G'day Mates!! I’m Amber Robillard from Canada. As I am writing this it has been exactly one year since I boarded the plane headed for Australia. It doesn’t seem possible that everything I have done could be packed into just one year!
In the winter of 2013, my partner Barb and I started discussing the possibility of living somewhere warmer year-round. Australia was on the top of the list, but seemed very far away, however, the more we talked about it, the more appealing it became. What an adventure! Ayers Rock, the Australian outback, living by the water’s edge, surfing! Barb had always thought about living here and I had always wanted to visit. To be truthful, although I love to travel, I had never considered living long-term anywhere other than Canada.
I have always worked in and around the construction industry, having completed a Certificate of Construction Management. I wanted to further my education with a Bachelor of Construction Management (Honours) degree. The prospect of living and studying in Australia was very exciting. We began making plans. I had quite a few names on my list, but in the end I only applied to three universities, with Deakin as my first choice. It seemed to be the most progressive university, making its way up the list of various university rankings and the accelerated study opportunities were appealing. I boarded the plane in Ottawa, Canada on 27 June and landed in Melbourne on 29 June. With delays, customs, running for gates, many movies and a trip across the International Date Line, my travel time totalled 31 hours. A long way from home, although it was made easier thanks to Skype!
I only applied to three universities, with Deakin as my first choice. It seemed to be the most progressive university, making its way up the list of various university rankings and the accelerated study opportunities were appealing.
At the Geelong Waterfront Campus Library
My first trimester at Deakin was both challenging and rewarding. As a mature student returning to study, I hadn’t written a report or an essay in almost 20 years; however, professors and other students are readily available on online discussion boards. Recognising that starting in trimester 2 may introduce some unique challenges, Deakin staff and student volunteers held a tea meet-and-greet, for further support and chit-chat. After settling in, I continued my studies in trimester 3 where I chose to study one unit on-campus and two units wholly online. As it turns out, not having a full unit load right off the bat worked to my advantage. It allowed me the time to adjust to my surroundings and negotiate studying again. Trimester 1 of my second year proved that a fourth unit really tips the barrel. Deadlines become tighter and spare moments fewer. My time-off is saved mostly for school breaks and planned adventures.
Geelong is a great city for things to do, a short trip to Melbourne and down the coast from many adventures. Eastern Park, the Botanic Gardens, the Barwon River trails, Pako (Pakington) Street and the downtown core are all places we love and frequent. We have enjoyed the Night Jar Festival on Friday nights in February and hiked along the Great Ocean Trail during our trip to Anglesea, where we saw kangaroos for the first time. We have also biked the Bellarine Rail Trail to Queenscliff, with a side trip to Point Lonsdale. We love these little surfer towns, with the blue sky, surf and sandy beaches as the backdrop. 42 degree weather for Christmas is also a good thing, as is a feast of seafood!
Hitting the road on my bike
In March we bought a little car and set out for the Twelve Apostles. My first time driving in Australia was made all the more adventurous thanks to the narrow, twisty Great Ocean Road! Over Easter we ventured to Bells Beach to take in the Rip Curl Pro tournament and caught some great photos of professional surfers Mick Fanning and Jordie Smith during their free surf. We have since watched every event online and have become avid surfer wannabes, although stand-up paddle boarding may be more our speed.
At the Twelve Apostles by the Great Ocean Road
With all this talk of travel and adventure, it seems I have had no time for uni! But thank goodness for the breaks! The breaks represent a chance to step back, have a real look at the amount of work and learning that has been packed into eleven weeks and not worry for almost a month about deadlines and presentations. Deakin also understands how important a break is and hosts events throughout the school year, offering students a ‘breather’. Most recently, Deakin’s international students were treated to a day at Simonds Stadium to meet some of the Geelong Cats (a popular Australian rules football team), tour the stadium and run through some typical footy training exercises. This was topped off with a free ticket to the Cats’ exciting winning game against the GWS Giants, where I was given a scarf to fly the colours in support.
Studying overseas for four years seems like a long time at the starting line, but I am already halfway through my second year and the bachelor’s degree at the other end is getting closer with each submitted assignment. I have enjoyed every day in Australia, and as much as I look forward to the breaks, I also look forward to heading back to class and keeping the momentum going.