Embrace all Bermuda offers, expat tells fellow millennials
Nurdana Boranbayeva looked at Bermuda, a tiny pinpoint on a map, and saw a world of opportunity that she wouldn’t have access to in her native Kazakhstan.
The potential for professional growth was immediately inspiring. Only after she arrived did she understand how much more was on offer.
“The transition to the island meant adapting to a different work landscape and immersing myself in the unique rhythm of Bermuda's lifestyle,” said Nurdana, who arrived on the island in June.
“One of the unexpected perks was the warm reception from the Bermudian community. [I feel I am] surrounded by people whose warmth mirrors the hospitality I cherish in my Kazakh roots.
“I’ve discovered Bermudians are not just residents of a picturesque island but a community characterised by compassion and friendliness. I feel I’ve found a second home.”
The 32-year-old spoke with The Royal Gazette in hopes of inspiring other young people to take the “leap of faith” that led her here.
“Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, neighbouring Russia, China and all the other ‘stan’ countries that used to be a part of the USSR.
“When I was in high school, in eighth or ninth grade, I always wondered what it would be like to be studying outside [of my country], to be abroad by myself studying independently. I felt that I needed to see the world before [I could understand] what I wanted to do in my life.”
Her parents didn’t initially have the money but once she’d started university, Nurdana’s mother surprised her with an offer to help.
“She was very inspired by my study back in my home country. She saw me as a hardworking student, but in reality it was very easy for me.
“By that time my family was [stronger, financially] and she said, ‘I will support you. Go and [chase] your dream if you want to achieve something.’”
She applied to the University of Wyoming and was thrilled when she was accepted to study accounting.
“I had a lot of friends who had a year off in different countries – in China, in Korea, in Europe and the United States – but I was the only one who stayed.
“A lot of them were either graduating or they were so eager to start working, but my goal was to get a foreign education because it was so different, so completely different in comparison to the education that I'd received back in my home country.
“I transferred for a year. And then I realised this is what I actually want. This is the education that I've been searching for,” Nurdana said.
In America she had to work harder, not just because of the coursework, but also because she was not fluent in English.
Although classes had been mandatory in her high school, she had not paid much attention in class.
“But I was very interested in practising it. If you're learning and studying it's a different thing than if you push yourself and start talking to people.
“When you live in that setting, when no one can speak to you in your native language and you are forced to talk to everyone, you ask questions, you put yourself outside and that kind of helped me to grow as a person.
“In my country when I was studying, even at the university, everything was quite simple for me. But when I switched and I had to learn a new language in a different setting, it was a very great opportunity for my growth.”
She got her bachelor’s degree and then stayed on to do her master’s and was then eager to find work.
“A lot of my professors and my friends were leaving the state because it was very hard, very competitive to get a job there. I ended up having several offers, which was quite great.”
Ultimately, she spent about seven years in Wyoming, first in Laramie and then in Casper, where she “ventured into tax and audit as a staff accountant”.
“It was quite fascinating to live in a different country. Learning about different cultures helped me to see the world from a different angle and that helped me to find a job,” Nurdana said.
She left only because the lottery-based visa system didn’t fall in her favour and her employer’s efforts to secure one for her also failed.
“Once I came back to my home country, I felt a little bit different. I had to adapt after spending seven years in a different atmosphere.”
Despite that she soon found a job and “was able to quickly progress” from a consultant at a Big Four firm to the role of “tax manager and digital accelerator”.
“And then I felt like I was ready for another adventure. I found a job opportunity here in Bermuda, a very small island. I considered that that would be something new, something unlike a bigger country like the United States; a very small community.
“I felt like I had outgrown myself at home, that I could learn more in Bermuda because it's a place of opportunities. In my country [it felt too familiar]. I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone, I was very hungry for new experiences.”
Her family had visited her in Wyoming and could see that she’d been happy there. They accepted the news of her move to Bermuda however, with mixed feelings.
“They were a little bit terrified, but surprised and happy for me because it was another journey.”
Her mother made the trip with her when she moved here in June.
“She fell in love with this island. We spent a couple of weeks in New York before coming here and she said she wasn’t a big city woman, she liked the small setting.
“Despite not knowing the English language, she was able to communicate with the neighbours and was very fascinated by how warm and welcoming the community is.
“My message to anyone who is scared to come here is to take a leap of faith. It’s a great place to live and work.
“Younger generations, once they read this article, I hope they know that they shouldn't be scared to try different fields, to excel in their job. This is a place with a lot of opportunities if you put yourself forward and try.
“If you have a dream, follow it no matter what. Even if you are scared or concerned how long it might take you to get there. As long as that dream inspires you, go for it. You will be happy.”