this year, I got married. We went on such a fun honeymoon – we did the North Coast 500 (which turned out to be 1400 miles) in the middle of winter. My family and friends from the Philippines, Hong Kong, USA, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands came to my wedding. This was such perfect timing because who would have thought we wouldn’t be able to see each other again this year! It was such a great start to the year.
  • Because of the rise of Zoom, I spoke to my family and friends a lot more often than I normally would have.
  • I passed my exams to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales!
  • I learned new skills. I’m in the middle of learning calligraphy through Becca Courtice’s course, and I made my very first Victoria sponge. I also learned to network and how to look for work in the UK.
  • I made new friends in my little village, despite my being super introverted and afraid to talk to strangers. They also helped me get back into working out at home more regularly.
Sheep walking along a road in the Scottish Highlands


I didn’t really have any goals at the beginning of the year, but I did have plans (that’s probably the same thing). All my plans (I later learned) hinged on getting a job. Still, I learned a lot –

  • I learned how to look for a job in a new country, in general:
    • I learned how to network, despite not knowing anyone in the legal field in the UK.
    • I updated and improved my CV.
    • I also learned about recruiters and how they choose candidates.
  • I learned that doing the same thing over and over again (i.e. submitting applications) in the same way will yield the same results. But this doesn’t mean I should give up because there are always ways to do things differently. If I’m stuck, all I need to do is to ask for help from people who know what they’re doing. That requires courage – and I have more courage than I thought.
  • I learned that I need to get myself out there by talking to more people (including strangers) in my field. I learned that I should and can be less shy. I can talk to strangers, which is a skill I can develop and learn by practicing and being brave.

It was a year of self-awareness and growth.

John o' Groats sign


I’ve never had a theme (or word) for my year but I thought I’d try it. I decided on the word Settle. It makes sense because my goal for this space is to share all the things I’ve learned while settling into new countries. This move that I made in October 2019 from the Philippines to Scotland to get married is definitely the biggest uprooting I’ve ever done, and will probably be the hardest settling I’ll ever do.

I’m looking forward to even more challenges this year, and, more importantly, the growth I’ll experience after those challenges are over. I’ll be sharing with you all the lessons I’ve learned and am continuing to learn as I go through this journey.

For the first quarter of this year, I will be focusing on settling into a routine and laying down my roots — finding a job (obvs), hunting for a favourite cafe, being more confident in uncomfortable situations (e.g. going through new experiences like hiking up and down a slippery hill, filling up the car with petrol). In other words, building a life here.

I don’t know what I was doing last year. I guess I was still finding my feet. Now that I’m in such a positive headspace, I’m ready to settle into a new life.

I have more concrete steps to take of course, like using all the things I learned from a career consultant about looking for a job. But I think I’ll keep those to myself for now and let you know how I get on.

If you are going to go through these prompts, I’d recommend watching MuchelleB’s video on her year-end review so you can get a better idea about how to answer these questions. It’ll also be really helpful if you come up with an actual actionable plan to help you with your goals or whatever it is you want to focus on this year.

The new year is such an arbitrary time to set goals and review the past. I’ve never really taken new year’s resolutions very seriously before. But this year, I can feel an actual line between this year and next year. It could be the Coronavirus Effect, but whatever it is, I’m ready for a reset and to start settling into a life here.

I’m ready. Happy New Year!