If you have read my article How I Quit My Job, you probably already know what happened between leaving a job and moving to Sydney, and how I came up with the idea for Sydney. However, for those who have not read it yet, I will just say that after I returned from London to Moscow, I knew for sure that I could no longer limit myself to one place/city/country, I needed more.
London definitely broadened my horizons, showed my potential and changed me forever. After my trip to London, I was eager to find a new challenge, a new ambitious opportunity to get away from the “old me”, an intriguing goal for which I would be ready to jump out of my comfort zone. In other words, I needed a fresh start…
As a result, I moved to live in Sydney. Obviously, a new beginning in a completely new place is always a challenge. My after-forty-five-year-old overseas journey begins with study at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), which made my journey even more provocative.
First of all – it was a challenge to a new myself, who now has zero experience and status. Nobody knew me, and I didn’t know anyone. I had to re-build connections and prove my worth. However, I definitely had such an experience, even if I didn’t have to move far away before.
I remembered how one day I had to get out of the child’s cozy cocoon of my family love and support and go to first grade. This was a bit similar. Only this time I had to become a ‘mom’ and a ‘dad’ for myself and, fostering self-esteem, endlessly remind myself: I’m the best and deserve the best, I’m valuable and significant, no matter what would happen, I have many victories and merits behind me.
Now then, with this mantra, from the very first day in Sydney, I immersed myself into a vibrant environment full of youthful energy and excitement. It was like a breath of fresh air after a stuffy room. The people I met were so interesting, friendly and supportive. Besides, most of them were much younger than me, which inevitably forced me to behave and feel younger too.
I have got new friends from all over the world, with different professional backgrounds and horizons, diverse ethnicities, cultural traditions, status, and life goals. Looking back, I have to admit these were the best two years in the previous 20 years of my life, full of joy, excitement, fun and carelessness.
Remarkably, each semester was unique and taught me different lessons. The first semester was exciting and stressful at the same time. It was like a Honeymoon when, on the one hand, you enjoy the excitement and difference, but, on the other hand, you feel over-stimulated and disoriented. In my case, the first part of this equation outweighed the second part. Probably, because I love the turbulent environment in general. Otherwise, it would be a nightmare.
During my first semester, I participated in various events, workshops, seminars, festivals, in fact, in any activity that Uni and other societies provided. Some of them were interesting and useful, others not so much, but I attended them anyway, trying to quench my thirst for new experiences.
Without diving deeper into details, I want to mention that surprisingly for me, I finished my very first semester with Distinction in all subjects. It brought me to the first lesson I learned: no matter how different the education system is from the one you are used to, and what your academic language proficiency is, if you have lifelong experience, resilience and perseverance, you can cope with any task and overcome any obstacles.
Once a friend of mine said: ‘There are two types of people/students: those who know everything but cannot do anything. And others who know nothing but can do everything.’ In other words, experience over knowledge. I rather belong to the second group.
In the second semester, my Honeymoon finished after I’ve got (to my great surprise) a quite serious health issue. One day, while preparing for the exams, which were supposed to be in 4 weeks, I suddenly realised that my left eye can’t see well enough. It was like looking through the keyhole, some kind of curtain inside the eye blocked half of the view field.
At first, it seemed to me that my eyes were just tired, but the next morning, when it became worse, I got seriously scared and went to the doctor. The doctor was calm and silent throughout the entire medical check-up, and when she finished, in the same calm voice she said that if my eye isn’t be operated immediately, I would completely lose my vision. Can you imagine?!
I was shocked not only by the fact that I needed surgery as soon as possible, but also that my health insurance wasn’t going to cover it. Anyway, I had no choice and immediately after the appointment, I went to the hospital. I don’t want to go into all the medical details and Australian Health Care in general, although there is something to tell, I just want to point out that the operation was successful.
However, it had a ‘side effect’. For two weeks after the surgery, I had to be careful with fire, gas and other flammable objects, as there was a dangerous liquid gas inside my operated eye. So, with a pirate’s eye patch and a vivid bracelet on my wrist, warning people of danger, I spent the entire pre-exams time floating blindly in the ocean of the Uni library. And guess what? My endeavours were rewarded. I finished the second semester again with Distinction overall.
What have I learned this time? Well, if you really want to achieve something, sincerely believe in it and do everything that depends on you, no matter what challenges you face, the Universe will always be on your side, guiding and helping you.
Definitely, the second semester was the most difficult emotionally. I was far from my family, completely alone in this world, relying only on myself but somehow, I survived. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “What does not kill us makes us stronger.”
The third semester was the toughest one intellectually. This is because I took the most complicated subjects from the entire course. All four units included quite substantial assignments that required a lot of reading and writing. But for me, it was not the most difficult thing. The hardest part was my perfectionism.
Having set a high bar for results in the first two semesters, I didn’t want to drop it below Distinction. So, after spending 24/7 in the library, I achieved my goals. However, in hindsight, I’m not sure if I would have done the same if I had the chance to live it again. I think I would rather ‘give up on being perfect and will begin the work of becoming myself’ as Anna Quindlen recommends. This quote became my motto for the next semester.
My last semester was the most pleasurable in every way. I began actually to enjoy studying and living in Sydney. Subjects, extracurricular activities, different workshops, Uni events, etc. – literally everything, was so interesting and exciting. I just relaxed and tried to have fun, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I finished the semester with HD in all subjects.
It taught me that sometimes it’s better to stop controlling everything and just surrender to the flow of life. In other words, be yourself. There is a tiny possibility that such an impressive result was a gift from the Universe for my hard work in the previous semesters. I don’t know, but I do know that I wanted the last semester to span forever…
Time passed by, and in the blink of an eye, I completed my MBA degree. It was December 2019, just before coronavirus began its spreading. After spending some time in Europe with my family to celebrate New Year 2020, I went back to Sydney, hoping to get a job in a big corporate company and pursue my career path as a finance executive.
However (or fortunately), the pandemic has made its own adjustments to my ambitious plans, and instead of settling in a big corporation, I ended up with something different, which I will uncover in one of my next articles. In the meantime, I would just like to take stock of my first two-year spending in this wonderful country and the amazing city of Sydney.
These were two impressive years of expanding horizons, professional and personal growth. First of all, I proved that despite all the difficulties that come along the way, if you have a dream, you can make it a reality just by doing your best and keeping moving.
Second of all, I confirmed that when you are afraid of something, don’t avoid it, but turn your fears into your strength and take at least a small step. You will be surprised by how easy it is to move forward after the first step.
Third of all, I realized that when you don’t know what to do, sometimes it’s better to just step back and do nothing for a while, waiting for the next big wave.
Additionally, I wouldn’t have done anything without the support of my family, who have always encouraged me and sent all the love that I literally could feel. These two years have confirmed that long-distance only heightens feelings and makes communication with loved ones more valuable.
Finally, I realized that the power of new connections and opportunities in this regard should not be underestimated. People are ready to help if you ask. But it was always difficult for me to seek help from “strangers”, I thought it was a manifestation of weakness.
However, it turned out you have to be very brave to ask people for help, because it requires disclosing your vulnerability, for which not everyone is ready, including me. Therefore, having bought Brene Brown’s book “Gifts of Imperfection”, I decided to cultivate authenticity and learn to be vulnerable, which I will tell you about in my future articles.
See you soon…
P.S. Despite my busy study schedule, I took every opportunity to visit all the interesting places in Sydney, the surrounding area and the whole country. I found many terrific places which I’m talking about here.