Editor’s Note: Happy Monday! This morning Heather Beckett is back sharing another story about her family’s adventure of living in Australia for a year. Today she discusses how they shifted into their life abroad and established themselves in a new community. Here she is:
Moving can be unsettling. Our year in Australia was a process of building our community from the ground up and immersing ourselves into a new place. There were many adjustments that we needed to make. Some of them were superficial like driving on the other side of the road, trying to decipher the Aussie accent and getting used to the heat. Others were more dramatic like attending a new school and developing new friendships. With this in mind we knew it would be best to take our new reality one step at a time.
Once we arrived in Brisbane, we hit the ground running. There was no time to delve into exploring the sights of the city. We needed to set up the day-to-day essentials that were important for making our lives smoother. So on our first day we set out on a mission to get bank accounts set up, groceries and other necessities bought, phone and Internet services arranged, and most importantly, a car purchased. Thankfully we were taken under the wing of a local and gently immersed into our new surroundings. As we traveled from store to store, we were slowly shifting into our new lives, taking in the city with wide eyes, at times feeling surreal to think this was to be our home for a year.
With the more mundane tasks ticked off the list, we were able to focus on getting to know our neighborhood, the kids’ school and the city. We were also excited to hit the beach – a real treat coming from a Canadian winter. But first things first was school for the kids.
We got the kids enrolled as soon as possible. This was a good step to help alleviate some of the anxiety floating around the house. We made the hot fifteen minute walk through the neighborhood to Junction Park State School where we were met with warm smiles and an enthusiasm for the kids to be a part of the school. After a tour of the campus and the classrooms, and meeting the teachers we felt positive about the upcoming year. It was the perfect antidote to calm the nerves.
With each step and day that passed we were feeling more settled. Slowly we headed out to get acquainted with the city. We discovered the community markets, art galleries and museums, coffee shops, fun parks for the kids to play at and an extensive bike path system that wound through the city. It was exciting to learn our way around, to look in the nooks and crannies of the city and the newness of it to us. With a better sense of everything Brisbane had to offer, we were ready to embrace life as city dwellers.
Our trip was made more positive by the people we met and the places we saw. Many times the two went hand in hand. We ventured into this trip with a wide-eyed curiosity, open to meeting new people and having unique experiences. We were fortunate to be invited to spend a weekend hiking around Lamington National Park, play on the beaches of Stradbroke Island, ride horses and round up cattle, and have lovely meals in people’s homes. We seized the chance to have these experiences. How could we not? These are the moments of fantastic memories, that bring you closer to people, foster friendships and expose you to places you may never have seen.
We took advantage of this year to step into some new roles, try new things and be involved in a way that connected us to a broader community. When the occasion arose to volunteer with adults learning English and in my children’s classroom, I jumped right in. I had the good fortune to work with three boys on a weekly basis. Over the year I learned their stories and heard about their hopes for the future, while helping with math skills. I came away from my time with them feeling personally rewarded and that I had made a positive impact on their learning.
The kids were keen to get involved in the many events and extra-curricular activities offered through their school. My daughter had the opportunity to play Netball; she was part of a team, learned a new game and she loved it. It made her feel connected to her school and to a group of friends. My son joined a tennis group even though he had never played before. He was instantly hooked on the game, took away new skills and forged friendships with kids that will hopefully last a lifetime.
At times it felt as though we were only skimming the top of what it meant to be rooted in this community. That was our fault. We wanted the freedom to go outside of the city to explore other parts of Australia; we wanted to be free of obligations and have time away. I know we could have gone deeper. I don’t have regrets though. We have all come away with strong connections to people, as well as the place.
To get established in a new community takes work; you need to let down your guard and be bold. The more we let go and the more we immersed ourselves into our new surroundings, the more we knew full-heartedly that we had made the right choice to leave our Canadian life for a year.