When you think of your bucket list, I can almost guaranteed that to travel to at least one destination different to where you live is on that list. For some of us we dream of secluded beach breaks, others exploring a new city and some of us even go as far as wishing we could set up a new life somewhere different to where we are currently.
Cassie is someone who turned that dream into reality in spectacular fashion. She grew up in Tatura in Victoria Australia and was the youngest of 5 children. As someone who always knew they wanted to be a teacher, Cassie went to university to qualify for this role. However, instead of settling into a nearby school, Cassie made the decision to not only start a hectic and demanding career but to do it on the other side of the world in England, away from all her family, friends and life as she knew it.
And that’s where I met her.
Cassie was everything you’d imagine an Australian to be – bubbly, incredibly fun and always up for a laugh – but she was also so much more. She was a great, fiercely loyal friend and on my own move from England to Australia she has been a great source of comfort and advice.
This interview talks about Cassie’s life changing decision and the pros and cons of taking such a big leap of faith. She now lives back in Australia with her fiancé JJ (who she coincidentally met whilst living in the UK), but I can safely say that there was not a single wasted moment from her trip to England. For anyone considering a move abroad, I implore you to read this interview and Cassie’s advice – who knows, it might just be the push in the right direction that you need.
How did the idea of you teaching in England come about?
Moving abroad after completing my degree came about so suddenly. I was really lucky at university that I was able to spend 6 weeks on a teaching placement in Sweden. At that point I’d never been out of Australia before and had only been on a plane twice in my life. There was a big group of us from university who went over to Sweden and we had such an incredible time. It was whilst I was over there that I realised what I’d been missing out on by just being happy at home. I’d always been a very family orientated person and loved being around my ever-growing family, but I just knew that I wanted to be able to explore the world a bit more.
It was actually my friend Heidi, who I made friends with that same year at university, who really made me consider the fact that moving abroad could actually be a reality rather than a dream. We looked into teaching over in the UK and we made contact with Teaching Jobs London. We sent resumes and letters off and before we really knew it, we were asked to attend an i-day in Leeds. We were told it was like speed-dating for jobs – a big interview day where we could sit and meet with schools and then visit the schools if we “matched”. Pretty funny process when I think back on it but at the time it was a free trip to the UK and something that I might get a job out of at the end.
After that, it all happened pretty quickly. I got a job at a school in Baildon and then it all just fell into place.
How did it feel when you had to say goodbye to everyone?
Saying goodbye was pretty difficult, although initially when I was moving I told myself it’d be for six to eight months and then I’d be home so I was just excited for my adventure. At the airport, my Mum and Dad came along with my siblings, their partners and their children. It was pretty teary but because I was travelling with Heidi and not by myself it was much easier than I thought it would be. By this point the excitement was building.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like sitting on that plane about the start the adventure of a lifetime! What were the first few days in England like?
My first few days in England were pretty spectacular. We spent the first week in London. We had these London Passes that allowed us to go full tourist and see all the tourist-y places. I’m a huge Royal Family fan and seeing the castles and palaces was so awesome! In the first week, Heidi got ill and I went to Kensington Palace by myself – I just loved it there! I remember walking around and the guards would ask me questions or tell me little bits of information. Thinking back now, I still can’t believe how much I did in that first week. I jam-packed it full of so much but it helped with jet-lag and feeling homesick.
The travelling part is always fun, but eventually money runs low, living out of a suitcase becomes frustrating and reality sets in that you need to find work. How did you find settling into life in England?
Settling down was very difficult. After Heidi and I had done three weeks of being tourists, we made our way to Shipley, a place in between where we both got jobs. We stayed in a hotel for a few weeks, going to work using trains and taxis. We found a place to rent as trying to live in a hotel was not only expensive but not manageable. Obviously not knowing the “good” areas, we just picked a place to rent that we could afford and that was close to a train station. We ended up living there for about eight months, but it was pretty rough. However we managed and had lots of good times – the takeaway place nearby got a lot of business from us too!
One part that wasn’t hard was making friends. Everyone I met was so incredibly lovely and being one of the only Australians in the area was always a great talking point! My first friends were Grace and Laura who I worked with at school. They really took me under their wing and helped me out. To this day, I absolutely adore everyone from the school I worked at for the way they embraced me and my Aussie self, explaining simple things like what a duvet is (we call it a doona here), why people always ask “are you alright?” and understanding my love of squirrels because they’re not in Australia.
What kind of things did you do that really helped you settle into life in a new country?
I had a ‘yes man’ policy with my British life so unless I had a really, really good reason not to do or go somewhere when asked by someone, I had to give it a go. One Friday night, I was at home with no plans when Grace messaged me to ask if I wanted to come out and meet some of her friends. I really just felt like putting on my PJs and wallowing in bed because I really was missing home. However, due to my ‘yes man’ policy, I got dressed, put my make-up on and then went on to have such an incredible night! I met lots of new people who went on to become great friends during my time in England. After making friends at work and meeting their friends too, I suddenly had a great group of people around me and that just kept building up over the entire two years I was there. I now have lifelong friends from the UK that I just would never have met otherwise, not to mention my now fiancé!
