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The beginning of this Journey!!

“2016 was a really important year in our lives. We moved to Australia with the plan of staying over for at least 2 years. But plans change all the time, so of course it happened once again.

Duca always want to take me to live abroad with him. According to him it's important for a person to get to know another place and culture. So, this time I said yes and we started planning where to go and what to do. Duca was always curious about studying in some University outside of our country, so since July 2015 we started researching for Universities and possible courses to apply to. Then we found out a course in Naval Engineering in Sweden and another one in New Zealand. Duca took an English Exam and did really well, so we started sending emails to the Universities and apply for the courses. After months waiting for some answer we received an email saying that the New Zealand one was canceled for the next year and we decided that Sweden was too cold to live in. The third option was to apply to a Master in Professional Engineering Degree with a major in Structural Engineering at Sydney University, and as this course would validate his diploma to many other countries, sounded like a good idea.

Well, we’ve been living together since 2010, so we had a furnished apartment with way too much stuff in Brazil. We had four options for all our belongings: take with us to Australia, sell, give away or leave at our parents house. Took us 2 months but we managed to get everything organized.

In 13th February of 2016 we moved to Sydney with 2 bags of 32kg each one and with the feeling of a fresh new life. We did something that for years we thought we wouldn’t be possible. We were soooo happy with this decision.

Then, our new life started. When we arrived we stayed at our friend's apartment (Zé and Elisa), in Elizabeth Bay. Actually, it was this couple that gave us the initial idea about live in Australia. With their full support it was time to look for a place to live. Duca's classes started a week after we arrived and I used to go to his University with him. It was such a nice place! I used to wait for him at a study center searching online for places to live. During 2 weeks we visited many apartments and houses, and got to know a lot of suburbs. Then we finally got a place to share through a website. So, in the beginning of March we moved in to live with Troy and Jacq, an Australian couple.

We were living in the central area, Surry Hills, 30 minutes walking (or 7 minutes by bike) from Duca's University and the same distance to the Opera House. To my English School it was a 8 minutes walk, and it was also really close to the central station (of train and bus) and to our favorite supermarket (Coles). It was perfect for us, basically we could walk or take the bike anywhere and for months we didn’t need to use any other mean of transportation.

Talking about my School (Kaplan International English - Sydney), I’m still happy with the choice I made. I can say that I indeed have learned English in my time there and I also met good friends from different countries and cultures. I used to have classes every mornings Monday to Friday and 2 afternoons a week. Furthermore I used to study English every day: reading, listening to some music and checking the lyrics, trying some old exams, watching some youtube channels and TED Talks, meeting some friends, and the list goes on. Another important choice we made to help on my learning was to speak only English between Duca and I for 3 months. I also stop talking and reading Portuguese (even with family, yep, I didn't talk to anyone that didn't speak English) for 1 entire month… I was extremely focus on learning the language, studying 24/7, to be prepared for the IELTS exam, which I needed to achieve 6 in every part of it. I took the exam in the end of July and my grades were: 8.0 listening, 8.5 reading, 6.0 writing, 6.5 speaking and 7.5 overall.

The idea was to get the necessary grade to validate my Environmental and Sanitary Engineering Degree in Australia to be possible for us to apply for Skilled Residence Visa in Australia in September. Life in Australia is a lot easier if you have the residence. It's easier to find a job, a place to live, you can use the health system, there are loads of advantages, and after a few years on this visa you can apply for a citizenship.

Well, in the end we didn't apply for the visa, but my English for sure got a lot better, so I guess my effort was worth.

Therefore, the reality began. Sydney is way more expensive than we could remember or imagine. People say that the cost of living there is more expensive than New York. We were paying 450 Australian dollars a week to share one apartment (with our own bedroom and bathroom). It's almost impossible to rent an apartment just for us as students, as the Real Estate Agencies always prefer to choose someone that has a secure job, and/or residency…

Another expensive thing in Sydney was the food. We love to try new dishes and flavours, and in Sydney you can find an infinity of good and different restaurants. But for us, on a tight budget, it was tough to smell all this amazing foods not been able to afford to eat it. Well, as Duca used to say, we were like kids on a toy store with broken dads.

Let's talk about the best part of the apartment that we lived, the kitchen!! WOW, I miss that kitchen for real! I used to cook every day (of course sometimes I wished I wouldn't have to cook, but it was a necessity). The kitchen had everything I needed to cook all I wanted, even baked some different breads, like a Brazilian sweet bread that Duca didn't believe it was possible to bake at home, but I did, and the result was amazing according to him. I think in Australia it's easy to find ingredients from every country of the world, that's because Sydney is a cosmopolitan city, with people from all over the world. I miss some dishes that I used to prepare at home. I also miss the taste Domino's pizza. We believe Domino’s was the only really cheap food that was possible to eat on the street. It was 5 dollars a pizza and one was enough for us two. But of course as it was a junk food, we use to eat no more than once a week.

However of course there was a good side of living in such an amazing city!! I could talk about that for hours. It was awesome to get to know new people from different cultures almost every day, to find new product on sale at our everyday supermarket, to go for a walk without any worry about security and pollution, to explore new parts of the city, to visit friend, to have fun without spend any money for that (for example, ping pong at Central Park), to learn English for real (one of my best friends were Turkish, so I really needed to speak in English), and so on.

Talking about once in a week food, every Saturday we used to go to a eatery place to eat a nasi goreng, Indonesian food. As it was a big plate and an expensive food for us (12 australian dollars), we used to share a plate. And Sunday was the brigadeiro's day, a Brazilian dessert that we used to cook at home.

About the weather, it was sunny almost everyday, and I love that… I think the list of good things about Sydney is enormous. If you ask me now if I miss living there I would say that I really do. I reckon the ideal for me would be living 3 months of our lives in each different place of the world and get to know as many different cultures as possible, but let’s get back to reality.”

Roberta

“What to say about this amazing experience? It’s actually hard to explain, but to be honest for the time we lived in Sydney I had a relationship of love and hate for that beautiful city. For a while I thought after we leave I would never want to go back, but at the same time I used to tell Roberta that with time for sure the bad parts of this trip would get less and less important and for sure we would miss it. And guess what...We do already miss that life.

For many years I had the dream of studying on a big university outside of Brazil, so when I arrived at Sydney University, a place with over 50 thousands students, my expectations were really high. In the beginning I was quite amazed by that place, the buildings, the really technological studying rooms, the amount of people walking around, everything was a lot different to both Universities (Business and Engineering - yep, I have 2 graduations) in Brazil.

When you are really excited anything you do is good, I guess you are more tolerant at this point. After a month going to school every day I started to analyze a little deeper the experience I was having. I will try to put together my thoughts as a list, but remember, that’s just my opinion.

1: Technological support: Amazing, by far the best I have ever seen. Classes were all recorded on video and you could watch whenever you want, the studying rooms equipped with nice big tvs to connect our computer help a lot to work in group. The library was huge.

2: The amount of people per class: That for me is one of the biggest problems I had. I had lectures with almost 400 students, and in my opinion it’s almost impossible to have any sort of relationship between professor and students with this amount of people together. I would listen to a professor saying: “Last year I had 150 students in this class, now I have almost 300, so it’s impossible for me to treat this assignment as I used to, I won’t be able to help every single one of you guys.” I guess the University wants to make money, so if more people are willing to pay they will squeeze as many student on each class.

3: The diversity of Cultures: I can be wrong, but I always thought that a university like the Sydney University would have people from many different countries, and I would be able to experience many different cultures. The reality is that I had classes where I would say at least 60-70% of the students were chineses, sometimes more, I had maybe 2 or 3 Australians friends, 3 or 4 Indians friends and one Spanish friend. Nothing against chineses, in the past Roberta and I even spent 2 months in China. My problem is when the majority of a class speak a language that no one understands and when they don’t really want to have any sort of relationship and information exchange with you, even though we were all in the same master degree. My second problem is having to deal with 5 + “kids” talking and laughing right next to me when I'm trying to pay attention to a really complicated fluid mechanics class, and if I say something they don’t really care.

4: Too theoretical: The course I applied to was called Master of Professional Engineering, and supposedly had the intent of preparing the students for the Australian Engineering Industry. In my opinion the course was too focused on theory, like a regular bachelor degree in Brazil, where we study way too much math and forget to study the concept, forget to learn to think and not to memorize. I had the feeling I was one more time memorizing lots and lots of recipes, and that the university uses this kind of studies to select potential researchers to invest on them. Once again, that is just my opinion

5: Good professor: Of course there was the good part too. I had a few really good professors, that really tried to help me to think instead of memorizing, that were way more focused on the conceptual thinking instead of just solving a math problem. For sure I will always remember some of the thoughts they taught me.  

Back to our lives in Sydney, for almost 100% of my time I did basically 2 things, I studied and I worked, and maybe that was my mistake. I think the master I applied to was made for someone that can afford only study, in this way the student have enough time to absorb all the informations, and has some time off to relax and in this way be able to go back to school and absorb more informations.

For 5 months I was always late, I was always running. I would wake up, go to class, have lunch, study bit more, go to work, go back to study, go to bed, next day, all over again. As I was paying for university mainly with our saving from Brazil (our money was worth 3 times less than the australian dollar) It was really important for me to work to help with the finances.

The job I found that I could fit in my schedule was food delivery by bicycle. One of the best jobs I have ever had. I always loved to ride my bike, so now I was getting payed to ride around the city, to exercise and meet good friends (other riders). That was amazing, I’ve got to know the city really well, every little corner of it, so many memories.

To make it short, when we moved to Australia I thought I would have time to surf, to kitesurf, to enjoy life a little bit, at least on the weekends. Instead of that on the weekends I had to work to help to pay for rent, I guess sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Even though I had a few breaks in between, I was not long enough to go to the beach as we lived on town, so instead we used to walk around the city, sometimes when I was not working until 9:30PM and didn’t have any exam or assignment, we would walk for like 2 hours, usually because I had seen a new beautiful place riding the bike for work and later I would walk to the same place to show it to Roberta.

In the end, in almost 6 months I only had time to surf 3 times and didn’t go kitesurf not even one time.

Our decision to leave Australia started after I was trying to get a job as engineer in a big company, and more than once the engineers I talked to said: “why are you taking a Masters Degree? you don’t need that to get a job, you are already an engineer.”

When I came with the decision of quitting the Masters Degree, I decided to apply for a Skilled Visa as Engineer, so we talked to a few Migration Lawyers, and everyone said the same thing. Now that you have a student visa for a masters, you can’t quit, if you do quit, they will not give you a skilled visa.

That was a hard decision, basicly if we wanted to stay in Australia I had no choice other than going all the way to the end of my masters degree, even though I wasn’t having enough time to focus on that. I remember one day getting out of an final exam and thinking to myself, way am I studying all this theory again, do I want to became a researcher? Back home we decided to go for a night walk, I guess I was too mad to study for the next final exam I would have in a few days.

In the middle of the way I joked to Roberta that we should quit everything and spend a few months in Indonesia. Almost ten years ago we spent 2 months in Indonesia and we always talked about going back. That night I was just dreaming, but I guess deep inside I was just telling the truth, what I really wanted to do.

Next day I was back to work, sitting on the office (the park bench) waiting for an order to delivery just me and a friend from Turkey. I remember as it was today, I turn to him and I said: “I’m going to quit the Master and take a few sabbatical months in Indonesia to reflect about life”.  In that moment he didn’t take me serious, he thought I was joking. As you can tell by now, I like to talk a lot, and on my 5 months delivering food, my friends at work used to listen to me talking about the university a lot. I told him I mean it, and he still didn’t believe, so I prove to him. I called Roberta, that was studying at home to take the IELTS, and told her to stop everything and to start looking for tickets to Indonesia, that it was time to take a break. This time she was the one that didn’t believe, put didn’t take long for her to realize that I was really serious about.

Next night, I had a night off work, so as we had too much to discuss we decided to go for another night walk. According to Roberta, from that day one I was a new person, I was so excited with what we would experience that even though at that time I had not even quit the Masters yet, for me, at least mentally I already had, I was truly feeling free again, just like when we left Brazil 5 months earlier.

From that night on, all we used to do was to dream. hehehehe. The funny thing was that I quit my delivering job 2 weeks before leaving Australia, and we found ourselves every evening walking to the park and sitting with my friend (from work), while they were working, waiting for deliveries. In different words, I was still working, but not getting payed for. I actually miss that park, the best “office” I have ever had.

I would say the things I miss the most about our time in Sydney are the friends we made, our night walks, sitting by Elizabeth Bay staring at the sail boats, my 5 good friends at the university, and of course the long hours I spent at work with such nice people, what an experience.

Let’s move forward. Our plan was to spend 120 days traveling to places where was cheap enough and relaxing enough for us to stop and take the time to reflect about our lives, about the past years we’ve been together, and try to come up with a plan of what we want to do from 2017 and on. Well sorry for such a long text, but it’s hard for us to put so much experiences into one text. See you guys on the next post."

Duca