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Friday, March 22, 2013

Guest Blogger: Eve

Thank you Eve for sharing your story. I know it will inspire others as it has us.

Migrating to the University of Life
Brisbane, Australia Kangaroo Point
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
For most people, the idea of traveling the world – gazing at the stars from the deck of a boat sailing along the Great Barrier Reef, spending a summer working at a vineyard in France or teaching English in uncharted territory like Japan, is the stuff dreams are made of. But dreaming wasn’t exactly on my mind when, at the age of 15, my parents decided to take a huge leap of faith and seek a better future beneath the blazing Australian sun. Our family flew from London to Brisbane one grey afternoon in June in 1989, and all I can recall from that day were my friends saying goodbye to me at the airport, their sombre expressions foreboding that it would be a long, long time before we would see each other again.

Learning through Challenge
It is one thing to travel on a month’s holiday and another altogether, to migrate to a new country. At 15, I had two years left to go at school but when we arrived in Australia, the school year had already started. I had to wait six months to start school, the loneliest six months of my life. Having been firmly entrenched in the school system in the UK, with a solid group of friends I had known since we were practically toddlers, being in such vastly different surrounds with people speaking in an accent I sometimes found difficult to understand, was a true learning experience.

In the late 1980s, University in Australia was almost exclusively public and in order to obtain entry, students had to place within the top 10 per cent of the state. Since I started in the last two years of secondary school, the most competitive and relevant for university access, the intensity of academic life felt like a baptism of fire. With the help of a teacher who took me under her wing and introduced me to the magnificent world of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, I managed to get by and once I commenced my studies at University, I was well on the way to feeling like I had found my new home. After graduation, I made my way to a far-off corner of the globe: Spain. I had always wanted to learn Spanish and I figured that the best way to do it, was via full immersion. As luck would have it, I met my husband and today, I call Spain home, though I will never forget the highs and lows of the incredible country that is Australia.

                                                            Cultural Crossroads
Brisbane, Australia Town Hall
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
One of the best things about travel is learning about a new culture ‘in the flesh’. Going from rainy days indoors in London to sunny afternoons by the pool in Brisbane was a nice change, but it went a bit deeper than that; I delighted at discovering Aboriginal art and culture and managed to visit the ancient sacred site of Uluru, whose majesty can hardly be expressed in words. It’s one thing to watch Aboriginal musicians playing the didgeridoo on YouTube and something altogether to enjoy the experience live, with Uluru rising in the background, reminding you of the depth and beauty of Aboriginal religion and culture. In Spain, experiencing the collective high of Holy Week in Seville or the April fair, filled with flamenco song and dance, gave me a keen insight into the heart and soul of its people.

Travel is also a must for lovers of architecture, who can glean the extent to which harmony and proportion abound in constructions like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Pantheon in Paris or the Forum in Rome, seemingly populated by the ghosts of Emperors past who traipse quietly by, immune to the sounds of the maddening crowd. When you move to these cities and you have the chance to visit monuments many times over, the level of connection and understanding with their architecture increases significantly.

An Informative Edge
When you first migrate to a new country, you normally have an abundance of something most people consider a luxury: time. Much of it will be spent meeting new people and getting to know your new city but in the quiet moments, you can take advantage of the endless hours of solitude by opening a good book and learning about everything from the social customs in your new country or city, to topics you may never even have considered approaching in the past. In my case, my strong background in humanities meant that I really lacked a basic knowledge in business; I decided that the best way to start was using a good introductory business textbook, which taught me everything from how to draft a business plan to the basics of micro- and macro-economics. Holding a book between my hands somehow felt so much more comforting sometimes than using the Internet; in my case, books were my savior and I devoured them voraciously, feeling a bit like a business undergrad by the time I’d finished reading classic textbooks on consumer behavior, retailing and cost accounting. Many years later, I was able to use the knowledge I had gleaned in this time period to open up a small business I had been interested in since I was a teen.

An Edge in Life
Brisbane, Australia Southbank Beach Fireworks
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Arguably the best thing about living in different countries is the way it teaches us that people are similar, regardless of the cultural differences; I’ve lived in three countries thus far and I have always been lucky to find good friends, each of which enriched my life in ways I cannot quantify and I would certainly not undo, even if it meant going through the growing pains of adapting to a new culture all over again. Travel is the greatest of teachers because it invites us to let go of preconceived notions and ideas and to open our hearts to the unknown.

Eve

2 comments:

  1. I want so badly to travel overseas. But my son is 18 months old, and I doubt I'll ever have the money to do it. I have lived in Australia my whole life, lived all around it though. people across state and territory boarders are still quite different from each other. but wherever i go in aus, I've always managed to find some friends :) I'd like to go visit Spain, I love the Spanish language, even if its the only other place i visit, i reckon i'll get there one day.

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  2. Great post. I too, having moved from Zambia at the age of 13 to live in England truly believe that people are similar, regardless of the cultural differences. I love travelling; seeing and immersing myself in a different cultures, that belief has still not changed.

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