Your ‘yes man’ policy definitely sounds like a great thing to adopt in order to throw yourself into life in a new country. Whilst living in England, what things did you notice were different to life at home?
Luckily for me, Baildon is very similar to my hometown. Both are little towns where most people know each other, are always up for a chat and both had a few good pubs to spend time in with mates. The differences between life in Australia compared to the UK were little things like the way people spoke – not just the accents but the phrasing. So many times I would have no clue what was being said, only for it to be explained and realise that I knew exactly what was being talked about, I just would have used different words. Little language differences like wellies instead of gumboots, duvets instead of doonas and Penguin biscuits instead of TimTams used to confuse me.
One difference that really struck me was the ease with which people talked about visiting other countries. Australia is so far away that it takes so much time to plan and save for a trip overseas so to hear people saying they were going to Spain or France for the weekend just blew my mind for the first six months.
However, the biggest and most difficult difference was the weather and daylight hours. Before I left I had heard that the UK was always grey skies and not much sun. I was prepared for it because I love winter in Australia, however I wasn’t really prepared for how little daylight hours there are in winter in the UK. I could leave for work in the dark and get home from work in the dark. It was just mentally taxing and something I never thought about prior to moving.
There are so many quirks about a place that you never get to know about until you actually live there. What experiences did you have that you wouldn’t have been able to if you had not have gone travelling and moved elsewhere?
There are so many different experiences that I had from living overseas that I cannot give justice to just how incredible it was. First and foremost, the best and most life-changing experience that I had was meeting my now fiancé, JJ. We often talk about how incredibly lucky we are that I found a job in Baildon, that we were able to meet at the right time and how amazing our story has been leading to now where we are: engaged and living in Australia together – it always just amazes us both.
Making friends and my amazing times with them stand out the most as experiences I wouldn’t have been able to have if I had not moved. It’s crazy to think there are people that I am such close friends with that I may have easily never have met. I met some truly amazing, fun-loving people that without them, my trip just wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun.
I also did a lot of travelling through Europe while I was living in the UK. I couldn’t have imagined how many incredible places I have been to and made memories in before moving overseas. Now my country count is up to 19 countries which is pretty awesome considering before I moved to England I had only been to Australia and Sweden.
There’s no denying that all of those things are enormous positives from your experience, but I am sure there were times when it felt like being so far from home was hard. What was the hardest thing and how did you overcome any homesickness?
The hardest thing about being home was being away from my family and my friends. There were definitely days where I could so easily have packed my bags and booked a flight back to Australia because I was homesick. I gave myself a goal – I told myself that I had to give my time overseas six full months before I could make a decision to come home, even if I was finding it too hard. I felt that at six months if I disliked it, then I could leave knowing I gave it a good shot. I think at about the three month mark that I really was considering how much I just wanted to be home and how easy it would be to just leave the UK to get back to my life back home. My sister had given birth to her first baby and it was the first big family event that I was missing. Realising that I wouldn’t be able to cuddle my new niece for like another four months was hard to come to terms with.
However, I stuck to my original six month plan and by that time I had built such strong friendships that I decided to stay for just another six months which then became another year. Then it was leaving the UK that turned out to be just as hard for me.
A few things I did to help with the homesickness was that I set up a regular weekly chat with my Mum and Dad on a Friday morning. This was great as we had consistent catch ups and we both knew to be free for a small amount of time every week at the same time.
It sounds like you really managed to find a way to balance your new life in England and your life back home in Australia. How has your experience abroad shaped your life now you are back home?
Now back home, I’m more willing to give new things a go because I had to when I was abroad because of my ‘yes man’ policy. I’ve tried to keep that going for my life now.
I also look at Australian things with more of an open-heart as well. I was never that impressed with Australian animals and food because it had been all I’d ever known, but now I absolutely love spotting our wildlife and love when I see wombats or kangaroos now. I also appreciate the moments I have with my family more because I know what it was like to go without them for a long time. I think the biggest positive was that I found my person, the love of my life (cringey – I know!). I just feel so incredibly lucky to be able to be with him and amazed by how lucky we are to have found each other.
As far as positives to take away from an experience, meeting the love of your life is quite a good one! If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what?
I don’t think I would do anything differently, maybe little things like go exploring around just the UK as much as I did for Europe – there were still so many place that I want to see that I just didn’t do because I was too busy with work. I’m pretty lucky though as JJ and I will be going back as regularly as we can so there isn’t really anything that I would change.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving abroad or travelling?
My advice would be to go for it! It helped me to set goals and have a plan to stick by, like staying for at least six months and that ‘yes man’ policy. You learn so much about life living abroad, not just the difference in people’s lifestyles and ideals, but you become that much more resilient towards difficult situations and that much more open-minded about things in life. I have never been a judgemental person but living abroad I really learnt to appreciate each and every person for who they are, what they stand for and their experiences. It is so easy in your life to stay where you know and with who you know but some of my really stand out moments were simply times where I was alone and learnt more about how I was getting through life and what I really wanted to do. It sounds a little cliché but travelling gives you such amazing experiences that you just cant get from your own home.
That’s great advice – I am definitely stealing it! If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
Life is what you put into it! If you go into anything with a positive attitude, it is amazing how you can turn around even the saddest or hardest times in your life.