The Realities of the Big OE

The Realities of the Big OE

For a lot of people, upping and leaving NZ is a right of passage, and with it comes a spectrum of unexpected feelings from phone countdowns to crying at 2am on Skype.  So we asked some of our favourite people, dotted all around the world from Cambodia to Malawi, to share with us their experience and how they managed to make somewhere else home.

moving2.jpg

Why did you decide to leave Aotearoa?

 

BEKA: 

I'd always hoped to live overseas/travel but it was more wishful thinking than any kind of plan. I was lucky enough to land my dream job in Malawi of all places, so in the space of about a month I went from having to google where Malawi was, to getting on a plane with one solitary 23kg suitcase and going to make it my home for a year.

 

LYDIA:

I’m deeply passionate about the restoration of the way the world views and treats the vulnerable, particularly marginalised women and children in developing countries. I’d also always been too afraid and too comfortable to chase after being a part of that on the ground. Then, an opportunity with Hagar International came up, an organisation that works to see communities free and healed from the trauma of slavery, trafficking, and abuse, and I found myself with gumption and not a lot to lose. So, I booked a one way ticket to Cambodia, took a volunteer position, and a couple of months later, extended my contract and took a real job.

 

STEVII:

As I was nearing the end of my music degree, and trying to imagine what I would do afterwards, I felt like I needed to leave Auckland and start the next chapter. One of my best friends was making the move to Melbourne and asked if I wanted to come – The thought was really exciting, the perfect move for my next chapter. It wasn’t too far from home which was a bit of a safety net, so I said YES and moved a couple of days after completing my degree.

 

POPPY:

I initially left NZ for university in the UK, but have just secured my first job in London!

 

DAISY:

I was born in the U.K. and have always wanted to come home - when uni didn't work out I decided to come back for an extended amount of time, and now I've lived in London for the past three years!

starry1.jpg

What's your favourite thing about where you're living now?


LYDIA:

I have so many favourite things about Cambodia. I love my job. I get to hear and share the stories of survivors of trafficking, slavery, and abuse, and within that, I’ve learnt so much about hope and how much there is of it for the world. I think the best part about Cambodia is its people. They are so warm, brilliant, and funny. I love my regular Tuk Tuk drivers. One of them loves “Never Had a Dream Come True” by S Club 7 and he knows all the words and if I start singing it in the Tuk Tuk he’ll belt it out with me.

 

POPPY:

My favourite thing about London is purely just how much is going on. There’s always a snazzy new bar opening, beaut markets to mooch around, or festivals to suit any kind of enthusiast (London food fest is my personal fave). It’s one of the buzziest places I’ve ever been and I feel v lucky to be experiencing so many cool new things in my 20s.

 

DAISY:

I wake up every day not knowing to expect - every day is different, good or bad. I think you get addicted to the excitement of it.

 

How did it feel when you first arrived?
 

POPPY

Terrible. I was freezing, felt very lost, and I was starting to think I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life. The fact that you can’t just ring up your fam or friends and have a wee cry was definitely the hardest thing for me, and having the confidence to be independent and start building a whole new network was a massive challenge
 


LYDIA

My first afternoon here, I honestly sat on my bed and cried and wondered what I’d done. I had a crazy amount of culture shock. I’d never been here before, I didn’t know anyone who was living here, so I stepped off the plane entirely alone into a country I’d never been to and had to figure out how to do basic things all over again. I had no idea where was safe to eat, how to get around, whether or not motorbikes would take me out if I was walking down the street. But when I figured those things out, the small victories actually felt amazing.

 

STEVII

There were a lot of mixed feelings. At the start I was excited and didn’t know what to expect - I had never been to Melbourne or even left New Zealand before. I was lucky to have moved with my friend because it gave me a sense of familiarity and made it easier to transition. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure where I would live, how I would get a job and how long my savings would last.  Also, my sense of direction is TERRIBLE so I would quite often get lost and disorientated.

 

And how does it feel now?
 

BEKA

A year and a half ish after coming home, I have so many fond memories of Malawi. Sometimes I get nostalgic and my little brother reminds me how often I used to call him and have a rant about the latest horrible thing, so I've probably romanticised it a little. To be expected! It feels like something that I dreamed, a bizarre, spontaneous decision that changed my life and changed me.

 

STEVII

It feels like home, almost like a city in New Zealand but with more variety. It is still just as exciting too, because there is always something happening and new places to try. I don’t think I will ever get bored of testing out new cafes.

 

POPPY

Today I’m so much happier in my new home and I feel like I’ve found myself a fab circle of friends who (almost) make up for the kiwis I miss so much. Sadly, the weather has not improved, and I’m still absolutely freezing 99% of the time.

 

How have you found it finding a community there?
 

BEKA

I lived in a little house by myself for the first few months in Malawi! Dancing around the house naked was a real treat but I've lived my life surrounded by people, and since I didn't have a car and you can't walk around outside after dark (6pm) year round,  it was quite isolating. I ended up moving into a shared house which was much better. Everyone else who lived there was in Malawi for shorter-term projects though, so I think I lived with around 50 different people from all around the world over the course of that year. I struggled with the transient nature of those friendships, but I loved the diversity of the people I got to live with, and all the things that we got to discuss nightly on the porch.

 

STEVII

To be honest I have found it quite hard. I have been here for a couple of years and still don’t feel like I have a “community”.  I’ve always made friends by being in a group of people at school or uni who you see everyday, but here I now have friends who are scattered in different groups.

