“So….what brings you to Australia?”. This is a question I encounter on a weekly basis. It’s more due to the fact that, because of my job as a physio, I meet new people every day and I am the only non-Aussie accent in the clinic. I don’t mind answering the question, after all a foreign accent is a novelty, and I have different answers depending on the personality of the person asking.
Those who have known me since childhood find it terribly amusing I now live on the other side of the planet from my hometown, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I used to get ridiculously homesick when separated from my family, including one trip as a 14 year old to Florida with my best friend and her family. We were away for 2 weeks and I called my mother every second day-I was so homesick that I actually made myself physically sick. Not that I didn’t have a great trip but when I was allowed the time to sit and stress, I did it incredibly well.
The short version of the story is this: In my last year of high school, we had two teachers come over from Brisbane on exchange. They coached the basketball team I played on and getting to know them cemented a desire to one day visit. Then, in my 2nd year of my undergraduate degree, my best friend’s older sister decided to study her teaching degree in Brisbane and we planned a 3 week holiday down under. Despite the fact I broke my toe 2 days into the trip, I had an amazing time and fell in love with Australia. I met up with the teachers again and they took me to the university campus. I decided that day to come back to do an exchange and, as soon as I returned from my holiday, I filled out the paperwork and got the process going.
The next year, I came down for my study abroad semester. The semester itself lasted 4 months and then I travelled a bit with my sister, who’d come to visit for 6 weeks, and got a job, moved in with friends and stayed until my plane ticket was about to run out.
Then time came to apply to physio schools in Canada, something I’d wanted to do since I was 13. Physiotherapy in Canada is now only offered as a Graduate Entry Masters (GEMs) degree-one must have a prior health related undergraduate degree and then the physio degree is completed in 2 years/6 straight semesters and you graduate with a Masters. In Australia, you can study as a bachelor’s degree or the GEMs. This difference means that only 40 people per university get accepted per year in Canada and hundreds apply, whereas in Australia, it’s a bit easier to get in. Despite higher than required grades, 5 years experience as a physio aide and recommendations from physios, I did not get even wait-listed in Canada. So I said “screw you Canada” and applied to schools down under. The University of Queensland, the uni I’d done my exchange at, accepted me right away, thus changing the course of my life. That was 2007 and I’ve been here ever since. I am now a permanent resident and can apply for citizenship in 2 weeks.
I have been lucky enough, in the 5 years I’ve been here (6 if you count my exchange year) to have the chance to go home for a visit or have a family member come visit me. Yes, I get homesick for Canadian things, but I consider this home now. If my family were over here, things would be perfect. Skype has, when it’s working, ensured that I can talk to my family weekly and seeing them on the screen makes me feel like I’m actually having a visit, rather than just a phone call. Of course, the wonderful care packages I occasionally get from my parents, helps considerably in any homesickness.
So that’s the story of how I came to end up here in Australia. About 50% of the time, that first question is then followed up with “Did you follow or meet a man?”. Blech. Don’t even get me started on how that annoys me! Because of course, as a young female in a foreign country, I couldn’t have possibly made the choice of my own accord to move to another country and start a life there. See? I told you not to get me started! Maybe that’s a post for another day….