Thinking of starting a new life abroad?
Thinking of starting a new life abroad but not convinced it’s as good as it looks? To help you decide, we asked Stella Hartley, aged 32, who swapped Barnsley for Adelaide, and more recently, Coober Pedy, if aspects of her new life in Australia have turned out as she expected.
“I needed a change, simple as that. I wanted a better lifestyle and quality of life and was in desperate need of some sunshine. It really was all about me. I had no real commitments in the UK, and although the decision to leave my family and friends was tough, it felt right.
I knew that when I wanted to move I would stay in the police force. I saw that the South Australia Police was recruiting at the time and I had seen some TV shows about Adelaide and it looked great so that’s where I set my sights on. Prior to the beginning of the recruitment process I had no particular links with Adelaide, let alone Australia; I had never even visited the country.
I went along with the recruitment process like it was any other job interview at first, without alerting my family and friends to my intentions in case I failed at the first hurdle. Then all of a sudden it became a reality - I was offered the job and had to consider if it really was the right thing for me.
After weighing up my options, I realised there was nothing to lose. My visa application was supported by the police, which made the visa process much easier and quicker than if you try to move without having employment already arranged.
“Before I knew it, my house in the UK was packed up and I knew that was the last I would see of my ‘things’ until November. Relocation experts, Crown Relocations, organised my emigration and packed up my belongings. They were great; they really looked after me and my possessions. The team from Crown Relocations were really experienced and totally understood how I was feeling as I packed up my life. I was a bit choked when I saw my house totally empty with all my belongings packed on the Crown van. I was left with two suitcases for the trip and although I felt like my left arm had been amputated because I had nothing, it was also quite liberating.
I moved to Australia on my own so it was a big step. During the recruitment process I met another girl who was in a similar position to me at an SA police open day. When we found out that we had both got the job, we decided to house share initially for a bit of moral support.
We found a rental house quite quickly, although with no rental history or Australian references it was a bit difficult. My belongings arrived, as promised, about 13 weeks later and nothing was damaged. It was all unpacked by the people from Crown Relocations in Australia who again, were fab!
I lived in a couple of places in Adelaide, renting initially in places much bigger than where I lived in the UK. All of my family are based in the UK and I miss them a lot, especially my little niece. My parents have now changed from being technophobes to being at the forefront of technology so that we can speak on the webcam. When I first moved here, I missed certain brands of chocolate and other food items that aren't the same, but having been here for two and a half years, I miss my home comforts less and less. Although there is a big void in the Australian market for pickled onion Monster Munch!
Relocating can be a bit lonely unless you immerse yourself in the Aussie culture and embrace your new lifestyle. Once settled in, I joined a local hockey club - I played in the UK for many years with Barnsley Ladies. I also competed in the South Australia Police and Emergency Services Games with a view to go to the World Police and Firefighter Games in New York later this year.
Things in Australia are the same but different. The job is the same but different. The Aussie way of doing some things are much more logical and the lifestyle is far more laid back. In my first police posting, if it was a hard day at the office, I could go and patrol the beach. After work, I would walk or cycle along the beach to relax or have a nice glass of wine and watch the sun go down.
Living in the suburbs of Adelaide by the beach was fab, but I was ready for more after 18 months there. I wanted to embrace the opportunity that I had further by working somewhere other than the city. After almost 10 years of policing city and metropolitan areas, it was time for another change.
I packed up with my new boyfriend that I met in Adelaide – also a cop but from Watford, UK – in tow. We headed to Coober Pedy, SA, an opal mining town about 900km north of Adelaide. It's in the middle of the desert and in the summer, the daytime temperature usually sits at 45 degrees Celsius plus! My new home is a dugout, a house carved into the side of the hill thus keeping the temperature at a constant 23/23 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Living underground is an experience in itself!
Since being in Coober Pedy, I have had the opportunity to discover more of the real Australia. Everywhere takes much longer to get to because the distances between places are ridiculously large. You don’t realise how big the place is until you get here and explore! I have visited Alice Springs and Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory and although they are still about 700kms away from Coober Pedy, they are now considerably nearer to where I now live.
I have had to learn how to effectively drive a 4 wheel drive vehicle as most of the roads here are dirt, not tarmac and have now had training in shotgun and rifles in my job. My work knowledge base has increased 10 fold because we simply don't have the support departments that front line police officers have in the city. We all do everything from responding to calls from the public, to running the enquiries desk, to acting as cells Sergeant, plus everything else in between.
My lifestyle out here has completely changed. There are very few shops in the town - no chain stores and no fast food shops. The supermarket in town gets a delivery once a week, so Thursday is food shopping day and by the following Tuesday, there isn't much left so mealtimes often involve a bit of planning. There a couple of restaurants in town so I am slowly working my way through the menus!
I used to live 9 miles away from Meadowhall Shopping Centre. To go to a similar place now would take a day to drive there and would involve an overnight stop so my collection of 65 pairs of shoes has stayed that way for a while. My obsession for shoes has been cured - you can only wear one pair at a time after all!
Days off are still being used to do the touristy things, exploring locally, wine tasting in the Barossa, cuddling koalas and feeding kangaroos at the local wildlife park, going to the many local beaches or travelling up into the hills. I feel like I am on holiday all the time. A friend here summed up the way of life in one word - uncomplicated. This is a great description and is absolutely spot on. It's refreshing to not be surrounded by shops and traffic - we don't even have a set of traffic lights in the town! I recently visited Adelaide for work and was overwhelmed with the number of people and the hustle and bustle of the city. Adelaide is nowhere near the size of Sheffield so goodness knows how I will get on when I go back to visit!
I have no desire to return to a big city to work or live. After this posting, I would like to go to another country town, maybe nearer to the ocean but the jury is still out. So many people move abroad and then stay in the once place, quickly falling back into a routine that ends up being very similar to what they left behind. I am experiencing things that I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to do. I work on the principal that I moved 13,000 miles so another 1,000 miles isn't going to make that much difference!
If I were to give anyone thinking about moving abroad some advice, it would be to give it a try. It's not easy, but it's better to regret what you did do than what you didn't."
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