Growing up, I idolized Steve Irwin. My favorite part of the day was switching on Animal Planet after a long day at school and watching The Crocodile Hunter. I know I know, that’s such a tourist thing! Honestly, celebrity deaths don’t faze me, but his loss felt personal.
Being raised in a country where pop culture was pretty much Americanized, up until year 10 I could only associate Australia with Bondi Beach, The Australia Zoo (Irwin family), Brett Lee, Kylie Minogue, “Miss You Love” by Silverchair and the quintessential laid-back lifestyle comprising of surfing and beer. A couple of years down the line, I decided to take the plunge and moved to Australia for grad school.
Moving to this beautiful country was one of the best decisions of my life and I feel blessed to be amongst the wonderful people here. I do have to say, going by my Instagram, I am living my best life – planned candid pictures at The Grounds of Alexandria, tanned and happy as a clam at Coogee Beach, insta-worthy brunch at Social Hideout, pub crawls in the city, coastal walks and getting legless at a bottomless brunch (please imagine that read in Kim Craig from Kath & Kim’s voice).
However, I haven’t posted pictures of me sobbing due to home sickness or just having a breakdown because of uni and work stress. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hustle of living alone overseas and having these amazing experiences; but there were a few things that I wish I would have known beforehand.
Homesickness is real and it can get debilitating.
It’s not always about missing your family and friends. It can be smelling the aroma of food in the middle of the city that reminds you of your home town, festival seasons, or a random memory that pops up while you’re on the train to work.
Initially, I would spend hours crying in my room because I missed my family and friends – my safety net. Over time, I felt that the more I contacted them, the more my mental health worsened. However, once I tried to make myself busy here, instead of excessively contacting them, I started to feel better. You can also find MeetUp groups to meet others specifically from your home country if the homesickness gets bad.
The cost of living here is astronomical, especially the rent and transport.
Initially, I kept converting AUD into my country’s currency and asking myself: Why am I spending 5 dollars for a hot chocolate?! I could have bought some groceries in the same amount back home. Budgeting and finding cheaper alternatives, especially if you are a student, will make you a tad bit less stressed.
Life in Sydney can be very lonely, unless you already have friends and family members living here.
I was lucky enough to have amazing housemates when I first moved into a student accommodation. After moving out, I did experience some unpleasant situations with some of my housemates. Well, life at uni hasn’t been exactly the way you see on campus flyers, handbooks or the university website – a group of international students sitting together in a circle at some random park and giggling. Balancing a grad degree and work is a full-time job in itself and students in my cohort preferred staying to themselves. Some of the friends I made were from my work-place, ex housemates and Bumble BFF.
You will have moments of culture shock.
You’ll be gob smacked by some of the ignorant stereotypical questions or back-handed compliments you hear about your culture or home country. It will also take you a while to understand Australian slangs!
There will be good days and bad days. You will have moments where you want to take the next flight and go back home; hang in there, watch the magnificent sunsets this city has to offer and soak in the fresh air and blue skies – I promise, it gets better.
What I love the most about Sydney, is that there is a suburb for every personality type; it’s like being spoilt for choice in terms of what suburban stereotype and vibe you would like to embrace! The hustle might be tough… but you gotta get this bread!
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.
To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/