 

LYDIA

It’s been tough. I think that’s because I’ve always had such an amazing community back home, and I left that behind in coming here. I came from the greatest flat full of girls that I love, a tight knit family, a really supportive workplace, to a place where I was on my own. I’d also grown up with a lot of people who believed the same things as me, and all of a sudden I was surrounded with such diversity of cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Ultimately, it’s grown me, and I’ve found community in the unexpected. I’ve found it at work, I’ve found it with random kiwis who know a friend of a friend, with the people that frequent my favourite coffee place on $1 Wednesdays, and more recently within church.

starry2.jpg

What is the hardest thing about moving away?
 

BEKA

I don't know if I could say what the hardest thing is! Sometimes I'd cry when I thought about the ocean. Sometimes I'd lock myself in my room and watch Mad Men all day and pretend I was just in my bedroom back in Castor Bay. Sometimes I'd get mad at everything I didn't understand. It was hard making friends with people who I knew I'd have to say goodbye to (but isn't that life). I felt really guilty that I'd been born into such enormous privilege through no doing of my own, and somehow that allowed me to experience these beautiful people's home and culture and lives, and they would never get the opportunity to experience my home and culture and life. Maybe that was the hardest thing. And also, realising that the problems of the world are not simple fixes. I came home a lot heavier in that regard.

 

DAISY

Missing your friends and family.  Fomo.

 

STEVII

For me it was feeling lonely. I was so used to having a group of friends and family all around me and all of a sudden I was in a city the size of NZ where I knew nobody. I felt like I had forgotten how to make friends and I had to learn how to enjoy spending time with myself.

 

And likewise, what’s been the best thing?


STEVII

Funny enough, knowing nobody was probably also the best thing. Coming from such a small hometown (Gisborne Represent) it’s a kind of cool feeling walking down the street where no one knows who you are. Noone cares what you look like or what you’re wearing because they are all doing their own thing. It helped me grow and become a new version of myself. It gave me an even stronger sense of independence, having to start from scratch and build a life with no one else to rely on.

 

LYDIA

The best thing for me is how well I’ve got to know myself, and how much I’ve learnt about what I’m capable of. Turns out when you’re taken outside of everything you’ve ever known you figure out a whole lot about what you’re made of and what you can do with that.
 

POPPY

The best thing about moving to the UK has undoubtedly been the memories I’ve made and the beautiful friends I’ve met. As corny as it sounds, I feel like a much stronger person with a much better perspective on life - which can only really be attributed to this whirlwind experience

 

DAISY

The sense of accomplishment- I feel proud of what I have achieved and the life I have in London.

 

Was there something you didn't expect to feel that you have?


BEKA

I didn't expect to feel so lost when I came home. I think I had a lot more grace for myself in moving to Malawi - because I knew that was going to be hard. I underestimated how hard the next thing would be. I think I had this idea that because I'd got my dream job once, that suddenly the rest of my career/life would fall into place and I'd be the happiest girl alive living all my dreams. Not the case. I also had a bit of an existential crisis while I was away and the aftermath of that was fairly horrendous. I'm really grateful to the friends who stayed during that time as I learned how to rebuild myself!

 

POPPY

As the world’s worst worrier, I expected to feel a bit lost/out of the loop when visiting NZ after 4 years in the UK. However, I’ve come to learn that the people that matter never change and neither do your relationships with them. Home is 100% where the heart is, so no matter how much time goes by, New Zealand will always hold my fave people and will therefore always be my fave country ever.

 

DAISY

Nostalgia and a fierce sense of pride about NZ

starry3.jpg

What do you miss about NZ?
 

LYDIA

General greenery, road rules, Whittakers (also widely publicising this means that I’ve managed to maintain a stash of it from various sources for the whole six months I’ve been away). I miss cold air and duvets. Mostly I miss my people though. No matter how great people here are, there's nothing like people who have seen you through a whole lot and just really know you.

 

POPPY

As much as I miss the sun/sea/sausage sizzles, my family and pals are definitely the thing I miss the most.


STEVII

I miss so much of the food, but am lucky enough my mum and friends send over sneaky care package  filled with Whitakers, Bluebirds chips and Healtheries teas! I really miss the greenery, and the smell of the beach. I miss all of my family and knowing every detail of my galpals’ lives.

 

Do you have a top tip for making friends?
 

BEKA

Say yes to things! I met strangers and would go through crazy experiences with them and then we'd be friends. Everyone is in the same boat as you - we're all just wandering around this world trying to figure it out and trying to find a place for ourselves. Even if friends exist only for a weekend it's better to have had that experience and had those connections than not.

 

LYDIA

Talk to people, they're likely looking for friendship too. Once, I was grabbing some gelato, and I struck up a conversation with some people who sounded like me. They've been some of my favourite people I've met so far.  Be authentic. Don't be afraid.
 

DAISY

Don't force yourself to fit into friends if you don't click- you can be selective about the people you want in your life. Shallow friendships only make you more lonely!!

 

What would you say to someone who is preparing to leave their homeland?
 


BEKA

Pack light. Remember that the rest of the world might seem very alien and foreign, but countries that we've never heard of are home for millions of people. Stay open. And I'm not sure where I read it, but these words were at the front of my mind while I was there - "don't hate what you don't understand". They helped a lot.


POPPY

I’d probably recommend to take each day as it comes. If you dwell on the fact that you won’t see your loved ones for x months, it’ll seem like a massive hurdle. Some days will inevitably be tough, but you really will be home before you know it – so make the most of this fab opportunity and have FUN!
 

LYDIA

Hi - you're great and you're going to get through this. It's going to be cool and really hard and you'll be better for it and your life will never be the same again.

Self-Care Can Take Hard Work

Self-Care Can Take Hard Work

Guys on Mental Health: Part Three

Guys on Mental Health: Part Three