How to survive abroad as a Filipina career woman? There’s a handbook for that written by author Donna Avellana.
Donna Avellana, self-published author of THE OVERSEAS FABULOUS PINAY: A modern Filipina’s handbook on how to thrive abroad, was born and raised in Cavite, Philippines.
An Accounting degree from De La Salle University and a post graduate degree in the offing, make for a truly meritorious academic background for this Certified Public Accountant. Künzler is also an expert systems auditor and program manager.
The reluctant OFW
Looking back to when it all began, Künzler relates, “It was never really my ambition to work and live overseas but being at the receiving end of a very attractive offer, made me realize it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.” And so her journey kickstarted in 2001 when she relocated for work in Singapore. And she has not looked back since. This fearless and fabulous Pinay believes that when an opportunity knocks on your door, you invite it to stay for dinner. Künzler bravely stepped out of the safe confines of her comfort zone, while helping change the narrative of the typical Filipino overseas workers along the way.
Hers is a colorful story of the modern- day quintessential Filipina, who has proven that women can do just about everything they set their minds to do, and do it while breastfeeding.
The Lion City
At 23, Künzler bravely embarked on a life changing journey as a “foreigner” in a neighboring country that ultimately transformed this Caviteña into a citizen of the world. The local customs and culture of Singapore are a blend of multiple ethnic influences (Chinese, Malay, Indian and others). This was Künzler´s first stop of many, a witness to the dauntless bravery of a beginner corporate executive ready to take on the world. The only caveat is that there was no ketchup served on her French fries from this point onwards. Künzler had to get used to the abundant use of chili sauce and peppers and to Singapore’s humidity.
The Golden State
There is no avoiding the inevitable – when one realizes that Singapore is too small a place for a woman with Künzler’s larger than life personality and impressive paper credentials. Her journey continues to the country of endless opportunities, the United States of America. To Künzler, San Jose, California was home for a year. The stint was short and sweet, and even though she had fully embraced the live-in-a- suitcase lifestyle as a financial consultant, working ridiculous hours could be exhausting, even more so when everyone seemed to be playing the who-has-the-most-demanding-job game without any respite from the hurried and harried life.
Crossing the pond
Moving to London from the US brought plenty of excitement to Künzler’s life. The old “work hard, party harder” feels particularly apt in this town. You work hard , but not too hard. Here, she was happy to work late on a deadline but she was equally happy to decamp to the pub with colleagues when the clock struck 5! And while a long-distance relationship may have first catalyzed this move, Künzler would soon fall in love with the simple warmth and wit of the British people and its exciting pub lifestyle. Four great years spent in a foreign country so diverse it has become a strong favorite in Künzler’s book.
Settle in Zurich
Moving from one European country’s largest city to another was both mind-broadening and challenging for Künzler to say the least. Ending up in Switzerland (Basel and now Zurich) is the cherry on top, a perfect finish to this colorful journey. Living in a stunning country where life is clean, safe and affluent with her Swiss husband and her 1-year-old daughter, makes it easier to admit that she has finally put down roots, where the once elusive sense of permanence is now felt and embraced.
The fabulous handbook
Perhaps one of the most prominent milestones in Künzler´s life to date is having successfully authored and published a comprehensive, engaging, easy-to-read handbook especially written and designed to benefit Filipino women as they transition to working and living abroad.
This fun and easy read pays homage to a beautiful journey that spanned 19 years across three continents, four countries, and five cities.
This insightful writer is genuinely wanting to help her fellow Filipinas succeed in living and working overseas, fabulously.
This article was first published in the Summer 2021 Issue of the Filipino Expat magazine