“ I planned to go overseas for six months; six years later I am still here.” Is my usual response when someone asks me how I like Australia and if I want to stay.
Ever wanted to know what inspired b3’s Jana into moving across the globe and start a new career? Read on as Jana shares the excitement and sometimes harsh reality of living and working overseas.
Back in Germany I had a corporate background. Working in Business Consultancy and having a Business Law degree sounds pretty fancy, but I eventually had to admit, it wasn’t for me. Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I didn’t want to continue the way I did, so I quit everything. Instead of putting on the business suit and high heels every morning, I accepted every little part time job offered to me. After all, I had nothing to lose. I ended up working at a stall selling traditional German cakes at a Christmas Market, at a cloakroom in a night club and even designed shirts. Not having a lot of responsibility for a while felt good but isn’t very satisfying. But where do you start looking for ‘your dream job’? It also doesn’t help when family and friends ask every day “what do you want to do now?” All meaning well but how do you answer a question you are unsure about yourself?
Going overseas seemed to be a good idea to escape pressure of life. But where to go? It was never about the destination but rather about clearing my head and maybe improving my English; so an English speaking country was. After skyping a friend, I decided to meet her in Australia. I applied for a visa, packed up my apartment and booked flights. Five months later, on 15th June 2010 a handful of dear friends and family took me to the airport.
With a quick (6 hours) stopover at Sydney Airport my first destination was Cairns, because who wants to stay in the south in Australian winter after all! Quickly I realized that Australia is an expensive place to live so I had to look for a job sooner rather than later. The easiest field to find a job, is in hospitality. This took me all the way up to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait Islands. This was quite a cultural shock but a remarkable experience and kept me for almost four months. A travelling Irish friend asked me to join her working on a farm as part of a WWOOFing program. Who knew I would enjoy working hard on a horse and cattle farm?! I loved it so much that I stayed four months before finally running out of money again. But where to go next? Staying in Queensland or exploring more of Australia? I hadn’t even seen red dirt at this stage and this is what Australia looks like in all the books in Germany, just red dirt. I decided to stay the full year my visa allowed and go to Adelaide next.
It didn’t take long to fall in love with this city. A city filled with trees and nature, people being active outside, everything being very accessible and nothing far away. Those beautiful hills, wonderful beaches in the south and welcoming friendly people. Winter was approaching and unfortunately wasn’t a great time to find a casual job, so I took a job to work the snow season in Thredbo NSW. Great way to see a little bit more and save money once again. Still not having seen much of Australia, I applied for a second year of my visa and (accidently) having done the required farmwork, the visa was approved pretty quick. In Thredbo I worked in a hotel with a Day Spa and one of the girls working there was a Remedial Massage Therapist. While getting a massage from her I thought this was something I might enjoy doing and should study it. The seed was planted!
After the snow season finished I came back to Adelaide but only to go on a road trip to Port Hedland, with a friend who took a job up there. Now I was able to tick WA off the list as well and finally see some red dirt. After Perth it was a long and mundane trip but we made it. While being there I talked to a few hotels and was offered a good job and stayed to save money for my future studies. I worked with some pretty amazing people but the lifestyle was not for me and I always had Adelaide in the back of my head. My visa and the time in Port Hedland came to an end and I applied to study Remedial Massage in Adelaide. Visa and studies were approved quickly, now it was time to go back to Germany to visit my family and friends before being a poor student. It was great to see everyone again and meet my little nephew, which was born while being away.
The first days of studying were packed with theory. When it came to the practical part, I soon realized that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED it! I couldn’t wait to do placement hours and gain more experience. I volunteered at a footy club and decided I needed more work. This is how I met Jackie. Walking eagerly into her office I asked to work a few hours at Bodyfirst Massage to gain more experience.
Finishing my studies and gaining more experiences working with a Physio company, Jackie was eventually looking for someone to help her at Bodyfirst Massage. Initially I started with four hours per week but put all my bets on Jackie and increased up to 20 hours per week, which was the maximum allowed on my visa. There we were, working in our cute little room, sharing days and food and left little notes for each other at the end of the day.
The Next Step
I knew what I wanted to do but there is no such thing as just staying in Australia straight after finishing my Remedial studies. I concentrated on widening my repertoire and working in my field instead of hospitality. I started studying Reflexology and Aromatherapy, which gave me additional qualifications and also provided temporary visas, while working with and building Jackie’s business with her.
It was time to look out for a bigger premises. The dream was a combined space of Massage and Movement. To find an appropriate space, in the same location, at an affordable price turned out to be harder than expected. The long search gave me enough time to look into different visa options, gain a qualification as a Pilates instructor and find the courage to sign up for a Yoga instructor qualification.
With the business expanding, it was time to apply for a more permanent visa. After all, being nearly six years in Australia made it more a home than anywhere else. To make the decision for a longer visa was easy but the transition was way more complicated than expected. Not only did I have to go through a lot of hoops but so did Jackie. How fortunate am I, finding a job that I love doing and with someone who is awesome and who is even willing to help me with my visa application! I guess Jackie was not fully aware of the size of this process nor how much stress, money and tears it would bring, but she certainly didn’t take the easy way out when it got hard.
The move was great but winter was brutal and so was the whole visa process. After having to go for a chest x-ray and blood tests, I was on a Bridging visa for many months before we heard anything form the Immigration Agent. Finally we heard from the Immigration Agent in September, but of course it wasn’t as easy as just granting the visa. More documents and certificates and numbers were needed…and plenty more stress and tears were had. Finally on the 13th October I received a call I had so very patiently been waiting for. The visa has been granted! I could not believe it: Permanent Residency!
What a journey and how easy six months can turn into more than 6 years. If you would have told me six and a half years ago that I would live in Adelaide and be a Remedial Massage Therapist and teach Yoga and Pilates; my answer would have been a disbelieving big belly laugh and “where is Adelaide?” Being on temporary visas and a Bridging visa for such a long time is quite taxing on the mind, work and private relationships. But a great boss, loving partner, supporting family and friends make it a bit easier to cope with. What a journey! It has been long but is not over yet.
What will come next? Who knows(!) but it is going to be great and I am looking forward to it.