travel_suitcase_11It was February 2001, another semester started  and nothing seem to be changed around me. It was my third year at university, I had a relatively  good job but in reality that job wasn’t going to help me to be where I wanted to be, so that’s when  I realise  that I had to do something different, that I had to think out the box and make a radical change in my life if I really wanted it to finish my bachelor, have a stable and secure future, achieve my goals and be able to help my family… and that’s how my story started.

In 2001 no many people knew about Australia in Colombia, everyone thought that I was the craziest person on earth, “why would you have to go to the other side of the world if you can go to United States??” that’s what they kept asking me and again I thought to myself I don’t want to go where everyone one is going, if I’m going to do this big move it has to be different and remarkable. So, I did my research and for me Australia was the best option, I really liked it because it was fascinated to learn about other cultures as Australia is one of the most multicultural countries around the world, also I heard that Australians, in general, are very friendly, it wasn’t many people from Latin America so to learn the language was going to be easier,  very artistic and sports city, full of international events and festivals, economically stable, very low unemployment rate and I was going able to work legally while studying.

All this sounded amazing, that was the place for me! without a doubt…

… Even though all these things were true, it wasn’t easy at all, I’ve landed in a country where I didn’t know anyone, without speaking a word of English, not social or professional network and no one to approach for help, so it was very difficult.  I had my school and my homestay family, but I couldn’t communicate with them at all. So, all the challenges began; I needed to learn English (at least the basics) so at the supermarket I would have known not to buy a detergent that made all my clothes blue (true story), I needed a job, because I didn’t want to ask my parents for financial support at that time, I needed friends, as been Colombian needed to socialize and created my lifestyle.

So before traveled, they told me that if you go to Australia you would learn English in no time because everyone speaks English and you just would get it very easy and quick, well… it took far more than that to learn and be able to communicate properly with others, also they said “there are jobs everywhere you will get one a soon as you get off of the plane, they need people in all disciplines” there were and there still a lot of jobs but you need to have a good level of English if you want to work as a professional and you need to know where to go or have contacts, have a good network and learn how to apply, no matter which kinds of jobs, but they don’t tell you that.

So, it wasn’t as easy as I thought, it was actually very tough, very difficult and at that point I had two paths, one: finish my English course and go back to Colombia where I was comfortable living at home or two: take control of my life and take the risk to fight until the last moment to achieved everything that I’ve dreamed off before I come here. It wasn’t an easy decision but what it helps me was to have clarity of my purpose and known why I was doing what I was doing. That was my fuel when I was feeling down cleaning offices and houses until midnight. I maintained  my focus when I was washing dishes in restaurants and serving customers without speaking English and waking up at 4:00am in winter to go to work at the train station. I was very positive at all the times and I keep the attitude of learning from every single experience, even when I making coffees when I didn’t know how to do it.

Now I looked back and I know that squeezing my life into a suitcase and leaving my family, friends and aguardiente it was the best decision that I could have possibly made. Because I was able to achieve all my goals and now I’m lucky enough to travel every year to Colombia and see my friends and family, I been able to help many of them to came to Australia and experienced the beauty of this country and also now I can drink aguardiente and Aguila every time I want as its easy to find them in many of the latin American places available, and I feel proud of the community that has been growing because me being involve bringing hundreds of Latin Americans every year helps to feel home closer. It was a big sacrifice in the beginning, but it was worth it all the way.

I’m very proud and honored to been able to use my history and own experience to inspire and help thousands of people to achieved their goals that as me leave their families and life back in their home country to persuade their own dreams.

But when you move away, when you turn your life into a journey filled with clarity about your dreams and purpose in life, you grow up in unexpected ways, you discover yourself and you will actually achieve your goals as your mind will open up if you really take advantage of your experience overseas.

Andrea Palacios

Andrea Palacios

Andrea Palacios arrived in Australia from Colombia in 2001 as an international student. She studied Diploma of Business Marketing before going on to study Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University followed by a graduate Certificate in Australian Immigration Law at Victoria University. Following the completion of her studies, Andrea went on to start her own company in early 2006 – Blue Studies International, a student recruitment agency assisting students that want to live, study, work in Australia, USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand.