12 Months Down Under: 6 with Apex, 6 Work & Travel

by | Aug 21, 2019 | Australia, Experience Report

Occupational therapist Sarah tells us about her six months with a wonderful host family in Sydney.

When I decided I wanted to go to Australia with Apex Professional Exchange, my main aim was to work and then to experience the work and travel visa as it was intended to be used.

I wanted a combination of work experiences combined with personal ones and at the same time I wanted to maintain my independence. I had several phone and Skype calls with the Apex team in Germany until I got their go-ahead with the condition that even though I would only complete 6 months in the program I would pay the full program fee.

Fair enough, I thought, because the fee includes loads of services like the flights, insurance and the English online preparation course. All the other important details for the second lot of 6 months I organised myself: like continuing travel insurance, tax file number, etc.

On the 8th of August 2018 my journey began “Down Under here I come! To a year full of rewarding experiences and adventures!”

My adventure started in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Here I joined a wonderful family of four for my first 6 months. The children, aged 10 and 11 years, are foster children, they are siblings and joined the family shortly after their birth. Their additional needs had a social-emotional focus with a background of ADHD, trauma and oppositional defiance order.

The first few days I focused on settling in and figuring out my role for the time I was living with the family. As a state-approved special needs care provider in Germany I learned different methods and interactions for people with mental and physical needs. Together with my personal skills I could build up a good relationship with everyone involved, which helped me with my role as a live-in carer. It also helped me settle in this new-to-me culture.

I supported the family in their daily life, e. g. with morning and afternoon routines for the kids, including preparing breakfast, checking their school bags and dropping them at school. In the afternoon I usually picked them up again to accompany them to their individual therapies like speech, play or occupational therapy. This helped me to build up a rapport with all the therapists involved as well, to get into regular exchanges about the kids’ latest developments.

These professional connections also provided me with information about the children’s’ family background, their latest developments and efforts. It enriched my professional skills and development. I could take different perspectives with all the information given and my personal experiences together with the children which helped me to develop a better understanding for them and their behaviour. With this ability I was able to step confidently into my professional role and also enhanced personal experiences.

With Apex by my side I always felt supported by the whole team, from the first day until my last day with the family, and during my 6 months of travelling. I was always taken seriously, received a lot of support, even without asking for it. And this was marvellously due to the area director Anna Prasad in Sydney. If you are new to Australia, with her by your side you can be absolutely sure to be safe and appreciated, feel affectionately accompanied and look forward to loads of adventures with other professional care workers! 😉 Anna was helping me with establishing my profession in Australia as acknowledged to work with and supported me with English translations of professional documentations for therapists and other parties involved.

Another great adventure was waiting for me after my time with the family. I thought I had already learned so much more about myself since my arrival Down Under. I felt like I had extended my professional skills and additionally I refreshed but also improved my English. So, I made my way, all by myself, to explore the real Australia. And I can tell not everything is as dramatic and dangerous as some people used to say. As soon as you are here you will make your own experiences and you will always come as far as YOU want! The magic ingredients are: DO IT! Be open to other people, ask if you need answers, open your mind for new perspectives and possibilities, be curious and thirsty for new experiences.

For example, I was working a lot in hospitality and piece by piece I made my way through the country, starting in Melbourne in the south up to Cairns in the North. I met so many lovely people on my whole trip, lived in vibrant cities and explored the idyllic countryside. I experienced a lot of Ups and Downs but learned so much from it that I grew stronger than ever before and can now step forward with more confidence. I lived the casual backpacker life ‘a la Down Under’, stayed and lived together with locals I met in Queensland, dived through the Great Barrier Reef, soaked up the stunning and unique nature of Australia (took nearly 1 million pictures of trees and animals), fed and stroked Kangaroos, got very close to Dingos, Crocodiles, Spiders, Snakes as well as  Wombats and Quokkas and also held a Koala in my arms (I know, such a cliché, but all-clear: not all of them stink as rumours might have it!). The list goes on and on! And I don’t regret anything, not even the smallest step I took the last past year here in Australia, OZ, Strayah, Aussie, Down Under, Upside Down …

To be honest, I’m usually not the kind of person that gets homesick very easily. But it was the longest episode I’ve been apart from my home country. It was a year full of Ups and Downs and all of these were more intense than usual. Because I knew my time here was limited. But also, because I was so far away from my comfort zone, my friends, my family. I grew personally, conquered many obstacles and barriers, met wonderful and loveable people, fell down but got up again and learned from it … I know it sounds so simple and I know sometimes it isn’t! But that’s life and this is the only way we learn and grow. If you want a change in your life, if you’re thirsty for adventures and new challenges, if you want to grow and get to know yourself – just go and do it! Be brave and trust yourself! You can only win 🙂

And even if you prefer staying with a family for the whole year or a second one, just do it!

There are so many possibilities! My story is just one of many others 😉 Find and write your own!

Loads of love, Sarah 🙂