Skippy. Vegemite. “Put another shrimp on the barbie!” “Thongs” and “wife beaters”. The Sydney Opera House. Surfer dudes and bikini babes.
I’d visited “the land down under”, Australia, several times before I took the plunge and moved there for a year just after I graduated from law school. I applied for a working holiday-visa, a visa that lets people go to Australia for up to a year, and which allows you to work for a maximum of 6 months in one place. With that in hand, it was all a question of when I would go.
After spending two months living in a sailboat over the summer of 2015 I left Norway at the end of August together with Joseph, my Australian boyfriend at the time. I had no idea what to expect, as this was my first time moving abroad.
Brisbane – month 1-4
My first stop, which I stayed at from the end of August to mid-December, was Brisbane. This was the first place outside of Norway I would actually live, not visit, and I was both thrilled and a little anxious.
Brisbane, with it’s roughly 2 million people is by far the largest city I’ve lived in (Oslo has just over 675.000 inhabitants, while Kristiansand has 89.000). Brisbane, located in Queensland (QLD) also has a subtropical climate, which means that when I arrived just when spring was about to start, it was already hot. Almost a Norwegian summer day-hot. I’ve never been much of a winter person, so this suited me very well.
We ended up in Brisbane simply because we’d been offered a place to stay while looking for jobs there. Since neither of us had a job upon arrival in Australia, this was a great idea, as it left us not only with a place to stay for free, but it also saved us a lot of stress.
In Brisbane I met several wonderful people. I went to the local gym, Fitness First Carindale (one example of how different the term “local” is when you live in a small city like Oslo or Kristiansand compared to Brisbane. Back here in Norway I walk to the gym within minutes. In Brisbane the gym was a mere 10 minutes drive by car), and I got inspired by the wonderful fitness instructor Beata. I also met up with a local girl, Lauren, who lived just down the road from where I lived. We still talk a lot, and I have received wonderful gifts from Lauren in the mail after I came back to Norway. I even got invited to her wedding this year.
Queensland, also known as “The Sunshine State” is a large state in Australia. This is where you’ll be able to find famous places such as Brisbane, Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise) and The Great Barrier Reef, to mention a few. I actually never made it to the Reef (sadly), so that’s one big box to tick off for later. The same goes for the Whitsunday Islands, which is also located in QLD.
To arrive in a big city, in a large country where you hardly know anyone can be hard.Jo quickly got himself a job. Meanwhile I, who was stuck with my Working Holiday visa (which means you can only work somewhere for a maximum of 6 months), quickly experienced how the limitations of my visa made people reluctant of hiring me.
I did, however, not want to let that stop me from either getting a job, having a good time or getting to know people, so I posted in a local group on Facebook, and met up with some girls. I wrote up a general job application, and along with it a CV, which I then printed out and handed in to all shops and cafés near where I lived and in the city town centre. I also applied for a lot of jobs I found on Seek, an Australian web page for job ads.
All of this effort eventually lead to me first getting hired as a Christmas casual in a jewellery store. Shortly after I was offered a full time position for another company. Shortly after this again, life decided to show how random it could be. After all my efforts I had finally landed a full time position – and then we had to up and move. Jo’s mum had gotten a new job. And we would move not just across the road, but to Canberra, 16 hours away by car from Brisbane. This meant she would rent out her house, and that we needed to find a new place.
Chance would have it so that Jo knew of a furnished place we could move straight into. The only thing was that this place was located in Canberra, where Jo’s originally from.
And that’s how I ended up having to quit, after only a couple of weeks working. Back to square one.
Canberra – month 4 – 12
“So you live in Australia, but you DON’T live near the beach?”
If only I had a dollar each time someone said this to me. Canberra, located in Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is the capital of Australia (and not Sydney or Melbourne, as a lot of people believe). Located between these two major cities, Canberra is the biggest inland city of Australia (with over 403.000 people).
