This article was submitted by Sabrina Syed, a PhD student in the School of Education.
Yes, it was difficult to leave! It was also difficult to enter in a new episode of my life with a three-year-old kid, and no idea what was going to happen for the next few years. I still have no idea! However, we overcame our fear and decided to come to Australia to start a new chapter of our life with some new people.
The journey started with us boarding an outbound flight from Dhaka Airport. It was a 16-hour journey in two legs, with a 5-hour stopover in Changi Airport at night. I faced the usual problem of finding suitable food for my taste buds at the Transit – I never find appropriate food there. But I really like Singapore airlines, they know what I want.
During both legs, we got window row seats on the Airbus and my three-year-old was enjoying the luxury of having almost two seats there, while we – me and my husband – had to adjust in the space of slightly more than one seat for the whole journey. But I didn’t mind. It was her first long air journey, and I was happy that she was alright and did not make any trouble, except being annoyed to have her seat-belts fastened during take-off.
Our aircraft landed in Sydney Airport on a sunny morning and one of my cousins, Romel, who lives there, picked us up from the airport and took us to his place. His spouse Priyom and baby boy Ryeid were waiting for us. Delicious Bangladeshi food was arranged by them, and we enjoyed the delicacy after a long journey. Later we discovered that most of the food was prepared by Aunty, Priyom’s mother. Thanks to her!
Both Romel and Priyom guided us in setting up a mobile connection, opening a bank account, planning our journey to Newcastle and getting a sense of the city. Everything seemed different to my home country. For someone moving to a new country, it’s really a great relief to have this kind of support at the beginning.
I easily identified the difference between a developed and a developing country when I arrived in Australia, though it is not my first visit to a developed country.
One of my husband’s friends, Saad, is also doing his PhD here at the University of Newcastle. We were planning to move into his place at Elermore Vale initially, until we got a new place to live in Newcastle. A week later, we moved to a house in Wallsend, but we had a great time together with Saad, his wife Pinky, and their baby girl Sariya.
Rain welcomed us to Newcastle and, in the first week, I experienced a different kind of rain at Saad’s place. I had seen hailstorms back in my home country, but never had I seen gravel-like ice cubes falling from the sky like rain without any typical rainwater for the first few minutes. People whose cars were outside started running to get them safe inside. It surprised me! I have heard of snowing and raining, but this kind of hailstorm was completely new to me.
Hailstorms. Not for everyone.
The first day at UON was something different from all of the above. I came to the campus with Pinky, who is also a PhD student, and she guided me nicely. I found the Student Service centre easily and even the Hunter building, but then I lost my way in the Hunter building. Trying to find the room of my supervisor seemed like going through a labyrinth. The look-alike corridors and irregular room numbering patterns puzzled me. Finally, a student helped me to find it. Oh, that’s not the end – I lost my way once again while getting out of that building. I used a different path and had no idea where I was or how to reach the closest bus stop. I was trying to reach Pinky over the phone, but she wasn’t picking up. Then I called my husband.
This is not the first time I’ve been lost. It’s a pretty common incident for me. Last year I visited Japan and, every night, I had to take a taxi back to the hotel because I actually lost my way back there. So, my husband didn’t freak out. Finally, thanks to the internet and Google Maps, I found the way to the bus stop without having any idea of North-South-East-West.
Later I attended a few sessions at the University which helped me to understand this University and its culture. Sessions like beach safety were eye opening for me. This not only taught me the dangers hidden in the wonderful beaches, but also allowed me to interact with many more international students. I met my new Russian friend Natalia for the first time there.
Beginning my studies at UON has been a smooth, memorable experience, but I cannot say the same about sorting out our food options. We carried all the basic herbs and spices with us, but finding fish seemed quite a difficult task. We were looking for fish in general super-stores but didn’t have much luck there.
Later, one of my senior friends from Bangladesh, Asma, helped me to find the local fish market. I found different kinds of sea fish and after not having had fish for more than two weeks, was ready to buy as much as I could. Wrong idea that was! Fish doesn’t taste that yummy after a week in the refrigerator.
However, after all these ups and downs, I am happy with my new life here, especially when I realize that the beach is not too far and I needn’t be extra cautious for my safety only because I am female.
Thanks to the University of Newcastle and the mates who were always besides me to help me adapt to a new culture.