Interview: Jennifer, Moved from the U.S. to Australia

I interviewed a friend of mine, Jennifer, to find out how her life has changed since moving from the states to Australia as well as sharing some tips on travel.

1) Did you make your initial move to New South Wales to attend Southern Cross University in Lismore?

When I moved to Australia I had not even heard of Southern Cross University. However, soon after arriving I felt a very strong urge to explore expanding my formal education in Australia.

2) What made you decide on New South Wales over other places in Australia that you could reside?

Although I have travelled along the eastern coast of Australia, I found the most comforting and progressive environment in Northern New South Wales. I am into healthy living and personal development, this region offers opportunities for both in a variety of ways.

3) Did the decision to move to New South Wales (See Question #1 & 2) have to do with attending University in Lismore?

Feeling so comfortable and supported in Northern New South Wales definitely helped in my decision to study at Southern Cross University. For being a regional area and to offer such educational opportunities right here was a win/win.

4) Did you plan on staying there for a few years and then moving back to the states?

When I left the US I had said to myself that I’d either be away for one year or five. I am now away for 3 so far. I initially came to Australia on a Work and Holiday Visa which was for one year. There was a bit of confusion when I arrived as I thought that working in a regional area in a primary industry would qualify for a second year visa, but apparently that is not available to Americans. I am engaged to an Australian so chances are I’ll be here much longer than I had thought originally!

5) Did you have any concerns before making the big move from the states to Australia?

Prior to moving to Australia I spent a year and a half living in Brazil so living abroad was something I knew was possible and would offer the kind of growth I was looking for, the move to Australia was easy at that stage. However rewind back to 2007 when I resigned from my job after 9 years and gave away everything I owned, and took two bags with me to a county where I didn’t speak the language… now that was a HUGE transition with an enormous learning curve!

6) Would you consider yourself a local now that you have lived in New South Wales for a while?

A local… not there quite yet, but I’m sure the day will come!

7) Are you still immersing yourself into the different culture that it has to offer?

I now live on a Free Range Poultry Farm (ironic as I am vegetarian!) and have fully embraced rural living. Well coastal rural really, it’s kinda the best of both worlds with everything very central. I am the only American I converse with that’s for sure. We also have two WWOOFers from Scotland on the farm right now too so we are feeling very multicultural!

8 ) Are you still learning new things and finding new adventures around the corner of the place you now call home?

Always finding new things to learn and explore, always! I have felt more comfortable in this region than I have pretty much anywhere else in the world. I’ve learned to sew here and have made garments for myself and others, I’ve joined the local community theatre and have been on stage, I’ve volunteered for the fashion show as a model! and even spent five months volunteering for the Byron Bay Film Festival. Besides those exterior activities, I am consistently problem solving and creating things on the farm to help make our lives easier and am in the process now of transforming a one acre paddock into a sustainable garden. Then of course Uni too!!! I can definitely say that I’m never bored and always have something to do!

9) What hidden gems of the country you have adopted as your own could you share with someone who has never been there?

Hidden gems… Well after living and working in National Parks (Yosemite and Grand Canyon) for seven years I appreciate natural beauty which Australia has in abundance. So finding local swimming spots with waterfalls, enjoying the local Tea Tree Lake at Lennox Head (a major favorite!) and hitting up as many markets as I can. The markets are a hot spot, especially in this region, where you can come across amazing hand made gifts and treats – it’s where creativity and goodness combine, they are a cornerstone to this area.

10) Any places you would recommend that visitors may not find in a guidebook?

Generally speaking, I don’t use a guidebook. I am more of a get a map and get behind the wheel kinda gal. I like to get off the main track and see what I can find. This includes stopping at the local visitors centres which are located in most larger towns, they are a wealth of information!!!

11) Any advice you can give someone who is considering moving from one country to another?

Best advice I can give to someone considering moving to another country is that if it doesn’t work out the way you think it will, it will happen the way it is intended. Go for it, learn, experience and create life.

Additional Information – Shortly after arriving in Australia I was in a head on collision, it was major. That is the reason why I was able to stay beyond my one year Work and Holiday Visa, as I then obtained a Medical Treatment visa. I’m all done with it now (thankfully) but I ended up having four facial surgeries, heaps of physical therapy, complementary therapy, counseling, acupuncture, and pilates. It was a huge effort and it was scary to experience that on my own in a country that wasn’t my own. However, it kept me here for which I am eternally grateful. I wasn’t permitted to work on my Medical treatment visa so I volunteered. I would open up the Echo newspaper and just see what I could get involved in. Connecting with the community helped in my healing tremendously. Having experienced such a loving and nourishing community here I felt a strong urge to stay here and find other ways to give back however I could.

A few other tips…

Pack light, ALWAYS! This almost forces you to get out and explore straight away, it helps you get acquainted with the local culture, their products, their systems. Also if you buy clothes at thift shops/ op shops you are then have the opportunity to try out something new, perhaps outside of your comfort zone and to test out different styles in different areas. I feel different in different cultures, climates etc… and have found this to be such a nice way of getting “in” to a place.

Be easy on yourself. If you need to rest, rest! Listen to your body, trust it and go with it. It might seem out of the ordinary or unlike you, but that’s okay, explore what that’s like!

Before going to bed, always go over the highlights of the day, write them down, even if it’s just a little scribble, that will be a treasure chest of information later on, especially if you are looking for inspiration. Be honest in your thoughts as well! If you behaved in a way you didn’t like, do it differently the next day! That’s the beauty of a new day!

Keep in mind that it’s all an opportunity to learn, and every “lesson” that comes along you can handle, even when you totally break your face. At least everything else still works well!