Thursday, 20 March 2014

Metka Kosec of Canberra on her family's new life in Australia

You came to Australia with your husband and two children, aged 13 and 10, only eight months ago.  Why did you decide to leave Slovenia?

Yes, we started our adventure in Australia only nine months ago. We saw it as an opportunity to live our lives fully.

To start a life in a new country has been our dream for quite a long time, but several things prevented us from moving abroad earlier, children were one of them. Two years ago we said to each other 'now or never', and we went on with the visa procedure. Well, to be honest it was not just seeking new opportunities, it was also for our children’s benefit, giving them the opportunity to see the world from a wider perspective.

What did you expect to find in Australia? Have your expectations been fulfilled?

Well, we were hoping to find positive attitude towards life, a better lifestyle, more sun and of course better business opportunities.  Children were looking forward to the wildlife, especially kangaroos, dolphins and whales and all other amazing animals you can find here.

I must say that we fell in love with the Australian landscape and its wildlife almost immediately. Particularly here in Canberra, you can see kangaroos almost in the city center. The birds are amazing and so colorful. And there is this particular light that makes all photos look lit in a very special way. I guess this is an impression all migrants here in Australia share.

We find Australians very kind and easygoing which we love. It is much easier when you know you are welcome here. We have heard several times “Welcome to Australia!” from total strangers. I must say that people here have a better lifestyle than in Slovenia, they seem to be more relaxed and positive, and they stick together when needed.

Let’s say our expectations have been fulfilled so far. Getting a job is a bit more complicated but I am convinced that this issue will get resolved as well.

Why did you decide to settle in Canberra?

Let’s say it was faith. My husband and I both started our visa process at the same time and mine was approved first. It was a good choice since we love smaller cities and Canberra is just that. I must say that so far we've been quite happy here. The only thing we miss is the sea. Well, here in Canberra we have lots of lakes and rivers which help a lot in hot summer days. Since Canberra is the capital of Australia there are always events going on, such as festivals, cultural and sports events. Canberra is very culturally diverse, and we are all enjoying such diversity. Another good thing that we discovered are the superb cycling paths which were planned through the parks and nature reserves and around the lakes. And the fact that everything is so close in Canberra as it is fairly small.

In what ways do you find Australia different from Slovenia? In what ways is job-hunting here different?

I must say that moving to a new country is a difficult thing to do. You don’t have any people you know to help and your social network is non-existent. The language is also a big issue, no matter how good you thought your English was back home.

When you take all thise things in consideration you can see that job hunting is a really difficult mission. Up till now I haven’t been able to find a proper job so I  started a graphic design studio and at least I have some projects to do. It is still not enough for living but is slowly going ahead.

How do your children cope in school? Is English a problem? How is school in Australia different from school in Slovenia?

I must say that our children have settled in school quickly. I believe the schooling program EIC (English Introductory Center) here in ACT is very beneficial for children who move here from non-English speaking countries. The program is designed in such a way that it introduces  children into the school system in Australia as well as teaches them English to the level required in the mainstream schools. Children stay in that program for up to 4 terms, depending on the child’s level of English.

Our children left EIC program quickly, because they already had a certain level of English which they gained back in Slovenia. They say school here in Australia is more fun and way easier than schools in Slovenia. What they love the most are breaks because they are much longer than in Slovenia.

I must say that both of them were very well accepted into mainstream school classes, firstly because children here are encouraged to welcome newcomers and they see them as special. Secondly, all children have a two-day school visit before they start in the mainstream school which is very helpful as they get a chance to meet their new school friends and their new teachers.

The main differences between schools here and in Slovenia are that students in Australia have fewer subjects and do more research driven projects. Children don’t need to learn lots of facts by heart which is very common in Slovenian schools. Teachers encourage students to participate during the class as much as possible.

And some technical differences: children have to bring their own food; every two weeks they have a full school assembly where they show to other students what they have learned and receive special principal awards for their good work or for just being a good friend. Acknowledgment is something that is very common in Australian schools and it is a part of Australian culture. Students can sit on the floor, even during the class. Nobody wears slippers. School starts at 9am and ends at 3pm for all students.

There is a small Slovenian community in Canberra. Have you been to the Slovenian club, do you meet with other Slovenians? Are your new friends Slovenian?

We did go to the Slovenian Club once but we couldn't relate to it; the only thing we have in common is the fact that we are all Slovenians. We found it really strange and got a feeling that we are not welcome there.

But we have found here a couple of Slovenian friends and we meet from time to time. At the start it was nice to have someone to rely on, and that was Isidora who helped us find an apartment before we arrived and also offered some helpful advice on how to start our life here.

We feel lucky to have friends from different cultural backgrounds. Our new friends are Slovenians, Germans, Koreans, Swiss, Australians, British, Irish and New Zealanders. We love cultural diversity in which you can fit in no matter what colour or nationality you are. What we love with our friends is that we can share our culinary experiences. What is common to all of us is that, with a few exceptions, we share the same migrant experience.

We are looking forward to the time when the Slovenian Club will become a place for every Slovenian and when people there will  finally realize, after so many years, that regardless of our political and historical background we are all members of a small Slovenian nation on the other side of the world.

What are your plans for the future?

In the future we would like to live near the sea. But you never know what future might bring. And of course I would like to have an established design studio.
My husband is looking forward to getting a normal job that will match his professional skills and competence.
And our children are all around the place, doing sports, arts and science. We'll just wait and see where their paths will lead.


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