Foreign Correspondence: Finding A New Home Down Under

Written by Cassie Chanin

I’ve been raised to call home wherever my friends and family are. Thanks to my parents’ love of moving house I’ve had a fairly nomadic upbringing, living in 11 different homes before I reached 18, staying nowhere for more than five years. Mostly I’ve lived in a few small towns and villages, never in a city. The sense of adventure I’ve always felt exploring new places and meeting new people was pushed to a higher level three months ago when I made the biggest move of my life alone.

I travelled for twenty-seven hours, over 11693 miles, from my rural home in Devon to a city that is a hundred kilometres wide. The kilometres may give it away – I moved to Australia, Melbourne to be precise, for a year of study abroad. I had two rucksacks containing all my worldly possessions, it wasn’t much but it was all I had with me to establish my life in the bustling city that had been ranked the world’s most liveable for the last seven years. Without my family there, it was a true test to see if I would like living in this foreign country.

The contrasts are immense. For a start, I left Britain in the midst of a (rare) heatwave in summer and arrived in the middle of winter in Australia. Newsflash, Melbourne gets pretty cold! I had to go and buy an extra couple of warm layers so that I didn’t freeze. It is also very capable of ‘chucking it down’, to use the British phrase. Melbourne is known for its unpredictable weather, to a degree that rivals even Cornwall. Now that a few months have passed and spring has arrived, the days are warmer but I still wouldn’t dare to step outside without checking the weather forecast first and bringing an umbrella.

Beyond the differences in climate, Melbourne is also extremely diverse demographically. Every cuisine imaginable is just around the corner here so you’re never short of options. Living in Devon, and studying in Cornwall, never lent me much experience in meeting people from different places, or experiencing different cultures. In fact, even meeting someone from the north could spark hours of debate about how to pronounce “bath’ and what to call a bread roll. As an exchange student living on campus, I have been lucky enough to make friends with people from the USA, Singapore, Mauritius, Switzerland and Dubai to mention but a few. Initially I struggled to meet Australians as there were so many people from other countries.

Interestingly, I heard someone say that Australia is a mix of American and English culture – there’s the American-style wide roads and big trucks, contrasted with the quaint brick bungalows that exude a country-style British feel. The trees and the birds are pure Australian though; the parrots and lorikeets are extremely loud and vibrant and Australian magpies (unrelated to British ones) sound like R2D2 from Star Wars.

Moving here might have been daunting at first, but in embracing the diversity of the cultures around me I’ve found a completely new home on the other side of the world… don’t worry Mum, I will be back though.