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I apologise — I know I said this blog would be updated while I was in New Zealand, but unfortunately, while I had already written the posts, I didn’t even have time to sort the photos and get the posts online while I was over there. So without further ado…
Recently I hit yet another Australian milestone. As of March 29, I have been living in Australia for four years.
So much has happened in those four years that it’s hard to really summarise what it means to me.
I picked up and moved to Australia just after graduating college (with an all-too-short three-month stint in New Zealand in between while I was waiting for my visa to be approved). I didn’t do it quite as rough as my mother did when she moved to America for graduate school in 1974. I had a boyfriend and his very supportive family living around Brisbane, and I had a few friends from studying abroad at UQ and my stint working at an accounting firm. I had a job waiting for me. I was able to call my family on a regular basis, rather than waiting 6 months for a special Christmas Day phone call.
It hasn’t been easy though. It’s hard to pick up and move away from nearly everyone that you are close to, to move to a country that seems very similar to America but is also very different in many ways. Don’t get me wrong; I am so glad I made the choice to make Australia my home, but it’s been a bumpy road.
I started my expat experience with a five-month stint in Perth. This time was really all about learning to cope with solitude. Sure, I’d had three months in New Zealand on my own prior to that, but this was different. I didn’t have new hostels to stay in and fresh faces to meet, I didn’t have that camaraderie that came from all being together in a mission to finish a track. Instead, I was left mulling over what had gone wrong in my relationship that had broken up on my short stay in Brisbane (although fortunately that was short-lived). I constantly mulled over finances as I realised just how expensive it was to rent a unit and generally just to live in Australia. I had a handful of friends from work, but my attempts to be social outside work weren’t as successful as I hoped (like when I realised that the only people that played at the tennis club I joined were 65+). Work itself was not what I’d expected from the job description, and it was very slow because I had not yet been able to attend the required 7-week training course.
Things went well enough though, and I was able to convince myself that Australia was still a good choice despite all of the frustrations it had already put me through. Then, two days after I purchased my very first brand-new car — a cute little Honda Jazz named Ribena — an idiot ran into me on the freeway and wrote the car off. I ended up laid up with whiplash that stopped me from sitting up for longer than a few hours, making work virtually impossible. I had a long time to think while I was rehabbing my back, and that thinking resulted in me interviewing with a software company in Brisbane and picking up and moving there a few weeks later.
Life certainly has had its share of down points since I’ve moved to Brisbane. One thing that does still get me down is the distance — distance that means that I’m no longer a part of my friends’ and family’s major life events. I’ve had to downheartedly fill out too many wedding RSVP cards with “no, I will not be attending” (by the way, congratulations to my Aunt Minnette on her recent marriage). Reunions will probably be missed; road trips will go on without me. Australia is often too far or too expensive for many people to visit…but it means that I definitely roll out the red carpet to those that do make it! But this gripe is nothing compared to my incredibly rocky start in the country, which showed me that I am strong enough to deal with adversity on my own in the real world (and that all that stress in college maybe wasn’t as justified as I thought)!
On the other hand, there have been so many up points — the first being that, well, I live in Australia. It’s about as far a cry as you could get from the flat, smoggy landscape I grew up in. It (and New Zealand) truly inspired me to develop my skills in something I love: photography. I’ve met a great group of like-minded people through various workshops and classes, and some of my photo outings have been some of the most memorable weekends I’ve had. Through this and other activities like the UQ wakeboarding club — through which I have another fantastic group of friends — I’ve gotten to enjoy the outdoors on a much more regular basis than I ever did in Texas.
Also, I have a stable job in a country that wasn’t hit nearly as hard by recession as America — in fact, I started my job at Ephox the week that the GFC started and, aside from a small scare, I’ve kept it ever since. This job allows me much more freedom than I would have had in the US as well. I get four weeks of annual leave per year, and they are flexible with taking additional leave (as evidenced by how well they handled me picking up and heading to NZ with Wotif for nine days!). This means I’ve been able to take multiple trips back to America as well as to Singapore and England to see family, as well as a few hops within Australia and New Zealand. I think that going back to a job in America would feel like a bit of a prison at the moment!
Plus, I’ve gotten to experience the world from a new point of view. Australia may seem very similar to America but it’s those subtle differences that jump out at you, that teach you new things all the time.
Hitting this milestone makes me reflect on the things that moving to Australia has taught me, but it’s also an important milestone immigration-wise. Last year, I was granted my permanent residency after I became eligible for sponsorship (which my company happily did). I am now able to stay in Australia for as long as I like without having to fill out another visa application…for the first five years. After that, I will be required to get a return visa every time I want to leave the country. That doesn’t seem like a lot of fun, so I’d like to take the next step and become a true Aussie citizen. To do that, I need to have lived in the country for four years and have been a permanent resident for one. This milestone means I now only have to wait until my year of permanent residency is complete, which it will be on June 20, before I can apply.
So what can I say? It’s been a hard road but I’m glad I chose it. So here’s to another four years!