The city of Canberra was built as a result of a compromise between said cities, after their rivaling of which city should be the capital. (To me, this is such an Australian way of dealing with an issue. Can’t decide which city to make the capital? “No wukkas, mate, we’ll just build a new city!” Love it!)
I moved to Canberra in December, just in time for Christmas. We moved into a shared house, with Paddy and Ren, and their three cats Gusto, Shadow and Titus. A couple of weeks before moving, we’d visited Canberra for a wedding, and I had (after my third glass of wine) spoken with some photographers in Canberra. They said I should send them my portfolio, which I did, so upon my arrival in ACT I already had a job interview lined up for after Christmas.
I’d also met Natalie earlier at a party. Natalie is one of those people you meet once, and instantly click with. After only meeting once, we had started writing a lot to each other on Facebook. She’s from the Netherlands, and was also in Australia on a working holiday visa, so we ganged up quickly. Moving to Canberra meant we could hang out all the time, which we also did.
I also cannot not mention Katie as I’m name dropping people. I met her, I think, after living in Canberra for about 3 days, and she took me out for coffee, showed me the city, and is still a dear friend to me.
ACT has, compared to QLD, a very different climate. Here you actually do get a big difference between the different seasons, whereas in QLD it might very well be humid and 25 degrees during winter. One morning I was actually awakened by the enthusiastic shouting of my flatmates – “it’s snowing outside!”
As a Norwegian I have to admit I had to laugh a little when I saw the tiny amount of white that was barely touching the ground before disappearing, but the true joy of my Aussie friends was great. I guess snow is way more exciting when you’re not used to seeing it all the time.
Even though Canberra is not located by the sea, it does have a large human made lake, Lake Burley Griffin. A lot of important institutions, such as The National Library, – Gallery and – Museum are located on its shore. At Lake Burley Griffin I signed up for a sailing course, to keep my knowledge of sailing up. Canberra might not be the obvious place to visit if at first you find yourself in Australia, but I really enjoyed my time there.
There’s also a lot of great opportunities to go hiking or just enjoy nature while you’re in Canberra. I’ll share some of my favourite places both in the Canberra-, Sydney- and Brisbane-area later.
Moving abroad – what’s it like?
Moving to a place far away from both your family, friends, your entire network and everything you know is not just fun and games. I vividly remember being alone at a mall once, just walking around, when a mother and her teenage daughter walked past. “Let’s go to a café!” the mother suggested, and the daughter agreed. It really hit me then just how far away I was from my own mother, and that I could not even give her a call just to hear her voice, as it was in the middle of the night in Norway.
I definitely had to put myself out of my comfort zone a lot in order to befriend people. I used Facebook groups in order to try and reach out, and I put on my most sociable face when going out. It worked, but I would still every now and then feel homesick. Everyone else in Australia was living their already well established life, while I was the new one not knowing people. It was definitely an experience, and I feel like I learned a lot about myself from this.
Would I recommend others to move abroad, for study, work or just to try it out? You bet!
And would I do it again, if situations were right? Definitely!
Inspired? Here’s a bit more about the Working Holiday Visa in Australia
- A one time only visa for people between the age of 18 and 30 (valid until you turn 31)
- Let’s you stay in Australia for a maximum of 12 months (the 12 months starts counting from the day you arrive in Australia, not from when you apply for the visa or it’s approved)
- Let’s you study for up to 4 months
- Let’s you work for a company for up to 6 months
- You can leave and re-enter Australia as many times as you want within those 12 months (but the time you spend outside of Australia still counts towards those 12 months your visa is valid)
- You can apply online as long as you’re outside of Australia when the application is sent
- The cost of the application is 450 AUD (just over 2700 NOK)
- If you want to, while you have your first working holiday visa, you can apply for a second year of your visa. However, more demands are made from you in order to be able to get this second year. You’re best to speak to immigration if you wish to do this!
Have you moved abroad before? Or, is that something you could imagine doing?