For most people, the thought of moving to a new city within the same country is daunting enough; let alone relocating half way across the world, 16,000km from anyone you know, at the age of 20. But here I am, almost 13 months later, preparing to say goodbye to a city that now feels like home.
During my first year at University, I attended a meeting about study abroad on whim. I didn’t see myself taking a year out of my degree; I wanted to smash out three years of study and graduate. Then, a slide on Australia popped up and something changed. As a health and fitness fanatic, the prospect of spending a year in a country renowned for its outdoor lifestyle was too good to miss. Graduate life could wait. For the next two years I talked about the idea of going on exchange in Aus, until in July 2018 I found myself sitting on a plane for real and heading for Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane.
My first week was a weird one; a lot of life admin and trying to keep occupied when the semester hadn’t yet began. I was so accustomed to living in busy London, that adjusting to a smaller and quieter city like Brisbane was strange and alien. I tried to keep a positive mindset, knowing that in the next few weeks I would be introduced to heaps of new people and things would get easier.
They did. During orientation week, I signed up to QUT Running Club. I always say this was the best decision I made because it allowed me to meet so many amazing people who I now class as my close friends. These guys welcomed me in, invited me to parties and social events, and gave me tips on how to make the most of my time in Australia. It was really important to me that I immersed myself in Australian culture and didn’t just socialise with other international students; the running club allowed me to feel like any other regular student. Being a solo exchangee also forced me to make an extra effort to make friends, especially as the thought of being alone was probably my biggest fear about moving so far from home. For anyone who’s moving abroad and has similar worries; clubs and societies are always the best place to meet like-minded individuals. Once you know a few people, it’s then easier to meet even more. Plus, anyone can bond over a beer or ten.
Due to the way my journalism course works in the UK, I don’t gain any credits while studying on exchange. Being the career driven person I am, however, I still threw myself into studying units in nutrition and dietetics as I am set on specialising in health journalism in the future. I also completed a three month internship at a magazine during my first semester, which was another good way to get a taste of Aussie working life.
There’s often this stereotype that international students’ travel is funded by Mummy and Daddy. While this has proven true with a lot of people I’ve met, my parents made it clear that they wouldn’t be funding my leisure expenses. So just over a month in, I landed myself a hospitality job and set about saving for my epic travel plans. My trips included: 9-days volunteering in rural Queensland; Melbourne; Fiji; Noosa and Fraser Island; four weeks in New Zealand and a girl’s trip to Sydney. I’m hoping to make it to Uluru and Alice Springs before I head home, and I already have tickets to a couple of festivals too. Knowing that my own hard work has made this possible makes it all the more enjoyable.
So what about homesickness? If I’m honest, I’ve only felt homesick twice in the last year; once in my first week, and once at New Year’s when I patriotically cried watching a live stream of the London fireworks. I’m a massively family orientated person, but I’ve always been outgoing, independent and pretty damn resilient. I knew that all I needed was to build a strong support network in Brisbane in order not to miss home. I was fortunate to have my parents visit me for three weeks over Christmas, which provided some of the most enjoyable moments of my time in Aus. However, overall I prefer the chilled Aussie culture to the UK, the weather is better; I can run and hike without getting rained on, and I’ve never had so many friends with similar interests to me.
That’s the funny thing; when I left for Aus I had a pretty solid idea of where I saw myself in the next few years. Turns out, a year in the sun being able to embrace the things you’re truly passionate about sort of messes with that.
So other than a lower tolerance for other people’s emotional baggage, a higher sense of self-worth and a slight tanning addiction, I’m returning to the UK with absolutely no idea what the future holds post-university.
Will I choose Australia or the UK? Travel or work? Who knows? Right now, I’m just taking each day as it comes and trying to enjoy the remaining time I have in this wonderful country.