It’s not been sunshine and roses (metaphorically speaking- in a literal sense, there is some sunshine). And it’s no walk in the park. But putting myself around the other side of the globe with only distant relatives to provide a temporary crash pad has taught me more than I could have anticipated.
I feel like I’ve been knocked down, yet (so far) my stubbornness makes me get back up (aches and all). My (relatively well-regarded) CV in the UK is scorned in Australia. Maybe it’s just my experience, but saying you’re on a “Working Holiday Visa” is like saying to an Aussie that you prefer Kiwis (New Zealanders).
It doesn’t go down well. At all.
I’ve had to deal with the rough and the smooth. The smooth was upon arrival; despite having only one Melbourne-based contact (bar the distant relatives), my friend Pum and a friend in Exeter who studied in Melbourne last year helped me. I was welcomed with open arms by Pum, her friends Bronte and Sarah and Emily’s friend Mary. So if you’re reading this, thank you so much guys! I’m really grateful.
I marvelled at the beauty of Melbourne in the sunlight (it’s not London in the rain), found Flinders Street to be more pleasant and easy to navigate than Paddington and Waterloo and reclined on the sand of St Kilda beach, relishing in the quirky ambience of the area-adorned with falafel shops, bars, boutiques and seafood restaurants.
I enjoyed the London Camden Vibe (hippy, alternative bars, charity/second hand shops) in Windsor and being able to meet generations of family I’d never met before made me feel so fortunate- like I was floating on air.
But soon reality settles in.
For the first time in my life, I don’t spend Christmas with my mum, dad and sister. There are 10,500 miles approximately (sorry metric system users) between us. And everywhere I look, reminders of Christmas- unnerving in the bright sunshine when people are wearing skorts, summer dresses and sandals.
I walk into Myer and David Jones (Aussie department stores) and, like their British counterparts (Debenhams and John Lewis), Christmas music is being piped out. A lady sings about how she can only dream of being home for Christmas, and I know that description is applicable to me.
Without the company of my closest friends or travel companion around Asia, I took this huge risk- to abandon Christmas Sweaters and an icy breeze, roast potatoes and Cadbury Roses in front of Harry Potter (and of course, Oxford Street Christmas Lights) for Xmas, my birthday and New Years in a place where I’ve only resided for a month and had never been to previously.
And, unlike friends who have done a year abroad or study abroad, I had no job or university course waiting for me. I’m also not in a position whereby my family can help me get a job- forget pulling strings, my distant family do not have a single thread. In spite of being incredibly lucky that I can even afford to get to Melbourne in the first place, I’m taking a total stab in the dark.
I’m trying to make this work, by and large alone- I say by and large because whilst family can’t help with jobs or finding somewhere to rent, they are very lovely and either let me stay at theirs or have me for dinner (or both).
Dozens and dozens of resumes get sent- to no avail.
And I view homes/share rooms/apartments in places that I thought only existed at home (South Kensington, St Albans and Rickmond- Melbourne to name a few). It’s an odd parallel between England and Australia. Close enough to feel familiar, different enough to feel foreign.
I’ve had a job here, a 6.30am- 8.30pm day (this includes an hour and a half travel time and back to the office, and further travel from there). Here, I had to sell car wax to innocent (and normally stressed) shoppers in Geelong (an hour and a bit outside of Melbourne). In 31 degree Celsius heat. And let me tell you (unless money is your whole life), face-to-face direct sales is every bit as unfulfilling as it sounds.
I quit on day 5 (though another British girl who lives 10 minutes from where I live at home and started at the same time as me quit after 2 hours).
But I have never chucked in a job before purely because I felt it was making me that unhappy. It taught me that no matter how stubborn you are, if a job is a bit meh but you need the money- do it. But if it makes you weep, almost faint with exhaustion and involves bosses that are still yet to pay you for the hours you’ve worked…
Cut your losses and get out of there (a.k.a. what the other British girl did).
And during my time in Melbourne, I’ve had to learn to rely on my own instincts more, and grow accustomed to being on my own.
As a resident singleton and future owner of a house filled with 50 cats to keep me company, some may think I’d grow used to this kind of lifestyle. But as an outrageous extravert with a good circle of friends at home, I’ve never really had to until now.
I went to view a property in a part of Melbourne I had never been before two days ago. In spite of what the bright sunshine conceals, alarm bells rang about the area.
I knew nothing about the place, but walking through two alleyways and a park to get between the train station and road (with no more direct routes available) set warning bells chiming.
Those same warning bells chimed even more after the block I viewed was offering a reward for a resident injury in the foyer and the front door of the flat looked like it could be kicked down by a 4 year old in the midst of a temper tantrum.
So maybe that property was not ideal for me. Onto the next ten viewings.
I’ve missed my friends, felt emotional watching my distant relatives share time together in a way that (I feel) one can only share with their immediate family and friends, those who know you that well and love you unconditionally for all your flaws.
I’ve left ample voicemails on my one remaining Grandma’s voicemail because I don’t want to not speak to her when I haven’t seen her for a while.
I’ve roamed around in a daze wondering whether today, a job application (normally fruitless) will actually bear fruit. During breaks from completing other job applications.
On paper, Melbourne sounds like a mistake. Iknow my mum is starting to think like that.
But despite the layer of obviousness which radiates with failure, there are some personal triumphs concealed but very much present under the surface.
I am more resilient and self-sufficient than I have ever realised (though I do still take life too seriously).
And I have bonded with people (Aussie residents and distant family) who I would never have been able to spend time with were it not for landing myself in Melbourne.
Should I regret my decision to come here? I wonder what you guys, my readers, think?
If nothing else, I tried, and removed myself far out of my comfort zone. And for that, I just can’t regret.